A complete cycle: Tsatsarov and Geshev now head the two of the most powerful institutions in Bulgaria

After Parliament appointed Sotir Tsatsarov as head of Anticorruption Commission, he resigned as Prosecutor General

Sotir Tsatsarov (left) and Ivan Geshev (right) BGNES

The shuffle at the top of the powerful mold between the Prosecutor’s Office and the Anticorruption Commission is complete. The two institutions, whose foremost purpose - at least on paper - is to fight high crimes and corruption have uncovered and tried zero such cases, the over-the top 20-year sentence of former Mladost mayor notwithstanding. 

According to these two bodies and the Specialized Court, also established for the same purpose, Bulgaria has no problem related to corruption or organized crime. One wonders why then does it need a multitude of special bodies to fight a non-existing problem. The answer comes from their very nature: such institutions are inherently corrupt and their true mission is to protect friends and go after enemies. They are a natural next step in the evolution of any corrupt state. Their existence nothing more than an indicator informing the development stage of the captured state. 

The Prosecutor General is the most powerful position in Bulgaria, and most criticized by the country’s European partners. The Anticorruption Commission is unparalleled in its borderline function: it is in effect a law enforcement agency but it is unbound by court rulings. Meaning it can investigate individuals and freeze funds, even after a court has cleared any charges relating to them. Both institutions’ actions and pursuits rely solely on their bosses’ ‘suspicion’ of wrongdoing (or lack thereof) to open and close investigations.

Tsatsarov made sure his protege Ivan Geshev, a police-academy alumnus, take over as Prosecutor General after Tsatsarov’s tenure was over. He achieved this with ease, given the overwhelming control his position has over the body, which elects the Prosecutor General, the Supreme Judicial Council. Thousands protested Geshev’s nomination for months but these processes are impenetrable to any outside pressure or opinion.

Once Geshev’s post was secured, Tsatsarov got the nomination to become head of the Anticorruption Commission. This time the vote lies with MPs but this also proved unproblematic. 165 MPs voted in favor of his nomination. He even got the votes of the only party, which nominated another candidate for the post, VOLYA. Only 30 MPs from the largest opposition, the Bulgarian Socialist Party voted against. But 27 supported him.

It is both striking and unfortunately not surprising - that the largest opposition party is incapable of opposing Tsatsarov. As one observer noted, no one wants trouble with Tsatsarov. It is yet another example, and a most noteworthy one - that the Bulgarian Parliament is not comprised of a majority and opposition: the different parties merely represent different aspects of the same hive. 

Normally, Tsatsarov’s tenure as Prosecutor General ends January 10, but he resigned early, after his election as head of the Anticorruption Commission. Which means the swap between Tsatsarov and Geshev at the top of these two powerful institutions could be over before Christmas.

In the meantime, PM Boyko Borissov, who bursted an impossible solution to the problem that the Prosecutor General is unaccountable to no one, maintains his comical ground, with the help of his Justice Minister Danail Kirilov.

The Venice Commission once again stressed the problem and insisted for the consecutive time the government take the issue seriously and finally being reforming the position. A request, first uttered more than a decade ago, and repeated by an array of European institutions ever since. 

Last week Borissov proposed an absurd idea, which he framed as the government taking the Venice Commission’s concerns seriously. He proposed the establishment of yet another position. A new prosecutor who would stand above the Prosecutor General. This special prosecutor’s only job will be to investigate the Prosecutor General. 

The idea, even if possible, could not achieve its prescribed goal. Because this special prosecutor will again be chosen from a pool of prosecutors, which all are direct subordinates of the Prosecutor General. He or she would be elected by the Supreme Justice Council, over which the Prosecutor General has almost full control. And if this makes the proposal nonsensical and pointless in terms of achieving its goal, it is also unconstitutional. The constitution clearly states that the Prosecutor General is the chief of all prosecutors. 

The Venice Commission also stated as much. But the PM and his ministers still maintain the proposal is sound. Even, in the minister's case, claiming the Venice Commission is not against the idea.

The move by the PM is one of a series of increasingly neurotic and disconnected efforts to try to save face in front of Bulgaria’s European partners. But as this has been his strategy for over a decade, his continued use of empty words and promises with zero according action hardly struck a chord with anyone anymore. 

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