Atanassova, Belazelkov sworn in as Constitutional Court judges, as Radev boycotts

A week after Parliament elected them to the Constitutional Court, Dessislava Atanasova and Borislav Belazelkov were sworn in as judges in a brief ceremony in the court.

President Roumen Radev, who has asked the Constitutional Court to overturn the election, boycotted the January 26 ceremony.

Radev, who had called for the ceremony to be postponed pending the court ruling on his application, said ahead of Friday’s swearing-in that taking an oath to uphold the constitution against the background of suspicions that the constitution had been violated was “untenable”.

Radev’s move was reminiscent of that by then-president Rossen Plevneliev, who walked out of the November 12 ceremony at which Veneta Markovska was to have been sworn in as a Constitutional Court judge. Plevneliev’s action led to Markovska stepping down.

This week, constitutional law expert Associate Professor Nataliya Kisselova said that it would not matter if Radev absented himself from the ceremony.

Kisselova said that the law says that the newly-elected or newly-appointed judges take the oath “in the presence of, not in front of” the President and the Speaker of the National Assembly, meaning that the presence or absence of the latter two office-bearers has no effect on the validity of the oath.

Addressing the January 26 ceremony, Constitutional Court president Pavlina Panova said: “During its 32 years of existence, the Constitutional Court has maintained its independence and will continue to do so in the future.

“Every constitutional judge is required to observe the principles of impartiality, independence and objectivity in order to meet the high standards of professionalism of the Constitutional Court, as it has been until now and it should be preserved for the future,” Panova said.

In addition to Radev, the Vuzrazhdane, Bulgarian Socialist Party and ITN parliamentary groups have lodged objections to the court against the January 19 election of Atanassova, formerly leader of Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF parliamentary group, and Belazelkov, a former Supreme Court of Cassation judge.

Several bar associations also have objected to the election, which was the subject of a public protest by the Justice for All NGO in Sofia this week.

Radev’s public call for the postponement of the ceremony ran counter to the law. The Constitutional Court Act says that newly-elected judges of the court take the oath within seven days of being elected.

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