Bulgaria

   

Quality of Democracy

#36
Key Findings
With a number of weak spots, Bulgaria falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 36) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

Following a referendum, state financing of parties has diminished, giving a greater role to uncapped business-sector donations. Parties are required to submit financial reports, and penalized for irregularities. Voting is technically compulsory, but there are no penalties for failing to vote.

Media independence has declined, with a number of investigative journalists losing their jobs, and organizations subject to significant outside pressure. Many private media firms are owned by business groups with government contracts. The right to speak freely and protest is well established.

The overuse of force by law enforcement, particularly against Roma, is a serious problem. The Roma minority is highly marginalized, and the public discourse is increasingly xenophobic. Legal certainty is undermined by unpredictable executive action. Judicial independence is improving, but the head of the anti-corruption agency was forced to resign after dubious practices were exposed.

Electoral Processes

#33

How fair are procedures for registering candidates and parties?

10
 9

Legal regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections; candidates and parties are not discriminated against.
 8
 7
 6


A few restrictions on election procedures discriminate against a small number of candidates and parties.
 5
 4
 3


Some unreasonable restrictions on election procedures exist that discriminate against many candidates and parties.
 2
 1

Discriminating registration procedures for elections are widespread and prevent a large number of potential candidates or parties from participating.
Candidacy Procedures
9
The present electoral code in Bulgaria has been in force since 2014. Registration of parties and candidates is broadly fair and transparent. The registration of candidates requires a prospective candidate to be registered as a member of a party, coalition of parties or nominating committee with the Central Electoral Commission. For the registration of parties or nominating committees, a bank deposit and a certain number of citizen signatures are required. Citizens of other countries cannot run in elections, with the exception of citizens of EU countries in municipal and European Parliament elections. A constitutional clause prohibits the formation of “ethnically based” parties, but Constitutional Court rulings through the years have rendered this irrelevant in practice.

For the European Parliament elections held in May 2019, one out of 28 applying parties, coalitions and individual-candidate committees was denied registration due to the fact that the forms used to collect citizen signatures did not comply with the published requirements. In the municipal elections held in October and November 2019, no significant reports of candidate registration denials were reported. The only comparatively prominent case reported was when two individual candidates for the mayoral and municipal council elections in Sofia were rejected by the municipal electoral commission because they had submitted their documentation seven minutes after the deadline. However, this decision was ultimately reversed by the Central Electoral Commission.

To what extent do candidates and parties have fair access to the media and other means of communication?

10
 9

All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
 8
 7
 6


Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
 5
 4
 3


Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
 2
 1

Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
Media Access
5
Media access for candidates and parties differs between publicly and privately run media. The public broadcast media – one TV and one radio station with several channels each – are required by law to provide full and balanced coverage and to set aside time for every candidate and registered party or coalition to make their own presentations. With a large number of parties or candidates usually in the running, as was the case with both elections in 2019, splitting the time between all is a serious challenge that leaves most participants dissatisfied. Between electoral campaigns, parties not already represented in parliament have little access to public media, especially if they are considered to be potentially serious competitors by the incumbent parties. During the municipal election campaign in October 2019, one of the candidates for mayor of Sofia caused a scandal during a televised debate by attempting to prevent other candidates from taking the floor. All assessments of the event agree that public television service handled the situation professionally. The man was invited to leave the studio, and the live broadcast was paused and resumed only after he had been escorted out of the studio by police officers.

Access to privately owned media, which dominate the market, is not regulated and to a large extent a function of influence or financing. Many private media firms are in the hands of business groups heavily involved in dealings with the state. These organizations tend to present the ruling majority in a positive light, or to block the access of competing political candidates, in exchange for favorable business deals. In the case of local elections, many of these media outlets support specific local candidates and coalitions connected to these special interests.

The role of non-traditional media in Bulgarian elections is increasing. Online resources have played a prominent role in referendum and election campaigns in since 2015. In the 2019 EU Parliament elections, a significant share of the unexpectedly large vote for individual independent candidates can be attributed to their active use of such outreach platforms, and in the municipal elections at least one well-known blogger won a mayoral position in one of Sofia’s 24 districts.

