FOUNDATION IN BULGARIA
Constitutionalism in Bulgaria has a comparatively rich past, present and future. The general democratization of the Bulgarian society at the end of the 20th century is an irreversible process and serves as a basis for turning constitutionalism in Bulgaria into a lasting tendency. This is a major precondition for achieving political maturity of society, state wisdom, high integrity and prosperity.
As a philosophical and legal term and phenomenon constitutionalism emerged at a certain stage of human history and is associated with the establishment and functioning of democratic orders and the rule of law. Today constitutionalism is associated with the presence of a Constitution in a state and government in compliance with constitutional regulations that are entirely democratic and humanitarian in their essence.
The core of the idea of constitutionalism is obligatory constitutional regulation of the organization of state power and of the legal status of citizens and legal guarantees for the normal functioning of this power and actual implementation of the constitutional rights, freedoms and duties of citizens. A constitutional state is governed according to the basic law and the corresponding legal norms. Constitutionalism is a measure of the quality of state and legal relations. It is evidence of a mature state and legal system in which state law is exercised in compliance with the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. This balance is guaranteed by the Constitution, which also guarantees the equality of citizens before the law. In this sense constitutionalism is a precondition and a basis for the formation and functioning of the state government by the rule of law.
The modern constitutional state is characterized by a basic law regulating the separation of powers, fundamental human rights, the responsibility of the executive and broad participation of the people in the government of the state.
As a theory and practice constitutionalism emerged and developed in Bulgaria in compliance with European philosophical and legal thought of the time of Enlightenment and the national striving to justice and democracy. In the second half of the 19th century, when Bulgaria was still under Turkish domination, the idea of constitutionalism became the creed of the Bulgarian national liberation movement whose purpose was to establish a “democratic republic” on the liberated Bulgarian territories. This was the form of government Bulgarian National Revival revolutionaries wanted to see in a future free Bulgaria.
During the Bulgarian National Revival when this country’s liberation was the immediate historical task of its activists, the idea of constitutionalism was directly associated with the achievement of national liberation. This approach of the Bulgarian National Revival activists fully corresponds to West European ideas of constitutionalism of the 18th and 19th centuries and Bulgarian national views. At the same time it was a counterpoint to the “despotic and tyrannical rule of the Sultan” in Bulgaria. And though Bulgaria still did not exist on Europe’s political map as a state, the ideological trends of modern constitutionalism were quite popular among Bulgarian public conscience. This affiliated Bulgarians to West European civilizations.
During the Bulgarian National Revival the
ideological sources of the national liberation movement were also the sources of emerging
Bulgarian constitutionalism. It was based on the idea of a republican form of state
government with a unicameral parliament. This idea of Bulgarian statehood found a
practical expression in this country’s subsequent constitutional development. Thus, in
the course of more than a century since this country’s liberation in 1878, Bulgarian
constitutionalism established itself in theory and in practice. This period saw the
building of the foundations of Bulgarian constitutional law with the adoption of four
Bulgarian Constitutions. Each of these Constitutions was an adequate reflection of its
historical period and respectively of the foreign influences on Bulgarian legal and political thought and statehood.
I. The Constitution of the Principality
of Bulgaria of 1879
The first Bulgarian Constitution was adopted on April 16, 1879 by a Grand National Assembly (a constituent body) in Veliko Turnovo, the capital of the Principality of Bulgaria. It was a Constitution of a transition from Asian feudalism to an emerging industrial (capitalist) society. It was drawn up in compliance with the Berlin Treaty, which divided Bulgaria into two parts – the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia. In Bulgaria it is known as the “Turnovo Constitution” which adopted the monarchist form of government with a parliament. State power was organized according to the principle of separation of powers. This Constitution was based on the ideas of Liberalism but despite its democratic nature, in the conditions of monarchist rule in Bulgaria, Parliament did not become a centre of power. Power was concentrated in the hands of the monarch who convened and dissolved the National Assembly. Legislative initiative was also a prerogative rather of the monarch than of the National Assembly.
The broad prerogatives of the monarch gave him supremacy in the executive after the model of dualistic monarchies. This dualism gave the monarch greater prerogatives than to Parliament. The Prince (King after 1893) also exercised executive power. The Turnovo Constitution placed the executive entirely in the hands of the Prince who was also commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The Council of Ministers exercised its right to legislative initiative by royal order. The judiciary also exercised its power in the name of the monarch. The democratic nature of the Turnovo Constitution found expression mainly in the rights and freedoms of the royal subjects it proclaimed. The Turnovo Constitution had all elements of constitutionalism and democracy – defence of human rights and freedoms, parliamentarism and separation of powers, rule of law and political pluralism.
