Bulgarian Justice Minister Ivanov Resigns Over Constitution Vote

  • Parliament votes against curbing chief prosecutor's powers
  • Prime Minister Borissov accepts Ivanov's resignation

Bulgarian Justice Minister Hristo Ivanov tendered his resignation during a second vote on constitutional changes that seek to overhaul the judiciary, after lawmakers voted against an article intended to curb the chief prosecutor’s power in the Supreme Judicial Council.

“I will no longer fulfill the functions of justice minister and will make all possible steps for my retreat,” Ivanov told lawmakers in Sofia Wednesday. “The figure of the chief prosecutor, regardless of who he is, has too much power vested in him.”

Ivanov sought to have a higher number or prosecutors appointed to the Council by parliament “as the only possibility to start some democratic accountability in the prosecution’s work,” he said. The prosecution has been criticized for being inefficient in fighting corruption among senior public officials.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has accepted Ivanov’s resignation and his successor will be offered for approval to parliament after consultations among the coalition cabinet, the government said in an e-mailed statement. Ivanov was supported by the Reformers’ Bloc, one of Borissov’s three junior coalition partners. Borissov came back to power 13 months ago in a banking crisis that brought down Bulgaria’s previous Socialist-led government.

The constitutional amendments are part of the Balkan country’s efforts to fight corruption in the judiciary and the security services, following repeated European Union calls to curb graft among high-profile public figures. Bulgaria and Romania, which entered the now 28-nation bloc in 2007, have received many warnings to fight corruption harder to ensure a fair distribution of EU aid. While Romania has already made “impressive” progress, Bulgarian policy changes have stalled amid political turmoil, the EU said in a report in January.

Parliament divided the Council, which oversees the judiciary, into two chambers, one for judges and another for prosecutors in the first vote on the amendments on Sept. 23. Lawmakers backed the amendments in the second vote Wednesday. The changes need to pass a third vote in parliament before coming into force.

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