Citations:
Price, L. T. (2018). “Bear in Mind… and Do Not Bite the Hand That Feeds You”: Institutionalized Self-Censorship and Its Impact on Journalistic Practice in Postcommunist Countries – the Case of Bulgaria. In: Eric Freedman, Robyn S. Goodman, Elanie Steyn (eds.), Critical Perspectives on Journalistic Beliefs and Actions. London/ New York: Routledge, 211-221.

To what extent do all citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right of participation in national elections?

10
 9

All adult citizens can participate in national elections. All eligible voters are registered if they wish to be. There are no discriminations observable in the exercise of the right to vote. There are no disincentives to voting.
 8
 7
 6


The procedures for the registration of voters and voting are for the most part effective, impartial and nondiscriminatory. Citizens can appeal to courts if they feel being discriminated. Disincentives to voting generally do not constitute genuine obstacles.
 5
 4
 3


While the procedures for the registration of voters and voting are de jure non-discriminatory, isolated cases of discrimination occur in practice. For some citizens, disincentives to voting constitute significant obstacles.
 2
 1

The procedures for the registration of voters or voting have systemic discriminatory effects. De facto, a substantial number of adult citizens are excluded from national elections.
Voting and Registration Rights
7
Bulgarian voters are registered by default through voter lists maintained by the municipalities. Voter lists are published in advance of election day, and voters can also check their presence on the lists online. Every person who is not included in the voter list at their place of residence can ask to be included, and if not included can appeal to the courts. Bulgarian citizens residing abroad have the right to vote in parliamentary and presidential elections, as well as in national referendums. They can do this at the various consular services of Bulgaria, or if they establish a polling station themselves in accordance with procedures specified in the election code.

Contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, people serving prison sentences are not allowed to vote. Another limitation affects absentee voting – citizens can obtain permits to vote outside of their permanent place of residence, but no general postal vote exists. A national referendum in 2015 on a proposal to introduce distance electronic voting received overwhelming support, forcing parliament to decide on the issue in 2016, and to include provisions for machine and electronic voting in the electoral code. However, the Central Electoral Commission, the body tasked with managing elections, has failed to introduce them in practice.

Other changes to the electoral code adopted in April 2016 made voting compulsory and limited the number of voting stations in foreign countries to 35 per country. However, the first of these provisions does not envisage any penalty for failing to vote, while the second was later relaxed for EU member states.

To what extent is private and public party financing and electoral campaign financing transparent, effectively monitored and in case of infringement of rules subject to proportionate and dissuasive sanction?

10
 9

The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring to that respect. Effective measures to prevent evasion are effectively in place and infringements subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.
 8
 7
 6


The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring. Although infringements are subject to proportionate sanctions, some, although few, loopholes and options for circumvention still exist.
 5
 4
 3


The state provides that donations to political parties shall be published. Party financing is subject to some degree of independent monitoring but monitoring either proves regularly ineffective or proportionate sanctions in case of infringement do not follow.
 2
 1

The rules for party and campaign financing do not effectively enforce the obligation to make the donations public. Party and campaign financing is neither monitored independently nor, in case of infringements, subject to proportionate sanctions.
Party Financing
4
Party financing in Bulgaria is regulated by the Political Parties Act. The party-financing regime was given a significant overhaul in 2019, in part due to the results of a national referendum in 2016 in which a proposal dramatically decreasing the amount of parties’ public subsidies received very broad support. The annual subsidy was decreased from BGN 11 to BGN 1 per voter in the last parliamentary elections for parties obtaining more than 1% of the vote. To compensate for this loss of revenues, the prohibition on donations from businesses was eliminated. Thus, party financing will probably shift from predominantly state subsidies to a system in which most funding comes from private donations dominated by firms, with no legal maximum on donations by private persons or firms. The decline in state subsidies for parties is likely to weaken the parties with high vote shares. At the same time, the greater reliance on business-sector money will facilitate the creation of crony-style party-business nexuses.

Party financing is overseen by the Audit Office. Every year, parties are obliged to submit a full financial report, including a description of all their properties and an income statement. Reports must also be submitted after each electoral campaign. Reports from parties with budgets larger than €25,000 must be certified by an independent financial auditor. The Audit Office is obliged to publish all these reports online, audit them and publish the auditing reports. Parties are subject to penalties for irregularities in their financial reporting. The likelihood that political consequences will result is increased by the fact that all reports are made available online.