Bulgaria’s Turnovo Constitution of 1879 was adopted in the wake of two major European events in the second half of the 19th century, which changed the political map of the Balkans. This was the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation (1877-1878) which ended with the signing of the San Stefano Peace Treaty (1878) restoring Bulgaria its freedom within its old borders, and the Berlin Treaty of 1879 which once again fragmented Bulgaria. Political pluralism in this country was still in a rudimentary state and economic relations were undergoing a process of transformation through capitalization. This influenced the nature of the Turnovo Constitution of 1879, which became the basis for this country’s further sociopolitical and economic development. It did not regulate established social relations but provided the legal groundwork for building a society of a European type that had been economically, socially and politically impeded for five centuries.
Proceeding from the principles of economic liberalism, the Turnovo Constitution did not regulate economic relations in detail. It proclaimed the inviolability of private property and upholding the principle of national sovereignty set a number of restrictions to ownership by foreign nationals placing state interests above private ones. This had a considerable influence on Bulgarian national self-awareness.
The form of government established by the Turnovo Constitution was fully in the spirit of the principle of separation of powers. The monarchist form of government was predetermined by the Berlin Treaty. Thus until the mid-1940’s Bulgaria was a constitutional monarchy. From the political point of view, it should also be noted here that this Constitution guaranteed the political rights and freedoms of the populace. A major shortcoming, however, was the possibility it gave to the monarch to influence the activities of the other powers. Following the pro-fascist coup of 1934, Bulgarian sociopolitical and state life acquired a formally constitutional nature. The subsequently passed laws actually revoked the Turnovo Constitution.
Under this Constitution, amendments and
supplements to the Constitution were made by a Grand National Assembly or an ordinary
National Assembly by a qualified majority of two-thirds. The Turnovo Constitution is a
typical example of a hard constitution. The complicated nature of the procedure of its
amendment reflected the belief of its authors that this would guarantee the stability and
longevity of the basic law. Of all Bulgarian Constitutions, the Turnovo one had the
longest life and remained in force in the course of seven decades. But the longevity of a
Constitution cannot be explained only by the complicated procedure of exercising
constituent power preventing unilateral, arbitrary and autocratic amendments. It is also
the result of the constitutional provisions, which were adapted to the coming
sociopolitical changes and thus provided for the actual development of the Constitution.
II. The Constitution of the People’s
Republic of Bulgaria of 1947
Bulgaria’s second Constitution of 1947 was adopted in a complicated internal and international situation. From the internal political point of view there was strong confrontation among the people following extreme bipolar political and ideological tendencies in this country in the post-war period. Though formally the Turnovo Constitution was not suspended after the Fatherland Front seized power on September 9, 1944, de facto the monarchist form of government ceased to exist. There was a process of liquidation of political and economic pluralism and the formal separation of powers that existed until then was fully eliminated by the activities of the Fatherland Front, an alliance of left-wing political forces. Under the leadership of the Fatherland Front the monarchy was replaced by a republican form of government in a referendum in 1946. Revolutionary expedience prevailed over constitutional regulations (after the Soviet model). Nevertheless during that period respect of the Turnovo Constitution was still great and the draft of a new Constitution drawn up by the Fatherland Front preserved a number of democratic principles and provisions. Thus, for instance, the 1947 Constitution protected private property, allowed for political pluralism and proclaimed the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens.
From the international point of view, the adoption of the 1947 Constitution coincided with the special attitude of the Allied Powers to Bulgaria which from a satellite of Germany turned into its enemy and was on the side of the victors at the end of the war. Though this was a fought for victory of the Bulgarian people, until 1947 Bulgaria’s internal and international life was monitored by an Allied Control Commission (a body of the Allied Powers). Actually this body temporarily restricted Bulgaria’s rights as a subject of international law and its national sovereignty. All this had its effect on the 1947 Constitution which officially proclaimed Bulgaria a People’s Republic.
