Bulgarian justice minister resigns after parliament adopts revised constitutional amendments

By bne IntelliNews December 9, 2015

Bulgaria's justice minister Hristo Ivanov said on December 9 he is leaving his post after the parliament adopted at second reading a significantly revised from the first reading version of the constitutional amendments, thus changing their initial goal of providing the basis for a comprehensive judiciary reform.

Immediately after that, Radan Kanev, co-chairman of the minority ruling coalition partner, Reformist Bloc, which initiated the constitutional amendments, told reporters in parliament he is withdrawing his support for the government. However, Kanev clarified that this is his personal decision, which does not bind the bloc’s parliamentary group. Asked if other Reformist Bloc ministers will resign, he stated that a political decision is yet to be made by both his DSB party and the bloc’s leadership.

The core of the conflict was the amendment, envisaging a division of Bulgaria’s Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) into two colleges – one of the judges and one of the prosecutors – supported by both the European Commission (EC) and the Council of Europe's Venice Commission.

However, between the two readings, leftist ABV, which has one cabinet member, proposed a revision, which reduced the number of the members in the 11-man prosecutors’ college to be elected by parliament to five from six. Of the remaining six members, four will be elected by the prosecutors, one by the investigators, and the 11th member is the prosecutor general.

This means that the prosecutor general will control a majority in the college, because both the prosecutors and the investigators are subordinated to him/her, observers commented.

The revised texts for the quotas were supported by 204 lawmakers in the 240-seat assembly, including opposition socialist BSP, which before that voted against the SJC division.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and other key figures have not commented on the developments yet.

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