Bulgaria’s system of government takes the form of a Parliamentary Republic. The Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, adopted on July 13, 1991, proclaims the country as an integral state with local government, and it contains no provisions for autonomous territorial formations. State power is divided into three branches, namely, legislative, executive and judiciary, with a system of separated powers, checks and balances among the branches. The legislative organ is the National Assembly (the Bulgarian Parliament); the basic executive organ is the Council of Ministers (the Bulgarian Government); the judiciary is headed by the Supreme Judiciary Council and the Supreme Court of Cassation.
The President of the Republic of Bulgaria is the head of the state. He is elected directly by voters for a term of five years. The Vice-President is elected simultaneously, by way of the same procedure and under the same conditions as the President. As head of state and commander in chief, the President is responsible for scheduling elections and referenda, representing Bulgaria abroad, concluding international treaties and heading the Consultative Council for National Security. The Prime-Minister is nominated by the party holding the highest number of seats in the National Assembly and appointed by the President following consultation with parliamentary groups. The Prime-Minister forms Government.
The Council of Ministers is vested with executive power, and it consists of, the individual Ministers (each with their portfolio) and the President (who is vested with certain presidential prerogatives). The scope of their competence extends over the whole territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, including local organs. The Council is responsible for carrying out state policy, managing the state budget, and maintaining law and order. The Council must resign upon a vote of no confidence being passed by the National Assembly (legislative organ - discussed below) The Republic of Bulgaria is divided into municipalities and regions, as well as, cities and so -called areas. The municipality is the basic administrative territorial unit exercising self-government; it is a legal entity, comprised of mayor-governed areas and general areas. There are two types of organs on the territory of a municipality, namely the organ of self-government, called the Municipal Council, and the local organ of the executive branch. The Municipal Council is the local limb of the National Assembly, thus, it exercises legislative power within the municipality. The Mayor of the municipality performs the executive function within the municipality and manages the entire executive activity within the territory. Whereas, a region of the Republic of Bulgaria is solely an administrative territorial unit where state authority is decentralized. This means that, the authorities of a region exercise power delegated by the central government. Thus, the authorities of a region are not elected locally (as is the case in municipalities).
The Constitution delegates legislative power to the National Assembly. The National Assembly has a mandate to exercise legislative control for a term of four years. In order for a bill to become law, the following legislative process has been established (as laid down in the Constitution adopted on July 12 1991). A bill is first submitted to the Council on Legislation, functioning within the Ministry of Justice. Here the bill is assessed on its consistency with the Constitution and European Union legislation. Subsequently, it is submitted (by any Ministry, the Council of Ministers or any Member of the National Assembly) to the Chairman of the National Assembly, who in turn submits it to the relevant Committee(s) of the National Assembly, depending on the scope of the subject of the bill (may be submitted to ie. Budget, Finance, Economy Committee). At this junction, the bill is considered, amended or rejected. If considered acceptable, (even in the case of amendments being made) it is passed on to the National Assembly for its first reading. At this point, the bill is either approved or rejected in principal. In the cases where it is accepted in principal it may still be remitted to the relevant Committee for the purposes of further amendment (without any change to the principal intention and subject matter). Next, the bill receives its second reading of the National Assembly, subsequent to which it is adopted.
The bill, as adopted by the National Assembly, is delivered to the President who evaluates the bill and decides whether to promulgate the law with a Presidential Decree. If a bill receives Presidential Decree it is published in the State Gazette and thus becomes law. The President may also veto the bill and return it to the National Assembly together with reasons for further discussion. Article 101(2) of the Constitution stipulates that the passage of a bill that has been vetoed by the President requires a majority of more than one half of all Members of the National Assembly. Further, following the renewed passage of a bill by the National Assembly, and in accordance with Article 101 (3) of the Constitution, the President must promulgate the bill within seven days following its receipt.
The National Assembly ratifies international treaties. All international agreements ratified by the constitutionally established procedure and promulgated are considered part of domestic legislation of the Republic of Bulgaria. According to Article 85 of the Constitution international instruments must be ratified by the Bulgarian Parliament (National Assembly) following which, they supercede domestic legislation, to the extent of any inconsistency.
The Bulgarian judicial system is hierarchical in nature and is independent of executive and legislative power. The independence of the Judiciary is embodied in Article 117 of the Constitution. By power of Article 117 (2) of the Constitution, judges, court assessors, prosecutors and investigating magistrates, are deemed to be subservient only to the law. The Bulgarian Constitution of 12 July 1991 established a court system comprising of three instances for both civil and criminal cases, these being, the first instance, appellation and cassation. The Supreme Court of Cassation is the final court of appeal. By virtue of Article 124 of the Bulgarian Constitution, it exercises supreme judicial power over the application of the law in all courts. The Supreme Administrative Court, however, exercises jurisdiction, and is the final court of appeal for all administrative law matters (Art. 125, Bulgarian Constitution) The Supreme Administrative Court hears all challenges to the legality of acts of the Council of Ministers and individual ministers, as well as, other administrative authorities established by the law.
The Bulgarian Constitution has established the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), an administrative body which organizes the activities of the judiciary. According to Article 130 of the Constitution, the Supreme Judicial Council must consist of 25 members (judges, prosecutors, etc, having at least 15 years experience in the legal profession). By virtue of Article 129, the SJC is vested with the power to appoint, promote, demote, reassign and dismiss justices, prosecutors, and magistrates of all courts, except for the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Chairman of the Supreme Administrative Court, who are both appointed and dismissed by the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, on the recommendation of the SJC. The Chairman of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Chairman of the Supreme Administrative Court are elected for a term of seven years, and are not eligible for a second term. However, the tenure of justices, other than the abovementioned Chairmen, extends until their retirement. This tenure commences upon the lapse of the third year of sitting on a particular court. However, tenure is subject to retirement, resignation, enforcement of a prison sentence handed down for the committing of a deliberate crime, or in the event of a disability rendering the justice incapable of performing his or her functions for over one year.
The Bulgarian Constitutional Court exercises jurisdiction over constitutional review. It is the only court which has the authority to evaluate and determine the conformity of all Acts, passed by the National Assembly and the executive branches of government, with the Constitution. The Constitutional Court consists of 12 judges, each with a nine-year mandate. The judges are elected in their 1/3 by the National Assembly, 1/3 by the President of the Republic of Bulgaria and 1/3 by a general meeting of the judges of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court. The Chairman of the Constitutional Court is elected by secret ballot held at the first sitting of the Court. The mandate of the Chairman is established for a term of three years. In order to initiate constitutional review (by the Constitutional Court) a motion must be filed by one of; at least a 1/5 majority of the National Assembly; the President; the Council of Ministers; the Supreme Court of Cassation; the Supreme Administrative Court or the Chief Prosecutor. Any matter brought before the Court must be heard by least ¾ of the justices of the Court. Any decision handed down by the Court must be supported by a majority of more than one half of the justices hearing the matter. All decisions of the Court are published in the "State Gazette" within 15 days of their being handed down and any such published decision is effective three days thereafter. If an Act, subject to the review, is found to be in conflict with the Constitution, it will be deemed invalid from the day on which the decision becomes effective (15 days after issue of the decision, plus 3 days following publishing in the "State Gazette").
Bulgaria is a civil law state; its legal system can be described as continental (as opposed to common law). With the view of future membership in the European Union, the Bulgarian Parliament has commenced drafting and introducing acts, which comply with European Union law.
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Joint Opinion on the Election Code of BulgariaDate : 21 June 2011 English [0.32 MB]