Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted on February 17 to overturn President Roumen Radev’s vetoes on amendments to the country’s Penal Procedure Code and the urban planning law.
The Penal Procedure Code bill, which envisions the appointment of a special prosecutor with the authority to investigate the top ranks of the prosecutor’s office, was vetoed in its entirety, with Radev saying in his motives that it did not “offer a just and sustainable solution to the problem of lacking effective investigation of the Prosecutor-General or Deputy Prosecutor-General.”
The motion to overturn the veto passed with 125 MPs in favour, 77 opposed and three abstentions. The veto was backed only by the two largest opposition parties, the socialists and predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF).
In the debate preceding the vote, opposition MPs largely echoed the points raised by the head of state, describing the position of the special prosecutor as a “legislative Frankenstein.”
In riposte, government coalition MPs argued that this was the only way, given current constitutional constraints and the lack of support for changing the constitution in the current National Assembly, to ensure effective investigation of the Prosecutor-General if it was ever needed.
Radev’s other veto, on the urban planning law, was imposed with the argument that the changes would restrict the rights of individuals and companies. It was overturned in a vote with 122 MPs in favour, 57 against and one abstention.
Bulgaria’s constitution grants the head of state a limited power of veto, through enabling the President to return legislation to the National Assembly for further discussion. The National Assembly may overturn the President’s veto through a simple majority vote or accept the veto and review the vetoed clauses.
Since taking office in January 2017, Radev made liberal use of this power. These were his 27th and 28th vetoed bills, with Parliament overturning the veto on all but three occasions – two cases when the provisions in question were withdrawn and one instance where the government coalition failed to muster the support needed to overturn the veto.