Toncho Kraevski: The Constitution works, we don’t need a personal regime

Toncho Kraevski: The Constitution works, we don’t need a personal regime
Toncho Kraevski: The Constitution works, we don’t need a personal regime

A referendum on changing the form of state government was proposed by There is such a people.

Should there be a change in the structure of the country’s top leadership?

Should Bulgaria be a presidential or a parliamentary republic?

That’s what we asked the political scientist Toncho Kraevski.

Radio VIDIN: Why is Trifonov coming out with this proposal right now?

“That’s obvious request to start the election campaign. At the beginning of the previous election cycle Trifonov had promised that he would change the electoral system and that he would submit the results of his referendum to the National Assembly, to change it. This then brought him success. Quite naturally at the moment his promise of direct democracy is updated this time as a proposal for a presidential republic, because it is now seen as a solution to the instability of the parliamentary regime“.

Radio VIDIN: We are in a permanent political crisis. However, is this a sufficient argument for changing the form of government?

“No, I don’t think it is, because first we need to talk about what exactly is the form of government in our country, how the republic is structured, and then let it say whether it should be changed or not. A semi-presidential republic, as later Iva Miteva corrects Trifonov that it is not a matter of presidential qualifications – these are very delicate qualifications. Bulgaria is essentially a semi-presidential republic. This is not claimed by me, but by the creator of this term as a scientific and political term – Maurice Duverger. It is a subspecies of the semi-presidential republic because it has a president directly elected by the people who exercises a number of executive powers, so-called shared competences with the Council of Ministers, i.e. in this respect it resembles the republic in France with the exception that the head of state in Bulgaria in normal weather has much less influence. The Republic of Bulgaria is dynamic, in peacetime, in a normal situation, it is parliamentary. Then the president hosts the parade on March 3 and makes a New Year’s speech. When a parliamentary government cannot be formed with the first and second terms, with the third the president has the opportunity to appoint a parliamentary group at his discretion and to some extent coordinate, if he is capable of this – to become the architect of a coalition. This happened – Georgi Parvanov in 2005, before that the Berov cabinet was formed in this way with the third mandate. This thing is a clear manifestation of how, during the third term, the republic is transformed into a semi-presidential one. Then, when this possibility, this procedure, is exhausted, and the parliament proves to be infertile, i.e. unable to produce power, then the republic becomes presidential for a few months, in which the head of state appoints a government entirely subordinate to him. This means that the Bulgarian constitutional system is dynamic, it is not like the French one, which is a semi-presidential republic with a strong president, which does not change its form over time. The Bulgarian Republic has a very flexible and dynamic structure, it changes according to the political situation, it changes its form. This seems to me a clever and skillfully made constitutional arrangement and very well adapted to the peculiarities of Bulgarian society“.

Radio VIDIN: Trifonov defended his proposal, playing a clip with the late Zhelyu Zhelev. Our first president states that if Bulgaria had been a presidential republic from the beginning, this failure would not have happened.

“Zhelev gives as an example the USA and I don’t remember which other country in this interview, but the example I can think of a country that has made a transition from a socialist regime to a democratic one with a presidential form is Russia. There, Yeltsin practically ran over the parliament in 1992, which voted against his constitutional changes. He is the commander-in-chief of the army and as such he simply tramples the will of the National Assembly. This led to some of the bloodiest confrontations in Moscow since the October Revolution. What I mean is that the parliamentary republic as a form is good for Bulgaria in that it is possible for all social groups to be represented to a sufficient extent so that political violence is not necessary. I am not convinced that if the regime in Bulgaria was presidential, that this would be the case. Bulgaria has a long tradition of personal regimes. Before democracy, it was Zhivkov’s regime. The transition to the socialist regime is exactly that – the gradual installation of Zhivkov’s personal regime. Before that, the regimes of Chervenkov, and earlier – of Tsar Boris III and Ferdinand. It has always been about creating a whole nomenclatural, oligarchic, intellectual class around these leaders who glorify them, who earn their money and social status from them and become their tongs. This thing in Bulgaria is a very ugly thing. Anyone who digs in to read exactly what the government of Boris III looks like, who today is otherwise an icon of the same democrats who are outraged by Trifonov’s proposal. Many of them that day released portraits, words of mourning and praise for the king, but this is one an extremely corrupt personal authoritarian regime that fits the most negative features of Bulgarian society. He plays with what is most evil and most unpleasant in our nature, our social nature. I am absolutely convinced that the creation of a classic pure presidential regime will lead to exactly this: to the return to the most unpleasant features of Bulgarian society, which we saw during the time of Zhivkov and the Coburgs – creating a huge circle of intellectuals and writers who will praise a leader. Oligarchic and nomenclatural leaders will wait in line for political appointments. This will result in the absolute depersonalization of the legislature to rubber stamp the will of one man“.

