Bulgarian MPs overturn President’s veto on amendments to Judiciary Act

Bulgaria’s National Assembly has overturned President Roumen Radev’s veto on amendments to the country’s Judiciary Act. The vote on the motion, held late on August 7 at the end of a special sitting of Parliament, passed with 131 MPs in favour, 47 opposed and six abstaining.

Last week, Radev vetoed the bill in its entirety, rather than just specific provisions, saying that it did not “contribute to lasting and effective reforms in the judiciary.”

In his veto motives, Radev focused on the changes to the rules on appointing a judge that can investigate the prosecutor-general, saying that by changing the recently-introduced system for appointing such a judge, Parliament breached the principles of legislative predictability and stability.

He also said that having a mechanism that is separate from the existing system for the random distribution of cases in the judiciary Parliament put in doubt the principle of random distribution of cases, which “damaged public trust in the integrity and impartiality of justice.”

During the debate preceding the vote on the veto, MP Bozhidar Bozhanov from the WCC-DB parliamentary group appeared to acknowledge Radev’s criticism, saying that further legislative changes were being drafted to replace the multiple random distribution systems currently in use in the Bulgarian judiciary with “one secure, audited and transparent” system.

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.

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 two most recent ones, and one instance where the government coalition at the time failed to muster the support needed to overturn it.

(Bulgarian Parliament photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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