DECISION No 13 OF 15 DECEMBER 2010 ON CONSTITUTIONAL CASE № 12/2010

The constitutional notion ,, term of office” is a period of fixed length over which a public authority exercises powers that the Constitution or a law vests in it. The legal regime of the public authorities' term of office is prescribed either by the Constitution or by laws. Earlier expiry of a Constitution-established term of office shall be based solely on the grounds that the Constitution provides for and if the Constitution does not provide for them, then a law does. It is admissible to change the grounds for an earlier expiry. A change shall follow an amendment to the Constitution with regard to the Constitution-established tenures and an amendment to the respective law with regard to the law-established tenures. The earlier expiry of a collegiate body's term of office entails the expiry of the collegiate body members' individual tenures. The legal consequences arising from an earlier expiry are regulated by an amending act.

The proceedings is based on Art.149, para 1, item 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria (the Constitution).

The proceedings were initiated on 25 May 2010 as 61 Members of the 41 st National Assembly asked for a binding interpretation by a petitory ,, Interpretation of the legal concept ‘term of office' according to the Organic Law” and ,, Can a term of office expire earlier on grounds other than those that are explicitly specified in the Constitution and in the law”. The motion stated reasons regarding the legal interest in the interpretation and regarding the importance of the term of office to organize state life and the state bodies' activities.

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1. To answer the questions asked, the Constitutional Court should answer several preliminary questions that are relevant to the request for interpretation. The first question is about the limits of the Constitutional Court's competence to provide a binding (normative, abstract) interpretation under Art. 149, para 1, item 1 of the Constitution. Accordingly, the Constitutional Court should answer whether the application of a Constitution provision is to be ambiguous and contradictory in order to ask for a binding interpretation or the ,, unambiguous” provisions, like all the rest, shall be subject to binding interpretations. The second question is about the Constitutional Court's competence to interpret the provisions of a law which is based on an explicit Constitution prescription that establishes a state body or institution which will perform public functions. The third question is about the admissibility for the Constitutional Court, in the hypothesis of Art. 149, para 1, item 1 of the Constitution, to provide an interpretation by analogy of Constitution texts and if the answer to the second question is positive, of legal texts as well. A question further asked is whether the normative interpretation under Art. 149, para 1, item 1 of the Constitution can fill in gaps by analogy. All these questions relate to the Constitutional Court's competence to provide the interpretation that the movans ask for.

Art. 149, para 1, item 1 of the Constitution makes it binding on the Constitutional Court to provide binding interpretations on the Constitution when the rightful claimants approach it (Art. 150 of the Constitution). That authentic interpretation is a tool by which the supremacy of the Constitution is ensured and is an expression of the preventive approach to make sure future laws are compliant with the Constitution and this is not to be seen as a prevention of a specific check for compliance with the Constitution of the laws or other acts passed by the National Assembly and of the acts of the President (Art. 149, para 1, item 2 of the Constitution). The Bulgarian constitutional law is not confronted with the problem of providing an interpretation that the Constitution terms ,, binding” and that is defined as ,, abstract” and ,, normative”. Both designations are correct as the former means that the Constitutional Court is free to provide an interpretation beyond the legal dispute of the compliance with the Constitution of a concrete piece of legislation, like the interpretation under Art. 149, para 1, item 2 of the Constitution and makes differentiation between the powers of the Court. The latter emphasizes on the legal importance and the implications of the interpretation provided – the interpretative result is a source of objective constitutional law.

The wording of Art. 149, para 1, item 1 of the Constitution invites two general conclusions: the Constitutional Court shall be free to interpret normatively only Constitution provisions for it is only the Constitution that can be subjected to binding interpretations. The power of the State is exercised in line with Art. 1, para 2 of the Constitution and a normative interpretation can be provided of the ,, bodies established by the Constitution” (argumentation Decision № 5/1994 on Constitutional Case № 3/1994). These bodies are constituted in a Constitution-established process and are to function over a period of fixed length. In positive parlance this means all the Constitution provisions, including the transitional, concluding and referring provisions. In negative parlance: the Constitutional Court shall not give abstract interpretations of legal texts. The normative interpretation of a law is inadmissible as its possible target – the Constitution – is explicitly stated.