Radio VIDIN: The deputy chairman of Ima talik narod Toshko Yordanov indicated in his interview that in order to have a referendum, the question must be asked in such a way as to lead to the convening of a Grand National Assembly.

“He the question itself cannot be asked in such a way as to trigger the convening of the Supreme Court, at least as far as procedure is concerned. There is a separate procedure for convening the Supreme Court, among the listed hypotheses, there is no one with “the people can decide in a referendum to convene the Supreme Court”. This, of course, does not mean that if there is a referendum, such a proposal will receive a lot of support, and especially if there is a lot of activity, but this change in the state structure cannot be done with a referendum. This, however, although not a formal basis for either changing or convening the Supreme Court, still represents a huge such moral and political capital, because the other political players will be faced with a very difficult case how to explain their refusal to convene the Supreme Court . There will be no legal consequence of such a referendum here, but there will be a political consequence“.

Radio VIDIN: We are in the middle of a crisis. Changing the model will require a huge resource. Then a new constitution must be written. This is Rumen Radev’s last mandate.

“Any process of changing the constitution, especially such a change, because if we change the regime to a presidential one, it means saying that the second Bulgarian republic, which was founded with the constitution of 1991, is over and this is an absolutely new republic. This is always very dirty and chaotic work, it is not a flower festival for such a change. Of course, at the same time, these changes always go hand in hand with some crises that have caused them. The moment sooner or later the parliamentary regime changes in Bulgaria and the constitution is changed, this will not be a moment when we are all ready, when everything is peaceful and quiet. Now, having nothing else to do, having no other problems to attend to, we can spend a little time on the constitutional changes. This will inevitably happen, however, as a result of some crisis. The question is, is the current crisis one that will produce the need for constitutional change? I still think that the existing rep Ublican model copes with this instability that exists at the moment, because it guarantees that there is continuity, that there is continuity of the executive power, Bulgaria is not left without a government, and it is always appointed by someone who is directly elected by the people, whether it will be National Assembly or President, but they are elected directly by the people. They have the legitimacy to appoint the executive. In that sense this republic works, it is flexible enough to cope. In general, I fear that neither the lawyers nor the politicians in 2022 are at the level of the lawyers and politicians of 1991, who made the current constitution. I do not consider that we, as a political regime, as an academic and public elite, are up to the task of fundamentally editing this text. We are unable to write it first. We are not at the level of its authors to be editors”.

Radio VIDIN: What is the future of this topic in the coming months, especially if expectations that the next parliament will be short-lived come true.

“Precisely in view of this is the risk, because if this parliament also fails to produce a parliamentary government and if it sends us to the next elections, it will be the fifth such within a year and a half, less than two years. If this is combined with very low voter turnout, i.e. it continues to fall from election to election, and the last one was at a record low, but if it continues to fall – that will be the biggest blow. I don’t think the inability of parties to form a government will bury the constitution as it stands, but if voter turnout drops – that’s a much quieter but real killer of it. If citizens stop participating and turnout drops to 20%, which is entirely foreseeable, then indeed, a change will become imperative. In the current legal framework for referendums, they become valid, become binding, depending on whether as many people voted for them as in the last parliamentary elections. With this declining turnout, respectively the threshold for the entry into force of the decision of a referendum becomes much lower. This means that if the president asks for a referendum, right, not to give him ideas, or some political force manages to organize one, the threshold is very low, it can all come into effect. What Trifonov is saying sounds slightly farcical at the moment, but with voter turnout falling and trust in the parliamentary regime eroding, these referendums will at some point really become a tool to force constitutional change. If no government is formed and activity continues to fall, all this, this nightmare, will begin to look like reality, like the only way out. The state and the constitution are working, there is no need to kill them, but at some point we will kill them ourselves, because we do not export us to someone in the political career, someone does not want to form a coalition with someone, someone does not want to split a ministry, sector or budget. For this reason, they will finally announce that the constitution and the state are to blame. Everyone else will be guilty, so we’ll have to change for them.”

The article is in bulgaria

Tags: Toncho Kraevski Constitution works dont personal regime

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