This Constitution was the first socialist basic law and was named after communist party leader Georgi Dimitrov as the “Dimitrov Constitution”. It regulated social relations in the transition from capitalism to socialism and proclaimed state ownership over the means of production as the mainstay in the development of the national economy, enjoying special protection and having priority over the other forms of ownership. Thus it actually established the idea of social equality based on public ownership over the means of production. It introduced a number of entities of exclusive state ownership and placed foreign and domestic trade under state control. Though private property and its inheritance were protected by the 1947 Constitution when acquired through labour and savings, this basic law established a number of restrictions. Along with the general provision that no one can exercise the right to ownership to the detriment of public interest, this Constitution legitimized the nationalization of enterprises in industry, trade, transport and crediting, the compensation being determined by the Nationalization Act. The excessive etatization of the economy found expression in the state management of the economy through state plans aimed at speeding up the economic development of the country. The grown regulative functions of the state, the restriction of economic initiative and the direct administration of the economy which contradicted basic economic laws of the civilization process led to the absorption of the civil society by the state. The Constitution proclaimed labour a basic socioeconomic factor and declared the principle of assisting workers, farmers, craftsmen and intellectual workers through social policies, tax concessions and possibilities for association in cooperatives.
The 1947 Constitution proclaimed the Grand National Assembly the supreme legislative body which was transformed into an ordinary National Assembly in 1949. Executive power was exercised by the Council of Ministers without any particular judicial control over this power. The Constitution vested legislative powers in a new body – “Presidium of the National Assembly”, which preformed part of the functions of the National Assembly between its sessions and was formed after the model of the Soviet Constitution of 1936.
This Constitution also considerably restricted the independence of the judiciary. It introduced the Supreme Court, which replaced the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court.
The 1947 Constitution created an illusory notion of the
democratic nature of the Bulgarian society. Apart from allowing for political and economic
pluralism, it also proclaimed the equality of citizens before the law, freedom of speech,
thought and religion and ruled out racial, national and religious hatred, upheld all
political rights and freedoms of citizens, etc. It established a democratic procedure for
making amendments to the Constitution by a qualified majority of two-thirds of the
Members. The National Assembly was assigned the function of monitoring and solving issues
related to the constitutionality of the laws and other legislative acts, i.e. the role of
a constitutional court, which did not exist under its provisions. However the development
of actual social relations in the decades that followed was far from the democratic
requirements of this Constitution.
III. The Constitution of the
People’s Republic of Bulgaria of 1971
The third Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria of 1971 was also socialist in nature and content. This was the Constitution of the transition to “advanced socialism” and it abounded in political ideologems. Its ideological nature became obvious already in Article 1, Para 3 which stipulated that “The Bulgarian Communist Party heads the construction of an advanced socialist society” confirming the ideologically monistic, totalitarian approach to the organization and the government of the Bulgarian society. From the formal and legal point of view this marked the emergence of the Party-State.
The 1971 Constitution was adopted by a demonstratively democratic procedure. Its draft was first published for nationwide discussions. The proposed improvements were discussed and approved by a special commission headed by the authoritarian leader of the Party-State – Todor Zhivkov. Then the draft was approved by the National Assembly which scheduled a special referendum by which the Constitution was adopted. The entry into force of the new Constitution was proclaimed at an official session of the National Assembly. On the same day, May 18, 1971, it was published in “The Official Gazette” and entered into force. The then official propaganda named it the “Zhivkov Constitution”.
The 1971 Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria has an extensive preamble written in a pompous totalitarian style and full of pathos, cliches, international dreams and demonstrations of all-national enthusiasm. On the whole, this is also true of the entire content of the 1971 Constitution which was a copy of the Programme of the Bulgarian Communist Party of the same year.
This Constitution introduced a number of substantial changes to the legal framework of the political and economic system in Bulgaria. It proclaimed the principle of “unity of state power” instead of separation of powers. Parliament (the National Assembly) became the supreme body of state power constituting and subordinating all state institutions – State Council, Council of Ministers, Supreme Court and Prosecutor General. The National Assembly combined legislative and executive functions. The State Council was a supreme constantly functioning body of state power of legislative and control functions. Actually it was the main legislative body which issued decrees, formally approved by the National Assembly. This supreme body embodied to the greatest degree the merging between the leading party and the state. It served as a model for building the entire command and administrative system in the country.
