Bulgaria’s president signs decree on new chief prosecutor, pushes for constitutional changes

By bne IntelliNews November 26, 2019

Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev signed the decree on the appointment of Ivan Geshev as the country’s next chief prosecutor on November 26, but gave a clear signal he was not approving the procedure for his election. Radev also announced he is initiating a public debate on constitutional changes that would make the head of the prosecution more accountable.

On November 7, Radev refused to sign the decree on Geshev’s appointment, expressing doubts about the procedure by which he was elected by the Supreme Judicial Council due to the lack of other candidates. However, a week later the SJC voted again for Geshev, leaving the president without a choice as, according to the constitution, he is obliged to sign the decree the second time.

“The second voting in SJC did not dispel them [my doubts about the procedure]. However, there is no way to listen to the calls to violate the constitution, because the supremacy of law is the fundament of the democracy. Bulgaria will prosper when we start to respect and follow the laws. That is why I shall not allow the president to violate the constitution as I have always stood for respecting it,” Radev said in a speech after signing the decree.

Analysts and magistrates suggested that Radev might delay signing the decree and ask the constitutional court to rule on whether the SJC violated the law when voting again on the same candidate in the same election procedure instead of starting a new one.

Radev also pointed out that chief prosecutor’s accountability ends with his selection, which is the main reason for society to be very sensitive about the procedure.

Before announcing his decision, Radev held a meeting with Geshev and said he demanded that the incoming chief prosecutor pledge to work towards an independent and transparent prosecution.

Radev also said he expects the new chief prosecutor to work effectively on all major cases, including the Apartmentgate scandal involving top politicians who have acquired luxury properties at very low cost, major infrastructure projects where experts have discovered that the construction does not meet standards, and the bankruptcy of Corpbank.

Moreover, Radev pointed out that the chief prosecutor must name all responsible individuals in these cases, not just some of them.

Geshev’s nomination was more than compromised for many Bulgarians, as he is notorious for his failure to deliver significant results in a trial concerning embezzlement at one of Bulgaria’s biggest banks, Corpbank, staging an action movie-style arrest of a Sofia district mayor and raiding the offices of an independent publisher. Nonetheless, he was chosen by all members of the SJC and backed by Tsatsarov.

His election came amid numerous protests and objections by NGOs and magistrates’ associations.

The chief prosecutor is one of the most powerful positions in Bulgaria. According to the country’s legislation, the chief prosecutor cannot be investigated unless he or she starts the investigation. The EU has repeatedly insisted that the legislation has to be amended to allow probes and removals of chief prosecutors.

On November 26, Radev also said he is initiating a public debate on constitutional changes, in which he intends to invite representatives of the democratic community, parliamentary-represented political parties, institutions, NGOs and professional organisations.

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