In recent weeks, the small European country Bulgaria has entered another parliamentary crisis. It has once again failed to unite enough political forces to form a government. Against this background, however, another problem continues to worry Bulgarians more — the unresolved situation with corruption and judicial reforms. In recent weeks, several seemingly insignificant publications in the Bulgarian media have again signalled the problems with the rule of law in the Eastern European country.
The main issue is the competition for the appointment of 32 new judges in the Bulgarian administrative courts.
The publications strongly assert that the President of the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria, Mr. Georgi Cholakov manipulated and corrupted the competition in question, having prepared and submitted to the competition commission a list with the names of participants, who should get the highest grades, and accordingly be ranked first. Thus, this is how the new panel of judges was chosen, which will administer justice in Bulgaria in the coming 25—30 years.
An inspection conducted by Bulgarian human rights organizations and the media shows that this same commission consists of judges of the same court Mr. Cholakov leads. Therefore, it is argued that only participants in the competition are included in this list, nominated by the former scandalous Bulgarian MP Delyan Peevski (who owns about 90 % of the Bulgarian media companies) and the lobbying organizations around it, which has been filling senior positions in the Bulgarian judiciary for years. The list also includes participants personally appointed by and working for the director Mr. Cholakov. It also contains close senior judges in the court governed by him, and those who worked for the government of the Former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, close relatives of influential Bulgarians, and many who worked in the administration of the Supreme Judicial Council of Bulgaria.
According to publications in the Eastern European country from 08/13/2021, an employee reported that the Supreme Judicial Council of Bulgaria had published results ranking these participants from the written exam competition on 07/31/2021. A very brief review of this ranking and subsequent careful comparison with the publications of the expired list of persons, who were poised to win and become judges, was shockingly unpleasant. It turns out that 90 percent of the individuals mentioned in the media, as named by the President of the Supreme Administrative Court, received the highest marks and thus are guaranteed their election as judges. Moreover, their names match the names found on the later announced official ranking of the first thirty-two places after completing the written exam.
The investigative journalist Nikolay Staykov from the Bulgarian civil organization “Anti-Corruption Fund” stated: “This is the reality, which we do not see — in politics, which stands behind the facade of justice and its strange mechanisms, by which what we call justice is obtained, but this is very often far from the truth.”
“I don’t believe there is a single accurate truth. In my opinion, the truth is as different and colorful as life. That is to say that there is interference for political reasons and criminal influence with a desire to solve a fictional problem, which is actually one of the best deals if you are a legitimate business. In this case, however, we are not talking about that. Such truths are clear, but life is a little more colorful, more complex and they usually overlap and intertwine”, Staykov added. “In the Bulgarian justice system – especially in the Prosecutor’s Office, in my opinion, this has been happening for years, even for decades, and is a severe constant negative aspect. Those going up in the ranks have not earned it, for things they have discovered or committed, but vice versa – for whom they freed from justice, whose case they have hidden in a drawer or an archive”, adds the Bulgarian journalist.
In recent years, Bulgarians have been repeatedly shocked by the levels of corruption, unregulated influence by coercion, and the judicial system’s use to deal with business and political opponents in Bulgaria. For the first time in the recent history of a united Europe, the citizens of this country have encountered such large-scale and brazen manipulation in the selection of judges, probably carried out by the most senior and leading Bulgarian magistrate.
This manipulation is also a grand abuse of influence, which is probably a criminal offense and requires an in-depth investigation by the competent Bulgarian law enforcement authorities and an inspection of the relevant European control structures.