The prescription of Art. 149, para 1, item 1 of the Constitution is to be strictly applied. The inadmissibility of interpretation covers all legal texts, including those that were drafted on the basis of express authorization by the Constitution. The legal texts are subject to a case interpretation by the Constitutional Court, given that statutory control is exercised on compliance with the Constitution under Art. 149, para 1, item 2 of the Constitution. The purpose of the interpretation is to check a legal text for compliance with the Constitution. The case interpretation is not the binding interpretation under Art. 149, para 1, item 1 of the Constitution. The case interpretation of law provisions, no matter whether the Constitution expressly provides for making the law or not, is to check for compliance with all the Constitution texts that are relevant to the matter to be interpreted rather than just for compliance with the Constitution authorizing provision depending on the challenge of the constitutionality of a law totally or of some of its parts and texts. Moreover the Constitutional Court is not limited to the indicated grounds for nonconformity with the Constitution (Art. 22, para 1, sentence 2 of the Constitutional Court Act).

Any authorizing Constitution provision is subject to normative and case interpretation. The authorizing provision may have a different disposition, substance and meaning and these must be revealed in order to determine the conditions, scope and framework of the authorization and the main principles that should be embedded in the law. A Constitution norm may have a constituting character – the establishment of a state body with stated public law functions. Such normative prescriptions in the Constitution are: Art. 91 – on the National Audit Office; Art. 91a – on the Ombudsman; Art. 133 – on the Supreme Judicial Council; Art. 132a – on the Supreme Judicial Council Inspectorate; Art. 146 – on local self-government and local administration; Art. 152 – on the Constitutional Court. According to Art. 84, item 8 of the Constitution the National Assembly shall elect and remove the Governor of the Bulgarian National Bank and the heads of other institutions established by law. Constitutional authorization (constitutional delegation) is widespread and covers all public life sectors. The constitutional authorization sets the parameters to be regulated by the ordinary legislation whose provisions shall not be subject to interpretation under Art. 149, para 1, item 1 of the Constitution whereas the check for the compliance of these provisions with the Constitution is a task of statutory control under Art. 149, para 1, item 2 [of the Constitution].

A law based on constitutional authorization may be subject to a case interpretation under Art. 149, para 1, item 2 of the Constitution; however, it may not be subject to an abstract interpretation. The interpretation of a law is not within the scope of binding interpretation since the Constitutional Court's competence is expressly confined to the interpretation of the Constitution. However, the Constitution provisions, including those that guide and call expressly for a law arrangement, on an equal footing, enter into the field of application of Art. 149, para 1, item 1 of the Constitution. This holds good of the provisions about the term of office in order to set the limits and criteria, the legal regime of the respective body's tenure as established by the Constitution and the unambiguous understanding of the authorization prescription. There is no doubt that the law in all its provisions, including the provisions about the term of office, must conform to the Constitution and can be challenged as unconstitutional if it violates Constitution provisions (argumentation Art. 149, para 1, item 2 of the Constitution; Art. 22, para 1, sentence two of the Constitutional Court Act).

In view of that the request as formulated in the movants' second question as ,, in the Constitution and law” should be considered admissible only in the part that refers to the Constitution provisions. Even when a law is based on constitutional delegation, what it provides for shall be beyond the Constitutional Court's competences of interpretation as per Art. 149, para 1, item 1 of the Constitution. What is interpreted is the original source of constitutional law and not the source of the law which is an aftereffect and is determined by the Constitution provision. That is why the request to provide an abstract interpretation in that part should be dismissed. A case interpretation is equally inadmissible as there would be no subject matter to interpret.

2. The movants' first question can be subdivided into two: the one is about the term of office; the other is contained in the thesis of the identical regime of the term of office.

2.1. The Constitution texts about the state bodies show that bodies of the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary serve over a term of office and that the regulation of their terms of office conforms to the modern democratic principles of the installation and exercise of state power. To exercise state power ad infinitum is precluded and this is an attainment of the democratic state. The ,, term of office” that the Constitution provides for is valid for the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary so that these branches of power can perform their Constitution-assigned functions in the implementation of the state policy in a definite domain of social relations. The ,, term of office” is a mechanism established by the Constitution or by a law for the democratic structure, composition and functions of the state bodies by vesting in them definite powers for a period of definite length. The ,, term of office” guarantees the consistency and continuity in the state structures and their activities. Along with that the ,, term of office” is a legal guarantor of the independence of the body which is to be in office over a period of definite length in the exercise of the powers that are granted for that period. The ,, term of office” seeks stability and efficient operation of the state bodies and institutions.

