Principal Government Officials
Chief of State: President Rosen Plevneliev
Head of Government: Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski
Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic. The unicameral National Assembly, or Narodno Subranie, consists of 240 deputies who are elected for 4-year terms through a mixed electoral system: 209 members of parliament (MPs) elected according to the classic proportional representation system (voters vote for fixed, rank-ordered party lists for each of the 31 electoral districts, with a different list for each district), and 31 majority MPs elected individually under the majority representation system in each and every district (the winning candidate receives a plurality of the votes in the region). Parliament selects and dismisses government ministers, including the prime minister, exercises control over the government, and sanctions deployment of troops abroad. It is responsible for enactment of laws, approval of the budget, scheduling of presidential elections, declaration of war, and ratification of international treaties and agreements.
A 1-month official campaign period precedes general elections. The voting age is 18. Preliminary results are available within hours of poll closings. Parties and coalitions must win a minimum 4% of the national vote to enter parliament. Seats are then allocated to the parties in proportion to the distribution of votes in their respective electoral districts. Votes belonging to parties not passing the 4% threshold are distributed to other parties using the method of the smallest remainder. The lists of newly elected members of parliament are announced 7 days after the elections. The president must convene the new parliament within 1 month after the elections, and calls upon parties, coalitions, or political groups to nominate a prime minister and form a government. If the three largest parties, coalitions, or political groups fail to nominate a prime minister, the president can dissolve parliament and schedule new elections. In recent years, it has taken approximately a month for the new government to form.
In the general election held in Bulgaria July 5, 2009, turnout was 60.20%. Results were as follows: GERB 39.7%, BSP 17.7%, MRF 14.4%, ATAKA 9.4%, Blue Coalition 6.8%, RZS 4.1%, other 7.9%; seats by party were GERB 116, BSP 40, MRF 38, ATAKA 21, Blue Coalition 15, RZS 10.
Results of the June 7, 2009 European Parliament elections were GERB 24.36%, 5 seats; BSP 18.5%, 4 seats; DPS 14.14%, 3 seats; ATAKA 11.96%, 2 seats; NDSV 7.96%, 2 seats; Blue Coalition (SDS-DSB and other right-wing parties) 7.95%, 1 seat (turnout: 37.49%).
The president of Bulgaria is directly elected for a 5-year term with the right to one re-election. The president serves as the head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. The president is the head of the Consultative Council for National Security and, while unable to initiate legislation, can return a bill for further debate. Parliament can overturn the president's veto with a simple majority vote. Bulgarian Socialist Party candidate Georgi Parvanov won the November 2001 presidential election and was re-elected in October 2006 as an independent candidate in a runoff against Volen Siderov, the leader of extreme nationalist ATAKA Party.
Presidential and local elections were held in October 2011. Turnout for the first round was 51.8%; the top three vote winners were Rosen Plevneliev (GERB) 40.11%, Ivailo Kalfin (BSP) 29%, and Meglena Kuneva (independent) 14%. Plevneliev defeated Kalfin 52.6% to 47.4% in the runoff and took office in January 2012.
The prime minister is head of the Council of Ministers, which is the primary component of the executive branch. In addition to the prime minister and deputy prime ministers, the Council is composed of ministers who head the various agencies within the government and usually come from the majority/ruling party or from a member party of the ruling coalition in parliament. The Council is responsible for carrying out state policy, managing the state budget and maintaining law and order. The Council must resign if the National Assembly passes a vote of no confidence in the Council or prime minister.
The Bulgarian judicial system became an independent branch of the government following passage of the 1991 constitution. Reform within this branch has been slow, with political influence, widespread corruption, and long delays continuously plaguing the system. In 1994, the National Assembly passed the Judicial System Act to further delineate the role of the judiciary. In 2003, Bulgaria adopted amendments to the constitution, which aimed to improve the effectiveness of the judicial system by limiting magistrates' irremovability and immunity against criminal prosecution. Additional amendments to the constitution in 2006 and 2007 further increased oversight of the judicial system by the legislative branch. They introduced the Supreme Judicial Council as a permanently operating supervisory body, as well as an Inspectorate responsible for overseeing the performance of the judicial system as a whole and its individual members. The prosecution service was given absolute authority over all investigations, and the police received a mandate to investigate 95% of all crimes, which reduced the role of the investigative service.
The trial, appellate, and cassation (highest appellate) courts comprise the three tiers of the judicial system. Military courts (at trial and appeal level) handle cases involving military and Ministry of Interior personnel. Administrative courts, effective since March 2007, specialize in reviewing appeals of government acts.
The Supreme Administrative Court and the Supreme Court of Cassation are the highest courts of appeal and determine the application of all laws.
The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) is composed of 25 members serving 5-year terms. Those who serve on the council are experienced legal professionals and are either appointed by the National Assembly, selected by the judicial system, or serve on the SJC as a result of their position in government. The SJC manages the judiciary and is responsible for appointing judges. In 2007 parliament revised the Judicial System Act to make it compliant with the latest constitutional amendments, which provided for the establishment of the Inspectorate with the Supreme Judicial Council: a standing body with 11 members who investigate complaints of magistrates' misconduct, with no right to rule on the substance of judicial acts.
The Constitutional Court, which is separate from the rest of the judiciary, interprets the constitution and constitutionality of laws and treaties. Its 12 justices serve 9-year terms and are selected by the president, the National Assembly, and the Supreme Courts.
Bulgaria became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on March 29, 2004, and a member of the European Union on January 1, 2007. It is a member of the United Nations, and in 2002-2003 served a 2-year term as a nonpermanent member on the UN Security Council. Bulgaria served as Chair-In-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2004.
The country joined the World Trade Organization in 1996. In July 1998, it became a full member of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), which called for the reduction of tariffs by 2002 on most industrial and agricultural goods traded between CEFTA countries. Bulgaria has initialed free trade agreements with Turkey, Macedonia, Croatia, Lithuania, Estonia, Israel, Albania, and Latvia.
On September 22, 2009, UNESCO’s Executive Board nominated Bulgarian diplomat Irina Bokova to become its next Director General; she took office in November 2009.
Bulgaria's relationship with its neighbors has generally been good. The country has proven to be a constructive force in the region and has played an important role in promoting regional security. Pursuing its initiative as a partner in the South-East European regional cooperation, Bulgaria held the chairmanship-in-office of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) for the period May 2007-May 2008.
At the end of December 2011, Bulgaria assumed the remainder of Hungary’s term (through 2013) on the UN Economic and Social Council based on an internal agreement between the two countries.
Sources:CIA World Factbook (January 2012)
U.S. Dept. of State Country Background Notes ( January 2012)