For Sale: Bulgaria's Constitutional Court

Bulgarians are fed up with government corruption.

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Several thousand protesters march during a massive anti-government protest to demand that the Socialist-backed government step down to make way for early elections, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, in Sofia. The rally is held on the day marking the 24th anniversary of the end of communism in Bulgaria that opened its transition toward democracy.

Ebay is having a government special, of sorts. For $249,200.01 you could be the proud owner the Constitutional Court of Bulgaria. If you act quickly, they'll throw in twelve members of the court at no extra charge! Hurry, 195 bids are already in the books and time is running out. But buyers beware, the seller cautions that the item "does not function as intended and is not fully operational." 

Citizens of the European Union's most impoverished state have come to expect the worst from their political clowns – rampant corruption, utter dysfunction that has contributed to years of economic malaise, greed and waste. But Bulgarians, as the exasperated advertisement suggests, may have reached a tipping point. The most recent brouhaha – which sparked mass protests continuing for four months now and prompted at least one fed up citizen to put part of the government up for sale – was ignited when legislators, backed by the prime minister, chose 32-year-old, media-mogul-in-the-making Delyan Peevski to head the powerful State Agency for National Security.

A prodigal Ronan Farrow, he is not (think more Italy's media tycoon-cum-consummate-politician-turned-criminal Silvio Berlusconi). But with years of extensive experience handling government fraud and corruption investigations, the cherub Peevski is undoubtedly up for the challenge of leading the nation's primary apparatus tasked with combating political fraud and corruption. Peevski was, after all, unceremoniously sacked from his post as the Socialist-led government's deputy emergency response minister in 2007 after allegations surfaced of – you guessed it – corruption. 

[See a collection of political cartoons on the European debt crisis.]

Experience is overrated anyway. "Peevski was chosen because he is not part of the system and we deliberately looked for such an external specialist so that he can restructure it," Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski (whose hairdo screams ‘Good Fellas') exhorted reporters as he defended parliament's decision.

No matter, media-mogul-mini had what matters most in Bulgarian politics: deep political connections. Peevski's mother cultivated strong political and economic ties when she was head of the national lottery and has continued to nurture them as burgeoning media baroness. So it comes as little surprise that the ruling Socialist party and its allies voted the doe-eyed Peevski to head the State Agency for National Security sans hearing or debate. Shortly following the 15 minutes appointment process, British Ambassador Jonathan Allen tweeted: "The appointment has been rushed through with no hearings, debate or opportunity to find out about the candidate. Why?"

Do you really need to ask?

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

All of this brings us back to the Ebay sale. 

Five days after Parliament voted Peevski to his post as security chief in June, it got cold feet and reversed its decision, cancelling the appointment. President Rossen Plevneliev, who had initially been critical of the appointment, went law-and-order on the legislators claiming that their flip-flop contravened the country's supreme law. "The Constitution and the laws of the country stipulate terms in office for public bodies, through which they create a protective mechanism of democracy," Plevneliev stated. "The term in office of a public body cannot be terminated pre-term on the basis of a subjective decision. Premature termination of the term of office can only be resorted to in the cases listed in a law or in the Constitution. There were no such grounds in that case."

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The president also asked the court to determine whether Peevski, who was an elected member of Parliament immediately preceding his five-day joyride as head of SANS, could retain his role as an legislator after his appointment to another public office.  

On October 8, 2013, the Constitutional Court ruled that Peevski has the right to remain a member of Parliament, setting off a fresh round of anti-government protests and student sit-ins. The court has yet to rule on the legality of Parliament's decision to rescind Peevski's appointment.

The rest of Europe, meanwhile, has been keeping a close eye. As one of the largest recipients of annual EU aid (Bulgaria received 219 percent more money than it contributed in 2012), European leaders are keen to make sure their Euros are well spent. Perhaps, they may even be interested in purchasing a parcel of prime real estate to sure up their Bulgarian investments. There is a great sale over on Ebay right now; who's in?  

Drew F. Cohen is a law clerk to the chief justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. Follow him on Twitter at @DF_Cohen or email him at dfcohen@law.gwu.edu.

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