On the first day of the 45th Parliament, “Democratic Bulgaria” submitted proposals for amendments in the Constitution. Among them is the election of a new Supreme Judicial Council and a changed procedure for the election of the "big three", as well as a legislative citizens' initiative on a proposal of 10,000 citizens - citizens to be able to initiate bills directly. Your comment, Prof. Kirov?
The bill amending the Constitution is not a surprise, given that they declared this opinion during the election campaign, but were not expected to submit it on the first day, because such an action is rather interpreted as political propaganda and advertising, not so much as a serious intention. In this case, we have a bill that has been signed only by members of Parliament of the respective political force. It does not have the required number of signatures for referral to Parliament at all with the initiation of a procedure for amending the Constitution, as 60 signatures are needed to submit it. A quarter of members of Parliament must support such a bill, and in this case the signatures are 24-25. Obviously, more support must be sought in order to have a referral under the procedure provided for in Chapter IX for initiating a procedure for amending the Constitution. In addition, there are some texts that come into tension with the decision № 3 of 2003 of the Constitutional Court whether the Grand National Assembly should be competent in case of change of the elements of the form of general government. In order not to turn out that the proposed texts require revision through the Grand National Assembly and not through the ordinary National Assembly. In this sense, it seems to me that this is a political action, because still the other parliamentary groups support will have to seek in order to realize the way provided for in Chapter IX to be referred to the National Assembly to consider this bill.
What expectations can we have? How far can this idea go in its development in this case?
There are embarrassing texts inside. I do not want to comment them, most likely they will be widely debated, but in order to proceed with such changes, the approach would have to be a slightly different. They are announced, consultations are held with parliamentary groups that would support such texts, it is announced to various professional organizations of the legal profession, and to the whole society, in order to get a public debate too. The Constitution is a basic law of the country and should not be approached strictly by party manner.
Its changes require high majorities. If we assume, however, that the proposed changes are within the competence of the ordinary National Assembly, they need to achieved ¾, if not - at least 2/3 approval. These are very high qualified majorities and how they will be achieved without prior support. The play is very risky if no support talks are held and the submission is on the first day without taking into account anyone's opinions and readiness.
Prof. Kirov, why are we increasingly frequent see politicians nowadays "playing" with the Constitution and using it as a mechanism for political dividends?
I tell you right away - to distract public attention from their incompetence and limitations. You see what happened at the end of the mandate of the 44th National Assembly. This farce, which was produced by Parliament on the back of the Basic Law. These are serious actions that have led to nowhere. We saw a political exposure and a fiasco of legal thought, which was dictated by the GERB parliamentary group at the time, but also in the government circles. This premature proposal, which some members of the Parliament signed without reading it, suggests that this is a political instrumental action in order to prevent early elections and ultimately drain the energy of the street protests, so that the Parliament could complete a full mandate and they achieved it. Sorry, they showed how a new Constitution should not be made.
And if we look at our Basic law, can we point out any defects that need to be cleared anyway?
There is no perfect human creation in the history of civilization, only nature and God's providence, but to make constitutional changes provided that you do not know the Constitution and its normative potential, that through your legislation you are trying to corrode one or another of its institutes, to modify the action of the constitutional logic, which is in the line with spirit of the best European democratic traditions. I would like to avoid the grand phrases, but our 1991 Constitution is the first since the democratic changes of the late 1980s adopted in the Eastern Bloc countries, which made its way to democratic constitutional governance. Although that the other Constitutions of the countries of the former socialist camp were newer and adopted after ours, they show much more deficits and problems than our Basic law. Not to mention that some of these Constitutions took normative provisions from our Constitution. This shows that it may have some flaws, but it is a good Constitution, guaranteeing democratic governance and a modern vision for separation of powers. It is different matter to say that the practices of a number of parties, majorities, governments and individual politicians erode this democratic potential of the Constitution. And I immediately give you an example - the Basic law institutes a Republic with parliamentary governance, and one of the main functions of the Parliament is to exercise parliamentary control over the elected government. In this case, it is sets on separation through coordination and interaction, which is a tradition in Europe, because very few are the countries with forms of semi-presidential republic - a classic example is France. And at the same time you see how the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, although there are many occasions for him to be present in the plenary hall, not only in terms of queries and parliamentary questions to him, but also when changes are made in the configuration of the Council of Ministers after his proposal, when a law on the state budget is voted, but he is absent from the Parliament. For two years, he went to Parliament only once. This is not a normal situation. Can you imagine Boris Johnson not to step in the British Parliament for two years, in the homeland of parliamentarism? Such a thing cannot happen there, as in many other European countries. However, we have put up with this, but it is not right. The principles of the Constitution must be translatеd into living governance, in living politics, and then its deficits must be sought and its change to be asked. The easiest is to look for guilt in the Constitution, as well as the easiest is to fight with monuments, because whatever you throw against them they will be no response.
Prof. Plamen Kirov graduated from the Faculty of Law at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski ”(1985) and has been a teacher since 1986. Associate Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law. From 1995 to 2006 he was a member and deputy chairman of several Central Electoral Commission compositions. Constitutional Judge from 2006 to 2015. He was Bulgaria's representative in the Venice Commission. He has specialized in Greece, Malta, the Netherlands and the USA. He teaches at Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski ”and at the University of Veliko Tarnovo.