Under the 1971 Constitution the State Council of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria had functions similar to those of the President in presidential republics. The State Council and its president de facto represented the “unity” of the legislative, executive and judicial powers. It convened the National Assembly to sessions, scheduled elections, set the date for referendums, ratified and denounced international treaties, interpreted the laws and normative decrees, exercised control over the activities of the Council of Ministers, amended and supplemented individual stipulations of the laws by decrees. It exercised supreme administrative justice by repealing acts of the Council of Ministers and the heads of the ministries and other departments
The 1971 Constitution established a unified planned centralized economy nationalizing property in this country and substituting the term “private property” for “personal property”. It proclaimed state ownership “all people’s ownership” which was presented as a supreme form of ownership.
The 1971 Constitution proclaimed an extensive catalogue of the social and political rights and freedoms of citizens. What is more, this catalogue did not differ considerably from that of the democratic constitutions of old democracies. It stipulated that citizens shall enjoy freedom of conscience and creed, freedom of speech, press, meetings, associations and demonstrations. These freedoms were guaranteed by the State by “placing the necessary material conditions for the purpose at the disposal of the citizens.” These rights and freedoms remained on paper which was compensated by real support of social rights, the right to work and personal rights and freedoms of the citizens. This “charity” was a typical approach for the totalitarian state.
Following the radical changes of November 10, 1989 the
Bulgarian state embarked on the road of market economy, political pluralism and
parliamentary democracy. The constitutional foundations were laid by a unique phenomenon
in Bulgarian political history – the National Round Table including representatives of
almost all political forces. The participants in the Round Table agreed on the need of a
new Constitution and three important laws – the Political Parties Act, the Act Amending
and Supplementing the Constitution and the Act for Electing a Grand National Assembly,
were passed in the meantime.
IV. The Constitution of the
Republic of Bulgaria of 1991
The Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria was adopted on July 12, 1991 by the Seventh Grand National Assembly elected to this end. This is a Constitution of the transition from institutionalized totalitarianism to democratic constitutionalism of a free civil society and a social state governed by the rule of law. It was the first democratic Constitution passed in Eastern Europe following the radical political and economic changes in the socialist system of 1989. The fact that democratic reforms in Bulgaria were preceded by the adoption of a new Constitution shows how deeply constitutionalism is rooted in public conscience and the social mentality of the Bulgarian people. It is a reflection of national psychology and the striving of the people to organized life and human welfare.
The Bulgarian Constitution of 1991 is the main legal guarantee of social peace in the country in the conditions of a complicated sociopolitical situation brought about by a number of objective preconditions and some inadequate actions of politicians during the present transition. This was to a great extent predetermined by the prehistory of its adoption. The mid-1980s saw the emergence of a new public awareness, new attitudes and new expectations. The ideas of free civil society, market economy and democracy required a new constitution.
The Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria of 1991 is the basic law of this country in the conditions of transition from totalitarianism to democracy. But this does not mean that it is a temporary phenomenon in Bulgarian legal space. True, some of its provisions may be of a temporary nature and will later be discarded as unnecessary by the social organism in the process of its perfection. But this will hardly influence the stability of the present constitutional order as it is based on s sound basis of principles.
The basic characteristic features and principles of the new Bulgarian Constitution are identical to those of modern constitutions across the world. They are also the product of national democratic constitutionalism which found its strongest real expression in public attitudes after 1989.
The new Bulgarian Constitution draws on the fundamental principles of modern European constitutionalism. It reflects the will of the Bulgarian people to freely build a democratic civil society. This Constitution proclaims and defends universal human values: freedom, peace, humanism, equality, justice and tolerance. It upholds as the uppermost principle the rights, dignity and security of the individual. The duty to defend the country is described as a matter of honour for every Bulgarian citizen and finds expression in the preservation of the national and state integrity of Bulgaria. The social purpose of the Constitution is to create a democratic, law-governed and social state.
The 1991 Bulgarian Constitution is a principal source of constitutional law in this country and an eloquent sign of constitutionalism. It lays the foundations of the social system in the Republic of Bulgaria and is a basic law of supreme legal force. It is a reliable instrument for building and governing the law-abiding state.
The present Bulgarian Constitution is based on the modern principle of interrelation between national and international law. This is evidenced by its unique stipulation that “international instruments which have been ratified by the constitutionally established procedure, promulgated and come into force with respect to the Republic of Bulgaria, shall be considered part of the domestic legislation of the country and supersede any domestic legislation stipulating otherwise.” These international instruments become domestic law norms, are incorporated in the Bulgarian legal system and are applied directly in the presence of the above-mentioned conditions. This is controlled by the Constitutional Court which is authorized to rule on the conformity of this country’s laws with universally recognized norms of international law and with international instruments to which Bulgaria is a party.