Despite legal prohibitions, non-regulated party financing seems to be available in practice. The most recent allegations of illicit financing involve claims by whistleblowers who previously worked for the state agency serving Bulgarians abroad, indicating that the agency sells Bulgarian citizenship, with the proceeds going to one of the parties in the ruling coalition.

Do citizens have the opportunity to take binding political decisions when they want to do so?

10
 9

Citizens have the effective opportunity to actively propose and take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through popular initiatives and referendums. The set of eligible issues is extensive, and includes national, regional, and local issues.
 8
 7
 6


Citizens have the effective opportunity to take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through either popular initiatives or referendums. The set of eligible issues covers at least two levels of government.
 5
 4
 3


Citizens have the effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure. The set of eligible issues is limited to one level of government.
 2
 1

Citizens have no effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure.
Popular Decision-Making
7
There are several forms of direct democracy in Bulgaria, at both the local and national levels. The set of eligible issues is limited, as budgetary issues cannot be addressed in municipal or national referendums. At the national level, in addition, the structure of the Council of Ministers, and the personnel of the Council of Ministers, Supreme Judicial Council and Constitutional Court cannot be decided on the basis of referendums. Citizens’ committees can address the National Assembly to call a referendum if they collect at least 200,000 signatures in favor of holding a referendum. If the number of signatures exceed 400,000, the Assembly is obliged to call a referendum. Parliament can, within certain limits set by the law, edit the questions posed. The outcome of referendums is binding only if voter turnout is higher than in the last general election.

National referendums were held in 2013 and 2015, and with another that included three different proposals in 2016. However, turnout levels were not high enough in any these referendums to make the results obligatory for parliament.

Requirements for local referendums are less stringent than for national, and 10% of voters with permanent residence in the municipality can make a binding proposal for a referendum. If more than 40% of voters with permanent residence participate, the local referendum is binding for the local government. Three local referendums were held in 2017, and another two in 2019. In one case in 2019, voter turnout was high enough to make the results binding.

Access to Information

#36

To what extent are the media independent from government?

10
 9

Public and private media are independent from government influence; their independence is institutionally protected and fully respected by the incumbent government.
 8
 7
 6


The incumbent government largely respects the independence of media. However, there are occasional attempts to exert influence.
 5
 4
 3


The incumbent government seeks to ensure its political objectives indirectly by influencing the personnel policies, organizational framework or financial resources of public media, and/or the licensing regime/market access for private media.
 2
 1

Major media outlets are frequently influenced by the incumbent government promoting its partisan political objectives. To ensure pro-government media reporting, governmental actors exert direct political pressure and violate existing rules of media regulation or change them to benefit their interests.
Media Freedom
3
In legal terms, media in Bulgaria are independent of the government. All electronic media – public or private – are subject to licensing by two independent state agencies: the Council for Electronic Media (issuing programming licenses) and the Commission for Regulation of Communications (for radio frequencies and other technological aspects of electronic media). The Council for Electronic Media also appoints the management of the Bulgarian National Television and the Bulgarian National Radio organizations. No specific regulation exists for print media.

In practice, however, media independence is limited in Bulgaria, and the situation further worsened in 2019. After a series of well-known investigative electronic-media journalists lost their positions and on-air exposure over the last two years, the public radio’s leading station was pressured into actually shutting down for several hours with the sole purpose of keeping a particular investigative journalist off the air. This journalist had been asking inconvenient questions about the selection procedure for the new prosecutor general in September 2019. This caused a major crisis, and forced the Council for Electronic Media to fire the recently elected executive director of the radio service. In the process, it became clear that the decision to shut down the broadcast was a result of outside pressure by unrevealed persons.

During the municipal election campaign in Sofia, one of the mayoral candidates, who is also a leader of one of the three parties forming the junior partner in the ruling coalition, created a scandal during a live broadcast of a candidate debate on public TV. While the show was on the air, he directly threatened that if his behavior was not tolerated, he would cut the funding of the public TV service, which is voted on every year by parliament as part of the state budget.

Media outlets’ dependence on advertising and other revenues from the government or government-owned enterprises continues to be a problem. Similarly, some outlets or their owners are involved in business deals with the government. Transparency regarding the ultimate ownership of private media organizations is very low, especially for the print media.

