SOFIA -- Bulgarian President Rumen Radev has rejected the Supreme Judicial Council's choice for a new chief prosecutor, stressing that the selection process was not competitive and was conducted in a manner that doesn't foster public trust in him.
Citing a "complete lack of alternative" candidates, the president on November 7 refused to endorse current Deputy Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev, 48, for the top position.
"I have stated before that I expect a real contest between candidates, not a formal election procedure," Radev said regarding the council's 20-4 approval vote for the nominee last month. "The hallmark of a democratic state is the availability of alternatives to high-level government positions."
The president criticized Justice Minister Danail Kirilov for not nominating more than one candidate for the post to offer a diversity of choices.
Radev noted the massive public show of support that the nominee received from his colleagues was wrongfully published on the Supreme Judicial Council's website because such opinions by law should come from civil society and the public at large.
"Electing a public prosecutor is an act of high public importance and the way it is conducted should foster trust in society and not raise doubts," Radev said.
Months of protests against Geshev's nomination preceded the council's October 24 vote to approve him as the new chief prosecutor.
Opponents, including judiciary reform and human rights groups, expressed concerns about Geshev's professionalism, integrity, independence, and links to an oligarch.
In the past, Geshev has said he is for life prison sentences and execution of certain criminals.
On October 17, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) raised concerns over Geshev's appointment, saying he had recently "made extremely scathing comments about media outlets that are not to his liking, raising fears about possible reprisals."
"Without regard to procedure, without evidence, and in violation of his duty to be impartial and principled, Geshev has expressed himself in terms that suggest that Bulgarian democracy is in great danger," RSF said.
Geshev holds a law degree from a police academy and has been a prosecutor since 2006.
He has won praise from prosecutors, police, and investigators for successes in cracking down on criminal gangs, migrant trafficking, and smuggling.
At his 10-hour nomination hearing before the council, Geshev promised to remain free of outside influence in the chief prosecutor role.
"I will not allow media, political, or economic circles to indicate who is to be charged and what is more, on what charges," Geshev said before the vote.
The position is one of the most powerful in Bulgaria, overseeing the work of all other prosecutors and having the final say on whether to initiate or end an investigation.
The European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, and the European Commission have all expressed concern that the Bulgarian legislature cannot bring criminal charges against the chief prosecutor.
Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007, remains the bloc's most corrupt member, according to Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.