2.2. The concept ,, term of office” is not defined in public law. Generally the ,, term of office” is defined as a particular public service in the public interest and the public good over a period of definite length. For constitutional law the concept had a clearly expressed substance: the prerogative to exercise power. A review of Constitution provisions about the ,, term of office” shows that this is the period over which a state body performs state functions that are assigned to it upon its establishment.

The Constitution uses this concept to designate the bodies' prerogatives and the length of the period over which the prerogatives are exercised. Apart from the concept ,, term of office” the Constitution uses some other designations which, while they reflect the nature of the legal fact, emphasize, in the specific Constitution provision, on the one or the other essential aspect of the ,, term of office”, considering the holder, the various legal relations and their substance. Depending on how the relationship arises, positions that are subject to tenure are occupied either by election or appointment.

The approach of the lawmaker that passes the Constitution varies. Some Constitution-established bodies are entirely regulated in the Constitution; other bodies are authorized by the current legislating authority. For instance Art. 138 and Art. 139 of the Constitution about the local government bodies provide for a term of office for the municipal council and for the mayor whereas all the rest is left to the law (Art. 146 of the Constitution).

The Constitution-sanctioned term of office has two components: the substance (the performance of state functions) and the length (the period over which these functions are performed). The term of office is the length of the period over which a collegiate or one-man state body exercises/can exercise the prerogatives that are established by the Constitution or by virtue of the Constitution, by a law that is based on the Constitution. In the latter case it is a law that provides for a term of office in line with the Constitution provisions: length of the term of office (commencement and expiry, if these are not stated in the Constitution), termination.

The Constitution-established prerogatives of all Constitution-established bodies shall not be withdrawn by a law. This is a principle that is valid for all Constitution-established state bodies. The substantive aspect of the term of office is touched on while the possibility to change it subject only to an amendment to the Constitution is the guarantee of Constitution-compliant exercise of state power.

2.3. The fundamental values upon which the Bulgarian state and its institutions rest are set forth in the Constitution's Chapter One, ,, Fundamental Principles”. There the term of office is not expressly stated as a fundamental principle; however, the Constitution attaches special importance to the development of relations and to the function for the real exercise of state power during the term in office.

The constitutional concept ,, term of office” cannot ignore the abidance by the general principles on which the Constitution rests. The provisions about the ,, term of office” obey the general principles upon which the Constitution itself is built.

Art. 1 of the Constitution is paramount among the Constitution principles. Art. 1 directly implies the expiry of the term of office of Members of Parliament primarily and the constitution of a term of office of the state bodies.

From the constituent perspective the constitutional “term of office” is an expression of the will of the fathers of the Constitution or of the current lawmakers and that will is couched in a Constitution text, or, if the Constitution so prescribes, in a text in a law. In other words, it is the Constitution fathers' act of will that matters though the power of the people is the source since a constituent power always derives from the people.

The provisions about the ,, term of office” and the understanding of what the ,, term of office” is must conform to and comply with the prescription of Art. 4, para 1 of the Constitution vis-à-vis the state committed to the rule of law. The ,, term of office” is the authorization that the state bodies enjoy to exercise state power which derives from the people. This is the legal opportunity to perform definite functions over a period of fixed length. The principle of the state committed to the rule of law (Art. 4, para 1 of the Constitution) with respect to the term of office means that there must be a nondiscriminatory attitude to and understanding on the part of all state bodies of what a ,, term of office” is and of its length. If these two questions and the answers to them are clear and reflect indubitably the nature of a term of office as a constitutional fact, the question of the earlier expiry must be associated with the term of office substantive aspect. That is why when Constitution texts about the term of office are interpreted, this aspect must be extracted while all principles that reflect the law-governed nature of the state must be complied with. The principle of electivity and of the separation of powers (Art. 8 of the Constitution) and the principles set forth in the Constitution chapters on each branch of power and the requirement of renewal of the composition of a definite state body must all be taken into account.

The prescription of Art. 11, para 1 of the Constitution that establishes the principle of political pluralism is likewise related to the ,, term of office” practices. Political pluralism is associated with the exercise of state power in line with the freely expressed political will and for this reason it is a basic concept of any democratic state. Art. 11 of the Constitution emphasizes its special position among the principles and shows the relation between the political and public establishment of the state bodies and institutions.