A major development in the media space has been the growth of non-traditional outlets. On the one hand, it is much more difficult for the powerful of the day to suppress these non-traditional media. On the other hand, they are more susceptible to specific manipulations.

To what extent are the media characterized by an ownership structure that ensures a pluralism of opinions?

10
 9

Diversified ownership structures characterize both the electronic and print media market, providing a well-balanced pluralism of opinions. Effective anti-monopoly policies and impartial, open public media guarantee a pluralism of opinions.
 8
 7
 6


Diversified ownership structures prevail in the electronic and print media market. Public media compensate for deficiencies or biases in private media reporting by representing a wider range of opinions.
 5
 4
 3


Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize either the electronic or the print media market. Important opinions are represented but there are no or only weak institutional guarantees against the predominance of certain opinions.
 2
 1

Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize both the electronic and the print media market. Few companies dominate the media, most programs are biased, and there is evidence that certain opinions are not published or are marginalized.
Media Pluralism
4
Media pluralism in Bulgaria is supported by a quite diversified ownership structure. The sheer plurality of media outlets ensures relatively broad coverage of different points of view. At the same time, however, the ownership structure is often opaque, allowing for hidden interests to operate. That said, at least one well-known de facto owner of print media (Delyan Peevski) has made his ownership official. Pluralism of opinions is greater in the radio and print media than in the TV sector. The fact that Sega, one of the few newspapers that leans against the government, is shifting from daily to weekly publication in 2020 signals a narrowing of the field.

The rising importance of online media, including blogging and various independent sites, has been a significant recent development. These online resources have played a prominent role in the referendum and election campaigns since 2015. In the 2019 EU Parliament elections, a significant portion of the unexpectedly large vote for individual independent candidates can be attributed to their active use of such outreach platforms. In the municipal elections, at least one well-known blogger won a mayoral position in one of Sofia’s 24 districts.

To what extent can citizens obtain official information?

10
 9

Legal regulations guarantee free and easy access to official information, contain few, reasonable restrictions, and there are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information.
 8
 7
 6


Access to official information is regulated by law. Most restrictions are justified, but access is sometimes complicated by bureaucratic procedures. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms permit citizens to enforce their right of access.
 5
 4
 3


Access to official information is partially regulated by law, but complicated by bureaucratic procedures and some poorly justified restrictions. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms are often ineffective.
 2
 1

Access to official information is not regulated by law; there are many restrictions of access, bureaucratic procedures and no or ineffective mechanisms of enforcement.
Access to Government Information
7
Access to government information for citizens is guaranteed by the Bulgarian constitution and regulated by the Access to Public Information Act originally adopted in 2000. It ensures a high level of access for citizens to government information and refusals to provide information can be appealed in court. The opportunity for court appeals has been actively used by civil society actors and organizations, and a robust court practice has developed. In recent years, the amount of government information made freely and promptly available on the internet has increased markedly, so that the need for formal requests for information has declined. The most common excuse for refusing to release information is that interests of third parties may be affected, while confidentiality and classified information considerations come a distant second. Delays in the provision of information also persist.

Citations:
Access to Information Programme Foundation (2019): Access to information in Bulgaria in 2018. Sofia (http://store.aip-bg.org//publications/ann_rep_bg/2018.pdf).

Global right to information rating: https://www.rti-rating.org/

Civil Rights and Political Liberties

#32

To what extent does the state respect and protect civil rights and how effectively are citizens protected by courts against infringements of their rights?

10
 9

All state institutions respect and effectively protect civil rights. Citizens are effectively protected by courts against infringements of their rights. Infringements present an extreme exception.
 8
 7
 6


The state respects and protects rights, with few infringements. Courts provide protection.
 5
 4
 3


Despite formal protection, frequent infringements of civil rights occur and court protection often proves ineffective.
 2
 1

State institutions respect civil rights only formally, and civil rights are frequently violated. Court protection is not effective.
Civil Rights
5
The Bulgarian constitution and legislation provide a comprehensive framework guaranteeing civil rights and their protection. In practice, rights are generally respected by state agencies and citizens have legal recourse when infringements of these rights do occur. Bulgarian citizens actively use the administrative-justice process to challenge the actions of state agencies, and the courts regularly side with citizen plaintiffs. Bulgarian cases are also regularly heard at the European Court of Human Rights.