The previous Bulgarian Constitution treated the interrelation between domestic and international law mainly on the basis of the so-called “realistic dualism”. This principle does not allow for supremacy of the one law over the other and the implementation of international law is guaranteed through its transformation into domestic norms.
The new Bulgarian Constitution adopts the so-called principle of “actual dualism” which expresses a high degree of confidence in interstate relations and is conducive to the unification and harmonization of the norms of international and domestic law. This is the modern tendency of integration reflected in the new Bulgarian Constitution.
Another characteristic feature of this Constitution is its “direct force” in revoking provisions of existing laws contravening the Constitution. This direct force of the constitutional provisions makes possible their direct implementation and supremacy over all other provisions with the respective legal consequences. Proceeding from this, any citizen or juridical person can efficiently defend his rights and interests. Such direct force is characteristic of constitutional provisions regulating the constitutional law status of Bulgarian citizens, their rights and obligations and the provisions regulating the structure, composition, mandate, prerogatives and interrelations of the state bodies. Within the framework of constitutional control the Constitution makes it possible for the Supreme Court of Cassation or the Supreme Administrative Court to stop the trial of cases upon establishing contradictions between the law and the Constitution by officially referring these cases to the Constitutional Court. The direct force of the Constitution also finds expression in explicit texts in the Constitution providing for the passage of new laws.
The Bulgarian Constitution clearly defines the national character of the Bulgarian state. It stipulates that the Bulgarian state is an integral state with local self-government and no autonomous territorial formations and that the territorial integrity of the Bulgarian state is inviolable. The Bulgarian language is the official language of the Republic. These provisions are of considerable importance for this country’s national security, bearing in mind its geopolitical location. Another important national security guarantee provided by the Constitution is the ban it imposes on organizations whose activities are directed against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of the nation. The Constitution also bans the formation of political parties on an ethnic, racial and religious basis which is another guarantee of this country’s national and territorial security. This does not infringe in the least the political and non-political rights of the various religious, ethnic and linguistic communities which have the right to political expression through all-Bulgarian parties.
The principle of legality is fundamental to the law-governed state. Legality is a universal principle of all elements of the political system. It is also a requirement of all structures of the political system. The strict observation of the Constitution is a supreme expression of legality. The Constitution holds supremacy in Bulgaria’s legal system. At the same time it has adopted the principle that citizens are allowed everything that is not prohibited by the law.
Political pluralism is another characteristic feature and principle of the new Bulgarian Constitution. The multiparty system is an attribute of democracy. This system provides alternatives in the model of government and makes it possible for the opposition to exercise control in Parliament and to establish civil control over the activities of different state bodies.
The democratic nature of the Bulgarian Constitution of 1991 finds expression in the possibility it provides for the equal development of all forms of ownership and for the economic activity in this country or abroad of different agents of commercial law. The Constitution explicitly stipulates the inviolability of private property and clearly outlines the areas in which the state enjoys exclusive ownership rights. The Constitution defines land as a chief national asset enjoying particular protection on the part of the state and society. Foreign natural and juridical persons can acquire ownership over land only through legal inheritance and are obliged to duly transfer thus acquired ownership to Bulgarian natural or juridical persons. However, the Constitution allows foreign natural and juridical persons to acquire real rights over land.
Another important feature of the 1991 Constitution is its regulation of the fundamental rights and obligations of citizens and the provisions it and other laws make for their protection. The Constitution regulates the legal status of citizens through the institute of Bulgarian citizenship and the institute of the rights, freedoms and obligations of citizens. Bulgarian citizenship is a precondition for participation in state power. The Bulgarian Constitution allows for acquiring citizenship through the two basic legal systems – by descent and by place of birth.
The Bulgarian Constitution provides a detailed catalogue of fundamental rights and obligations of citizens. Thus it affiliates Bulgaria to international law requirements on human rights. The fuller regulation of human rights in the Bulgarian Constitution follows the world tendency of democratic states.
Article 1 of the Bulgarian Constitution stipulates that Bulgaria is a Republic with a parliamentary form of government The entire power of the state derives from the people, is exercised directly by the people and through the bodies established by the Constitution. No part of the people, no political party or any other organization, state institution or individual can usurp the expression of the popular sovereignty.
