Bulgarian President Roumen Radev said on August 1 that he has vetoed amendments to the country’s Judiciary Act, passed by Parliament on July 21, making it the second time this summer that he used his veto on amendments to that law.
In his motives, Radev said that the bill “does not contribute to lasting and effective reforms in the judiciary” and that he used the veto on the bill as a whole, rather than just certain provisions of it.
The veto motives did focus on two key elements of the bill more than others, namely the changes to the rules on appointing a judge that can investigate the prosecutor-general and the six-month delay to starting the process to appoint the next lineup of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).
Radev said that by changing the recently-introduced system for appointing a judge that can investigate allegations against the prosecutor-general and deputy prosecutor-generals “without any indications that this is necessary”, Parliament breached the principles of legislative predictability and stability.
The bill introduces a mechanism that is separate from the existing system for the random distribution of cases in the judiciary. In doing so, and without any written reasoning for the need to change the appointment mechanism, Parliament put in doubt the principle of random distribution of cases, which “damaged public trust in the integrity and impartiality of justice,” Radev said.
Additionally, if the changes envisioned in the bill were implemented, that was liable to further delay the appointment of a judge that can investigate the prosecutor-general by up to a year, the veto motives said.
Regarding the delay to the appointment of future members of the SJC, Radev said that Parliament was effectively extending the tenure of the current members of the council, whose terms expired in October 2022.
In passing the amendments, “the National Assembly moved from dereliction through inaction, failing to timely carry out its prerogatives, towards legislative regulation of this constitutionally intolerable situation,” Radev said.
Bulgaria’s previous shortly-lived legislature did not even consider filling the parliamentary quotas in the SJC last year and in the current National Assembly, three of Bulgaria’s parliamentary groups have been working on constitutional amendments that would split the SJC in two separate councils overseeing the judges and prosecutor’s office.
Radev said that the rest of the bill’s provisions also included “unnecessary and insufficiently precise” language, prompting him to veto the bill in full.
Bulgaria’s constitution grants the head of state a limited power of veto, through enabling the President to return legislation to the National Assembly for further discussion.
The National Assembly may overturn the President’s veto through a simple majority vote or accept the veto and review the vetoed clauses. To do so in this case, Parliament may have to interrupt its summer recess to hold a special sitting on the veto.
Since taking office in January 2017, Radev made liberal use of the power and this was his 32nd vetoed bill.
The National Assembly overturned the veto on all but five occasions – four times that the veto was accepted by MPs, including the most recent one, also on Judiciary Act amendments, and one instance where the government coalition at the time failed to muster the support needed to overturn it.
(Roumen Radev photo: president.bg)
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