A seemingly standard and innocent initiative of president Rumen Radev caused evident annoyance to prosecutor general Sotir Tsatsarov. An experience player like him is hard to be thrown off balance.
What got on Tsatsarov’s nerves
At the end of last week Rumen Radev surprisingly announced that he was going to hold a series of meetings with representatives of the judiciary, the executive power and public organizations to discuss the election criteria and the powers of the next prosecutor general. According to information from the president’s office, the meetings will be held in the next two months and their purpose is to survey the public expectations to the next prosecutor general. Tsatsarov’s seven-year term expires in January next year. The procedure for election of a new prosecutor general can start in the middle of July at the earliest. The deadline for the Supreme Judicial Council to open the procedure is in early September.
Quite logically, the first meeting was held with the present prosecutor general, Sotir Tsatsarov. It is not clear whether Radev’s initiative got Tsatsarov unprepared. But it looks like it did. Tsatsarov quite openly showed he did not like Radev’s initiative. What is more, the prosecutor general hinted the president could breach the constitution by influencing the election of a prosecutor general. While he did not have powers over that election. At least not in the first stage of the election of candidates.
“I am sure the president wants to strictly observe his powers and the constitution,” the present prosecutor general told journalists after his meeting with Radev.
Tsatsarov’s other argument was one of politicians’ favorite stock arguments: now is not the time. “For me, starting consultations is quite a precipitate process,” Tsatsarov commented. During the meeting the prosecutor general voiced concerns that the consultations could be interpreted as exerting pressure on the Supreme Judicial Council before the start of the procedure.
What is the procedure
The procedure for election of his successor can start on July 10 at the earliest and on September 10 at the latest. Tsatsarov’s term officially ends on January 10, 2020. Nominations for the office can be made by the minister of justice and by the prosecutors’ college of the Supreme Judicial Council. The nominees have to present working concepts and get a hearing by the council.
The prosecutor general is elected at a plenum of the Supreme Judicial Council, which includes representatives of the college of judges too. To be elected, a candidate has to receive the support of at least 17 out of a total of 25 members of the council.
That is the end of the so-called first stage of the election of a new prosecutor general. Once the Supreme Judicial Council elects a suitable candidate, he/she has to be appointed with a president’s decree. But the president has the right to refuse to sign the decree, which takes the procedure back to the Supreme Judicial Council.
So you cannot say that Rumen Radev has no attitude to the election of a prosecutor general as Sotir Tsatsarov tries to present the situation. Tsatsarov’s arguments that Radev could breach the constitution with his initiative in turn are remarkably comic.
Why the initiative is useful
The presidential institution has an essentially consultative character within the meaning of the Bulgarian constitution. It is not occasional that the Consultative Council on National Security is a body with the president’s office.
For sure, there is one positive element in Radev’s initiative. It is the fact that for the first time he obviously takes an active role. In the case Radev does not follow and comment on the events: instead, he takes the initiative.
The election of a prosecutor general is extremely important given the huge levers the office gives. The prosecutor general is in practice the only completely uncontrollable position among public offices in this country.
So the nomination of candidates for the position cannot be left to a small circle of representatives of the sector, i.e. the prosecutors’ college. Because that is not an election of a chairman of a trade organization.
The more so that the election of the present prosecutor general is still clouded by the remark made by the former Sofia city prosecutor to prime minister (outgoing prime minister at the time) Borisov, “You chose him yourself.” A second Tsatsarov in a row would be a disaster. That is why Radev’s initiative is extremely positive and should receive the necessary public support.