Under the Constitution, Bulgaria is a law-governed state and the power of the state is exercised by a legislative, an executive and a judicial branch. This principle determines the system of state bodies. The 1991 Constitution provides for state power to be exercised on the basis of two fundamental principles – separation of the powers and a republican parliamentary from of government.
Under the 1991 Constitution, legislative power is exercised by a standing unicameral Parliament elected for a period of four years and consisting of 240 members whose sole task is to work as deputies. They cannot combine this function with other state offices, including ministerial posts. In Bulgaria parliamentary elections are held mostly according to the proportional representation system with a 4 per cent barrier.
The Constitution defines the National Assembly as a supreme state body vested with the legislative authority and exercising parliamentary control. It is an all-state representative body. Its main function is to pass laws and to observe their implementation through parliamentary control. The National Assembly elects the Council of Ministers, part of the members of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Judicial Council as well as other collective bodies determined by law, like the Media Council, etc. It adopts decisions for holding referendums, establishes and transforms ministries, resolves on the declaration of war and conclusion of peace, introduces martial law or a state of emergency, etc. The work of Parliament is regulated by Rules of Procedure adopted by each National Assembly. The main bodies of the National Assembly are its committees and commissions which are formed by areas of activity.
Executive power in Bulgaria is exercised by the Council of Ministers which implements the state’s domestic and foreign policy. It ensures public order and national security and exercises overall guidance over the state administration, manages the implementation of the national budget, organizes the management of the state’s assets and revokes illegitimate or improper acts issued by ministers. The Council of Ministers consists of a Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers and ministers. The Prime Minister heads, coordinates and bears responsibility for the overall policy of the government. He appoints and dismisses deputy ministers.
The activities of the Council of Ministers are subordinated to the law, i.e. it carries out its activities on the basis of the laws passed by the National Assembly and at the same time has the right to pass subordinate legislation in connection with the implementation of the laws. These subordinate acts include ordinances, resolutions and decrees.
The Council of Ministers is usually formed on a “team principle”. The Prime Minister chooses his team of ministers. The President appoints the prime minister-designate nominated by the party holding the highest number of seats in the National Assembly to form a government (usually after elections) which is approved by parliament.
Judicial power in Bulgaria safeguards the rights and legitimate interests of all citizens, legal entities and the state. It is independent and has its own budget. Only it can administer justice in the Republic of Bulgaria.
Justice in Bulgaria is administered by the Supreme Court of Cassation, the Supreme Administrative Court, courts of appeals, courts of assizes, courts-martial and district courts. The Constitution bans the setting up of extraordinary courts. The courts are obliged to ensure the equality and mutual challengeability of the parties to a judicial trial.
The structure of the prosecutor's office corresponds to that of the courts. The prosecuting magistracy oversees legality and brings charges against criminal suspects.
The 1991 Constitution introduces for the first time in Bulgaria the institution of the Supreme Judicial Council in charge of the entire organizational and methodological work of the prosecuting and investigative bodies and the courts. The Supreme Judicial Council appoints, promotes, demotes, reassigns and dismisses judges, prosecutors and investigators. The Constitution provides for its activities to be regulated by a special act - a Supreme Judicial Council Act. The Supreme Judicial Council may adopt decisions to divest judges, prosecutors or investigators of their immunity. These members of the judiciary enjoy the same immunity as members of Parliament and can be stripped of immunity only for committing crimes carrying sentences of more than five years in prison.
The new Bulgarian Constitution places the President of the Republic outside the system of the three powers. The Presidential institution is neither part of the executive nor part of the legislative power and does not have justice administration functions. The President issues decrees for appointing the leaders of the supreme judicial bodies – the Supreme Administrative Court, the Prosecutor General and the Director of the Specialized Investigative Service. He has the right to pardon convicted persons.
The President is the Head of State of the Republic of Bulgaria. He embodies the unity of the nation and represents the state in its international relations. The President has representative functions. He act as an “arbitrator” between state and non-state bodies and is in charge of the country’s defence and security in his capacity as Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He heads the National Security Consultative Council and appoints the higher command of the Armed Forces.
The President is elected directly by the voters for a period of five years. Eligible for President is any natural-born Bulgarian citizen over 40 years of age and qualified to be elected to the National Assembly.
The President realizes his balancing function through his prerogatives to appoint and dismiss officers of the senior judiciary and administration determined by law. Thus, for instance, it is within his prerogatives to appoint and recall ambassadors. He has the right to return acts passed by parliament for further consideration. In his actions the President is assisted by a Vice President who is elected at the same time and on the same ticket as the President directly by the people.
