Bulgaria MPs Debating Constitutional Changes

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov (R) with Justice MInister Hristo Ivanov (L) in Parliament on Wednesday, September 23, 2015, to urge MPs to accept the constitutional changes put forward by the ruling majority. Photo BGNES

Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on Wednesday urged lawmakers to vote in favor of constitutional changes.

Alongside Justice Minister Hristo Ivanov, he visited Parliament as MPs had just started their debate on a series of constitutional amendments tabled before summer recess began in July.

At least 160 (of a total of 240) MPs have to vote to give the green light to constitutional changes. A majority of 180 would allow for a fast-track adoption of the amendments.

Several parties have already declared they are staunchly against rewriting sections of the Constitution. These include left-wing Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABV) of President (2002-2012) Georgi Parvanov, which is part of the government but resists part of the proposals.

The changes are aimed at giving a boost to the judicial system by allowing a bigger efficiency and strictly separating activities of judges and prosecutors, the bigger share of the ruling majority maintains. Opponents have been warning the process might be part of an attempt to consolidate power and tighten their grip on the judiciary, including through political purges.

Parliament Speaker Tsetska Tsacheva said from the rostrum that the "organizational and constitutional changes" were not "an end in themselves", but were aimed at establishing and maintaining the rule of law.

Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Chairman Mihail Mikov, however, said his party - the biggest opposition force in Parliament - would not back the amendments and suggested a Grand National Assembly (an extraordinary legislature which may be convened in times of crises or more comprehensive legislative changes).

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