The most frequent and serious rights violations are the overuse of force by law-enforcing government bodies, especially against Roma. Citizens regularly report failures to investigate and protect rights related to some types of crimes, especially crimes against property. The length of legal proceedings represents a significant problem. Sociological surveys continuously register very low levels of citizen satisfaction with the operation of the justice system, with the most serious negative perception being that the law does not apply equally to all citizens and that privileged people can bend the rules with impunity.

To what extent does the state concede and protect political liberties?

10
 9

All state institutions concede and effectively protect political liberties.
 8
 7
 6


All state institutions for the most part concede and protect political liberties. There are only few infringements.
 5
 4
 3


State institutions concede political liberties but infringements occur regularly in practice.
 2
 1

Political liberties are unsatisfactory codified and frequently violated.
Political Liberties
8
Political liberties are guaranteed in Bulgaria by the constitution and relevant laws. Bulgarians enjoy the freedom to express themselves, to assemble and organize themselves (including explicitly politically), to hold religious beliefs and to petition the government. Bulgarians have clearly established rights to speak freely, assemble and protest. The freedom of expression has suffered from the declining independence of the traditional media, but has been strengthened by the opportunities provided by internet. During 2019, these rights were confirmed by a number of protests that were allowed to take place unimpeded, and by the registration of a new party established by popular TV personality Slavi Trifonov, which opinion surveys indicate has the real potential of becoming a serious factor.

How effectively does the state protect against different forms of discrimination?

10
 9

State institutions effectively protect against and actively prevent discrimination. Cases of discrimination are extremely rare.
 8
 7
 6


State anti-discrimination protections are moderately successful. Few cases of discrimination are observed.
 5
 4
 3


State anti-discrimination efforts show limited success. Many cases of discrimination can be observed.
 2
 1

The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
Non-discrimination
5
The Bulgarian constitution, the 2004 Anti-Discrimination Act and various EU directives aim to provide protection against discrimination. There is a Commission for Protection against Discrimination, and citizens have access to the courts in cases of suspected discrimination. In practice, instances of discrimination can be frequently observed, especially against the highly marginalized Roma minority. There is some labor market discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, and ethnicity. The public discourse has become increasingly xenophobic, as explicitly nationalistic parties serve in the ruling coalition and routinely rely on agitation during election campaigns. The government failed to push through the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, and some portions of it were pronounced unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.

Rule of Law

#36

To what extent do government and administration act on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions to provide legal certainty?

10
 9

Government and administration act predictably, on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions. Legal regulations are consistent and transparent, ensuring legal certainty.
 8
 7
 6


Government and administration rarely make unpredictable decisions. Legal regulations are consistent, but leave a large scope of discretion to the government or administration.
 5
 4
 3


Government and administration sometimes make unpredictable decisions that go beyond given legal bases or do not conform to existing legal regulations. Some legal regulations are inconsistent and contradictory.
 2
 1

Government and administration often make unpredictable decisions that lack a legal basis or ignore existing legal regulations. Legal regulations are inconsistent, full of loopholes and contradict each other.
Legal Certainty
5
Bulgaria’s government and administration refer heavily to the law and take pains to justify their actions in formal and legal terms. Legal certainty is diminished by the fact that laws usually give the administration sizable scope for discretion, while also suffering from internal inconsistencies and contradictions that make it possible to find ad hoc legal justifications for virtually any decision. Thus, executive action is not only relatively unpredictable, but may involve applying the law differently to different citizens or firms, thus creating privileges and inequality before the law.

To what extent do independent courts control whether government and administration act in conformity with the law?

10
 9

Independent courts effectively review executive action and ensure that the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 8
 7
 6


Independent courts usually manage to control whether the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 5
 4
 3


Courts are independent, but often fail to ensure legal compliance.
 2
 1

Courts are biased for or against the incumbent government and lack effective control.
Judicial Review
5
Courts in Bulgaria are formally independent from other branches of power and have large competencies to review the actions and normative acts of the executive. Court reasoning and decisions are sometimes influenced by outside factors, including informal political pressure and more importantly the influence of private sector groups and individuals through corruption and nepotism. The performance of the Bulgarian judicial system is considered to be relatively poor, and the country continues to be subject to a cooperation and verification mechanism (CVM) by its partner countries from the European Union. In the fall of 2019, the European Commission announced that it planned to terminate Bulgaria’s coverage by the CVM, but as of the time of writing, it remained unclear whether this decision was based on the progress made to date or the conclusion that the mechanism had proven ineffective.