The Constitutional Court established by the new Bulgarian Constitution is a unique phenomenon in Bulgarian legal space and sociopolitical and state life. Its purpose is to provide more efficient protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens and to guarantee the supremacy of the Constitution. The Constitutional Court is not part of any of the three powers. It does not administer justice but exercises control over constitutionality.
The Constitutional Court is formed on a quota principle and its members are elected by the National Assembly and appointed by the President and the supreme judicial bodies. The justices of the Constitutional Court are lawyers of high professional and moral integrity with at least fifteen years of professional experience. The activities of the Constitutional Court are regulated by a Special Constitutional Court Act. The Constitutional Court justices elect the Chairman of the Court who presides over the sessions of the Court.
The justices of the Constitutional Court are elected or appointed for a period of nine years. The make-up of the Constitutional Court is renewed every three years from each quota (four justices) in a rotation order established by a law. This guarantees continuity of the prerogatives of the Constitutional Court. The mandate of a Constitutional Court justice can be terminated prior to its expiry only under extraordinary circumstances – resignation, death, actual incapacitation to perform his functions, etc. i.e. he is irreplaceable.
The Constitutional Court rules on the constitutionality of acts of parliament and the President and on challenges of the constitutionality of the elections of a President and Vice President, and on the constitutionality of political parties and associations.
The territory of the Republic of Bulgaria is divided into municipalities and regions. The municipality is the basic administrative territorial unit at the level of which local self-government is practiced. Citizens participate in the government of the municipality both through their elected bodies of local self-government and directly, through a referendum or a general meeting of the populace. The body of local self-government within a municipality is the municipal council elected directly by the populace for a term of four years. The body of executive power within a municipality is the mayor who is elected directly for a term of four years. Under the Local Self-Government and Local Administration Act, the municipal councils are in charge of municipal property, finances, taxes, fees, the municipal administration, education, health care, culture, public works and utilities, social assistance, environment protection, preservation of monuments of culture and the development of sports, leisure and tourism on the respective territories. The mayors have executive, administrative and representative functions.
The Republic of Bulgaria is divided into 29 regions. Their government is carried out by Regional Governors appointed by the Council of Ministers assisted by the regional administration which implements state government locally and guarantees the conformity between national and local interests.
Amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of
Bulgaria are made by a complicated procedure which refers the Bulgarian basic law to the
class of hard constitutions. Bills to amend the Constitution can be introduced by one
quarter of the members of the National Assembly and the President. The most important
amendments require the convening of a Grand National Assembly as a special institution
elected directly by the people and having 400 members. Among the Grand National
Assembly’s exclusive prerogatives are the adoption of a new Constitution, changes in the
form of government and state structure, changes in the territory of the country, the
irrevocable fundamental rights of citizens and the direct force of the Constitution. The
decisions of the Grand National Assembly are adopted by a qualified majority of more than
two-thirds of its members. All other amendments to the Constitution can be made by the
National Assembly by special procedure and a qualified majority of more than
three-quarters of the members.
B i b l i o g r a p h y
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2. S. Stoichev, Kostitoutsionno Pravo na Repoublika Bulgaria, Sofia 1993
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5. Normativni aktove po konstitoutsionno pravo na Repoublika Bulgaria i resheniya na Konstitutsionniya sud. Compiled by S Stoychev, Sofia, 1993
6. L. Vladkin, Istoriya and Turnovskata Konstitoutsiya, Sofia, 1936
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8. P. Staynov, Razdelnostta and vlastite i konstitoutsiyata, Sofia, 1946
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12. E. Tanchev, The Constitution and the Rule of Law. – John D. Bell (Ed.) Bulgaria in Transition, Oxford, 1998, pp 65-90
13. E. Konstantinov, The Implementation of International Treaty Obligations in the National Legal Order – the Answer of the Bulgarian Constitution. – in: “Journal of Constitutional Law in Eastern and Central Europe, 1995, 1, pp 62-75
14. E. Konstantinov, Die neue bulgarische Verfassung von 1991. – in: Recht in Ost und West, 1993, 2, pp 35-44
15. The Establishment of Democratic Institutions in Bulgaria, – in: “Journal of Constitutional Law in Eastern and Central Europe, 1994, 2, pp 191-208.