Bulgaria amends its constitution; the government survives judicial corruption scandal

On Wednesday, December 16, Bulgaria adopted constitutional amendments that will allow for a “comprehensive” reform of the justice system. In theory, these amendments should reinforce the independence of the judiciary and empower the office of the prosecutor general.

Bojko

This was the third reading of the constitutional amendments.  At the second reading, the text initially proposed was dramatically revised or, arguably, watered down, leading to the resignation of justice minister Hristo Ivanov. Ivanov, had been pushing for long-delayed reforms aimed at stamping out widespread judicial corruption. Judges also claim that the amendments do not go far enough and thousands of people have been marching in Sofia in protest.

However, amendments to water down Ivanov’s proposals were supported by an overwhelming 189 MPs majority in a 240 seat assembly. The Socialist BSP opposed the amendments with 39 votes.

Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB), a member of the right-wing coalition government, also reacted strongly against the amendments to the original proposals and threatened to withdraw their support in parliament. There were rumors that the right-wing reformist bloc (RB), controlling 23 lawmakers, would split. Up to 10 MPs from the DSB bloc were expected to move to the opposition. Following a meeting on Tuesday, it became clear they would neither leave the government nor split.

Prime Minister’s, Boyko Borishov’s, Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) (84 MPs), the Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABV) party (11 MPs) and the nationalist Patriotic Front (18 MPs) were supportive of the amendments.

The government was forced to concede what many consider symbolic reforms due to a scandal that erupted with the release of six recordings on the BalkanLeaks in February 2015. The tapes involve the Prime Minister and his party, GERB, revealing nepotism and corruption in the judicial system.

New Europe

16 December 2015