Since 2015, judges have become formally more independent from prosecutors and investigators in the Supreme Judicial Council. However, despite the formal changes, the Supreme Judicial Council remains politicized, and its decisions continue to suffer from a significant lack of transparency and accountability. In 2019, the Council was strongly criticized for its highly nontransparent and noncompetitive procedure for electing a new prosecutor general, leading to citizen protests.

Citations:
European Commission (2019): Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on Progress in Bulgaria under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism. COM(2019)498 final, Brussels (https://ec.europa.eu/info/files/progress-report-bulgaria-2019com-2019-498_en).

Vassileva, R. (2019): CVM Here, CVM There: The European Commission in Bulgaria’s Legal Wonderland. Verfassungsblog, June 16 (https://verfassungsblog.de/cvm-here-cvm-there-the-european-commission-in-bulgarias-legal-wonderland/).

To what extent does the process of appointing (supreme or constitutional court) justices guarantee the independence of the judiciary?

10
 9

Justices are appointed in a cooperative appointment process with special majority requirements.
 8
 7
 6


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies with special majority requirements or in a cooperative selection process without special majority requirements.
 5
 4
 3


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies without special majority requirements.
 2
 1

All judges are appointed exclusively by a single body irrespective of other institutions.
Appointment of Justices
5
The procedures for appointing Constitutional Court justices in Bulgaria do not include special majority requirements, thus enabling political appointments. This is balanced by the fact that three different bodies are involved, and appointments are spread over time. Equal shares of the 12 justices of the Constitutional Court are appointed personally by the president, by the National Assembly with a simple majority, and by a joint plenary of the justices of the two supreme courts (the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court), also with a simple majority. Justices serve nine-year mandates, with four justices being replaced every three years. In 2018 there were four new appointments: one by parliament (a single candidate), one by the president, and two by the supreme courts’ joint plenary (elected among 10 candidates).

The chairs and deputy chairs of two supreme courts are appointed with a qualified majority by the Supreme Judicial Council. Over recent years, these positions have been held by both people with highly dubious reputations and political dependencies, and people with very high reputations and capacity to maintain the independence of the court system.

To what extent are public officeholders prevented from abusing their position for private interests?

10
 9

Legal, political and public integrity mechanisms effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 8
 7
 6


Most integrity mechanisms function effectively and provide disincentives for public officeholders willing to abuse their positions.
 5
 4
 3


Some integrity mechanisms function, but do not effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 2
 1

Public officeholders can exploit their offices for private gain as they see fit without fear of legal consequences or adverse publicity.
Corruption Prevention
4
Bulgaria’s formal legal anti-corruption framework is quite extensive, but has not proven very effective. Measurements of corruption have remained stable over the last five years at levels indicating that corruption is a serious problem. While the number of criminal prosecutions of high-profile political actors has been high from a comparative perspective, no actual convictions of such persons can be reported.

In line with recommendations by the European Commission and the Council of Europe, new legislation creating a unified anti-corruption agency was adopted by parliament in December 2017. However, new agency has not been very effective either in bringing cases of high-level corruption to court or in confiscating illegally acquired property. During the period under review, investigative journalists uncovered highly dubious practices (personal-property construction in violation of municipal regulations) by the head of the agency, who was forced to resign as a result. Meanwhile, well-documented allegations of conflicts of interest and illicit enrichment through real-estate deals on the part of members of the governing elite, including the deputy chair of the senior ruling-coalition party and the minister of justice, were glossed over and exonerated. No corruption charges were ever pursued, and the only consequences were ultimately political, as both individuals had to resign their party and ministerial positions.

Citations:
Popova, M., V. Post (2018): Prosecuting high-level corruption in Eastern Europe., in: Communist and Post-Communist Studies 51(3), 231-244.
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