IME

The Legislature in Bulgaria: What happens There?

Автор: Veliko Dimitrov / 29.05.2007

In order to get a more precise notion about the "evolution" of the legislative assembly and the law-making process in Bulgaria, we could examine the Parliament in two aspects, namely, in the micro and macro aspects. Each of these aspects possesses its own characteristic features and probably dynamics (although it is not clear in which direction each kind of dynamics develops). On the first level is the way of life of every member of Parliament, and on the second level is the combination of all 240 deputies, respectively the law-making process and, on a larger scale, the economic development of the country (this last allusion does not howsoever come into question, taking into consideration the availability of a great number of similar writings- some economic in nature, with or without meaning; others sociological, written by politicians, including ministers,[1] as all those mentioned categories are of course complementary to each other).

The micro-level of the legislation has a few unique attributes. Some individuals, "units" in the legislative process among which are specific political leaders, are regularly absent from the Parliamentary sessions (which literally means absent from the official positions and duties bestowed on them by the people). Other "units" in the legislation, colleagues of the afore-mentioned politicians, like to play the role of "substitutes" for them, even for several politicians at the same time, despite the fact that at the time of general elections, as well as at the time of voting in the Parliament, every deputy still has only his/her own vote at his/her disposal. And polygamy is against the law!

Other landmarks from the Parliamentary landscape are also the regular interviews willingly given by the national law-makers, something which does not represent a negative aspect by itself. But the manner in which the interviews are given is definitely negative. The interviews are not about views and convictions, but mostly about political parties, officials and their faults, and respectively about foreseeable and logical results. Moreover, the interviews appear to be about people, while in reality the emphasis is only on specific groups of the society; often the interviews comprise the term "public," while in reality they are all about the "state" (for example, state orders which, as it is well-known, represent the basic mechanism through which the state buys goods and services). The interviews are also about politics, government and leadership, but they are actually about the formation of conditions (whatever they could be) as well as about harmonization, when de facto, with some exceptions, only a particular set of rules, between which one should choose, should be taken into consideration.

What is happening on the macro-level of the legislation? A few very important things for sure:

1. According to the Statute for the Organization and Functions of the National Assembly,[2] the bills must be introduced along with binding motives, which must also include an evaluation of the expected consequences including the financial aftermath.

It is an open secret that such an evaluation is not usually made, although, except in the Statute, such a requirement is also written down in the Law for Restricting the Administrative Regulation and Control over the Economic Activities. Indeed this law has to do solely with introduction of regulatory regimes (a part of the regulations) which duly means that in specific cases the inaction infringes one act, while in other cases- two or more acts.

2. In order to present public motives (it is clear that there is no evaluation), it follows that there should be a text of a bill to which to apply these motives. At the time of their introduction, all bills should be immediately registered in the Public Register for "Bills" and they should be accessible on the webpage of the National Assembly.

In part of the cases this requirement is observed, but experience shows that there is a number of bills whose contents are completely missing, which is inadmissible.

Let me give you a few examples:[3] the current 11 bills are examined as the ratifications are excluded. In the following 6 bills all kind of content is completely missing.

  • - A Bill for Amendment to the Code of Social Security (look here)
  • - A Bill for Amendment to the Law of Corporate Income Taxation (look here)
  • - A Bill for Amendment to the Law of State Orders (look here)
  • - A Bill for Amendment to the Law of Income Taxes over Physical Persons (look here)
  • - A Bill for Amendment to the Law of the Political Parties (look here)
  • - A Bill for Amendment to the Law of Elections of Members from the Republic of Bulgaria for the European Parliament (look here)

3. It is not clear in what order the bills enter the Parliament. There are no explicitly written rules which can determine certain logic and order in the examination of the introduced bills (for instance, by date of introduction or by allocation to a leading commission). In that way a part of the proposals are delayed with months and years, while other proposals (introduced by the Council of Ministers, i.e. by the ruling majority) are discussed and accepted with priority. From the first 35 proposals in the present Parliament, there is not even one bill introduced by the Council of Ministers which is under a regime of discussion, while there are some bills under discussion introduced by particular deputies (some of these bills were introduced more than a year and a half ago).

4. To what extent do the law makers possess the initiative to accept standards, regardless of the executive?

In Bulgaria the Council of Ministers, as well as all members of Parliament have the right of initiating legislative acts. From all 664 bills introduced in the Parliament till the present moment almost half of them (331) are initiations by the Council of Ministers. The rest (333) are introduced by one or more members of Parliament, including those elected members belonging to one of the three political parties forming the ruling coalition. It could be accepted that more than half of the proposals are directly or indirectly introduced by the government, or in other words, by the executive, not by the legislature.

Having this in mind, it has often happened to me to level criticisms against the members of Parliament with respect to certain proposals. Probably the right thing to do is to direct a share of my criticisms towards the government as the actual carrier of around 50 and more percent of the state power (it is not 1/3 of the state power as recognized in the books representing the idea about the perfect division of power between the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary).


 


[1] Strangely, but it appears that the Minister for State Administration has written with his own hand a short macroeconomic review with adjoining evaluations, which probably, despite the positive intentions of the author to clarify a bit basic economic issues to his boss, should not be read by beginners in economics. The review can be found here. Still, it is worth noting that minister Vasilev by himself, in contrast to almost all of his colleagues, can write or tell something which is not a pure populism, nonsense, or just a bad sense of humor.

[2] You can read here.

[3] The complete database of the register for "Bills" can be accessed on this webpage:

http://www.parliament.bg/?page=app&lng=bg&aid=4&action=execute