Constitution of Bulgaria
(1) Bulgaria shall be a republic with a parliamentary form of government.
(2) The entire power of the state shall derive from the people. The people shall exercise this power directly and through the bodies established by this Constitution.
(3) No part of the people, no political party nor any other organization, state institution or individual shall usurp the expression of the popular sovereignty.
“Happy prosecutor’s republic!” Such a placard carried by protesters met the members of parliament leaving the National Assembly on 9 December 2015. Minutes before the parliament had passed the latest bill of amendments to the Constitution of Bulgaria.
The constitutional amendments, which gained popularity as “judicial reform”, were essentially reduced by the will of more than 220 members of parliament. The proposer and key initiator of the amendments – the then minister of justice Hristo Ivanov – resigned.
Later Ivanov made several public statements that Bulgaria was a prosecutor’s republic. His view was accepted by quite many public figures and legal experts.
Still, they are all most probably wrong.
The Constitution of Bulgaria reads that Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic and the entire power of the state derives from the people. It is exercised by the people directly and through the bodies established by the Constitution.
The problem is that nothing of this is actually effective.
A republican government is based on the principles of representative power and separation of powers. The separation of powers is intended to give the separate branches of power the possibility but also the obligation to check the powers of each other. That ensures that there is no excess concentration of power in one of them and prevents its dominance over the others. The representative power suggests that the electorate, i.e. the people who hold the power, have mechanisms for control over those they elect.
Bulgaria is actually an effective prosecutor’s monarchy.
There is effective absolute power in Bulgaria and it is concentrated in the prosecutor general. Today his name is Sotir Tsatsarov, soon it will be another one. The way it was in the past.
That the prosecution and the prosecutor general have unlimited, uncontrolled and unaccountable power is nothing new. The remark of former prosecutor general Ivan Tatarchev, “Only God is above me,” has turned into a legendary message. But it contains the whole truth about the autocrat monarch.
You will say that is not serious; in a monarchy, there is succession to the throne and control and there are no elections and mandates. That is true. But that is the letter of the law. In Bulgaria, there is a reproducing dynasty with the prosecution at the head – and other key offices in what is called judiciary. The latest election of chairman of the Supreme Administrative Court by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) is just one example. The same SJC will elect – or rather appoint – the next prosecutor general acting as absolute monarch.
As with any absolute monarchy, in the Prosecutor’s Monarchy of Bulgaria the fate of the subjects depends on the character, skills and, in the end, the mood of the monarch.
For the past few years the Prosecutor’s Monarchy of Bulgaria has had a leader who is calculating but also dependent on his circle of courtiers.
As with any absolute monarchy common in the Middle Ages, the Bulgarian prosecutor’s monarchy needs methods for inquisition control.
The inquisition techniques are intended for punishment, most often public, of people who for some reason are in conflict with the monarch: by challenging his leadership role or his methods of government or the results of them or by suggesting an alternative form of government that jeopardizes the monarch’s power. But there are also enemies who are enemies to the monarch’s friends.
Every monarch’s court has an eminence grise who in most cases rules effectively, including through inquisition of his opponents who have an appetite for his “post” or who do not pay their dues to the eminence grise. Tsatsarov’s eminence grise is undoubtedly Movement for Rights and Freedom’s MP Delyan Peevski, who does not even try to conceal it.
The former head of Sofia’s Court of Appeals, Veselin Pengezov, has called Bulgaria’s prosecution “Peevski’s pocket knife”. But that is quite an innocent comparison.
Absolute monarch Tsatsarov is a regular executor of his eminence grise’s desire for retribution.
They are first declared public enemies in the media that were until recently controlled by Delyan Peevski’s mother, Irena Krasteva, and that are now officially owned by the MP himself.
It is a long list but it is worth mentioning several names. The most resounding case is undoubtedly that of banker Tsvetan Vasilev, a former majority shareholder in Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB). For unknown official reasons (Peevski constantly refuses to have anything to do with Vasilev and the bank), Peevski’s media launched a brutal attack on Vasilev and KTB, coupled with a series of prosecutor’s actions. In the end that brought about KTB’s collapse. That was followed by the inquisition of Vasilev and of anyone who had professional or personal connections with him.
But other enemies of Peevski have also been subject to Tsatsarov’s inquisition: the owner of Sopharma and former co-owner of the 24 Chasa Daily Ognyan Donev and his business partner Lyubomir Pavlov, the owner of Litex business group Grisha Ganchev, the owner of Overgas and publisher of the Sega Daily Sasho Donchev, and the publisher of Economedia Ivo Prokopiev.
What is the common between them? They all have had a business conflict with MRF’s MP Peevski at one time or another and as a rule have become subject of interest to the prosecution. Some of them, to the Specialized Prosecution.
But why would prosecutors do anything if they are not convinced it is legal? What could make them do it? Of course, the unlimited inquisition resources.
The inquisition resources are provided by the Constitution. As a supreme head, Tsatsarov has the function of promoting – or literally ruining – his subject prosecutors. That strengthens his role of irrefutable leader. Because anyone who is not happy about the way the system works can be destroyed as soon as his or her ideas for reform – or, God forbid, opposition – appear.
And vice versa: those who are good enough get the full range of opportunities for career advancement. A well known and frequently criticized practice illustrating the career resource for inquisition is the so-called secondment. It works in both directions: as a stimulus, respectively control, and as punishment.
The institution of pre-trial proceedings is practically an uncontrolled act. The Bulgarian prosecution can engage in such an “adventure” anyone it wishes. The only mechanism for control is the advance of the proceedings to court, where the accused can defend themselves. Until then, however, everyone is guilty until proven innocent. And that can continue for years.
The inquisition methods of the Bulgarian prosecutor’s absolute monarchy are very simple. The main of them is called Specialized Prosecution. Simple as it is, it is a very efficient lever. The most frequently used inquisition method is the “organized crime group” one. This is a crime investigated by the Specialized Prosecution. To produce it, you only need three people who are related by birth or office and a potential crime. There may be no crime at all but the institution of pre-trial proceedings can literally kill a business, redistribute freed business opportunities, destroy a public image etc. At the end of the day it can destroy a human life.
Why an absolute monarchy?
If all this has not convinced you, here are a few more arguments.
In an absolute monarchy, there is no working parliament. In Europe, there has not been a functioning absolute monarchy for years. To a great extent the monarch has a representative role and power over his court. But he has neither initiating, nor blocking power over the political processes.
In Bulgaria, however, the executive and the legislative powers are in practice subject to the prosecutor’s. When former justice minister Hristo Ivanov commented on the failure of the proposed judicial reform, he said that the prime minister, both then and now Boyko Borisov, had been fair enough to tell him that the prosecution reform would not pass. It would be carried out after Tstatsarov’s term.
The measures for judicial reform proposed by the Ministry of Justice that concerned the prosecution were literally emasculated with a few alternative proposals made by the parliamentary groups of the then officially governing parties, GERB and ABV, and the unofficially governing party, the MRF.
That means one thing: that there is prosecutor’s control over the executive and the legislative powers. And since some of the proposals involved amendments that would have enhanced accountability and control over the prosecution itself, it is logical to think that the refusal of reform was not the result of concern for a strong prosecution. It was the fear of inquisition; or some other less public fears, dependencies and relations.
Finally, the effective absolute power of prosecutor general Sotir Tsatsarov logically raises the question of whether the constitution in Bulgaria has not been substituted.
Because it does not contain a provision saying that the country is governed by a monarchic system with a prosecutor general standing next to God.
Most probably the time is not far when the Constitutional Court will have to come up with a ruling on that case. Because there remains only one other option: official inauguration. And finish with it.