Political pluralism is associated with ,, the formation of the people's free will to build a structured statehood”, reflects the political impact on public law life and its organization and provision of alternative solutions and models. This is where it intersects with the term of office (cf. Art. 11, para 3, Art. 67 and Art. 99 of the Constitution).

While the concept ,, term of office” and its correlation to the fundamental Constitution principles is considered as a legal concept, it is to be remembered that any notion is made up of various legal ,, bricks” and so its basic meaning may have some shades or even a different meaning may appear and that is something that is relatable to the term of office, among other things (see Art. 67, para 1 of the Constitution). Constituent elements of the ,, term of office” may appear and come to the foreground in different relations with other notions and legal concepts. In this way the freedom that is needed to perform Constitution-assigned state functions is ensured.

3. The Constitutional Court practice abounds in interpretations of provisions concerning the term of office of state bodies that the Constitution provides for and of Constitution-established institutions. Among other things the practice shows that an interpretative result could not be expected in all cases and that the term of office is subject to a legal regime that is identical for all state bodies.

The term of office is a tool by which a state committed to the rule law organizes public life. The separation of powers calls for a different regime of term of office from state body to state body. The different regimes of terms of office precondition different classification criteria and explicatory terminology as the quintessence boils down to prerogatives that the Constitution or a Constitution-based law vests to be exercised over a period of fixed length. The authorizing ,, agent”, that is the state body that vests power and sets the substantive parameters of the term of office and its length varies. The authorization may proceed from election or appointment. The constituted state body may be a one-man or a collegiate body. Constitutional law clearly differentiates between the individual term of office and that of a collegiate body that is established by the Constitution or by a Constitution-prescribed law. Further, there exists a variety in the regulations of the length of the term of office. The Constitution fixes the length of the term of office or else delegates this legislation. In certain cases the beginning and end of the term of office are expressly stated. In other cases the length is implied by the respective body's functions. The length of the term of office may be set in absolute or relative terms.

Substantively the term of office shows variety and flexibility. The power that is vested varies in magnitude and in substance. If an identical or a general regime is implied, the quintessence boils down to vesting power so as to perform definite public-law functions over a period of fixed length and all this is not disputed.

The two elements – the prerogatives and the length of the term of office – are the characteristics of the term of office in terms of substance and time frame.

Since the term of office stands for vesting prerogatives, the characteristics in terms of substance is never complete; it is limited and selective in unison with the will of the constituent power that vests state functions of definite type and amount. This is a guarantee of the Constitution-compliant exercise of state authority. The substantive aspect of the term of office determines the length of authorization. The term of office relationships cannot be subject to an identical legal regime since the substance of the power that is granted (the prerogatives) can be different and is different. The Constitution itself determines the distinctive regime of the term of office and its elements depending on the powers that are vested or leaves this to be determined by a body that it establishes or provides that it must be established so that this body performs the functions that the Constitution has set for it. The organizational models that the legislation has opted for vary just as the regulations concerning the term of office vary.

The Constitution provisions make a differentiation between the length of the Parliament's, the President's and the Government's term of office.

In some cases the Constitution deliberately left the matters to be treated in laws. Such are the laws based on Art. 129-130, Art. 132a, Art. 146 and Art. 152. Such an approach makes possible different regulations and different regimes within the constitutional frame and in conformity with the general abstract measure which is determined by the Constitution's fundamental principles. Had it not been so, the acts of organization would have been unable conform the organizational structures of the bodies and institutions to the functions assigned to them. For the Judiciary the term of office issue is left to the combined solution provided by the Constitution and by the Judiciary Act. The different regime of term of office of law-established bodies is valid for the possible changes in the legislation.

The conclusion is that the legal regime of the term of office of the different authorities varies. The MPs' term of office is different from that of the President, or of the Council of Ministers, or of the Executive, or of the Judiciary, or of the local government. The Constitution makes a clear distinction of the legal regimes of the different institutions' term of office regardless of the constituent authority, that is regardless of whether the term in office is provided for by the Constitution or by a law on the basis of a Constitution provision.

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1.1. The MPs' question about the earlier expiry of a term of office can likewise be subdivided into two: the expiry of an individual's term of office and the expiry of a collegiate body's term of office. The question is relevant with regard to both: the term of office of state bodies as expressly provided for in the Constitution and the term of office of bodies whose organization and activities are regulated on the basis of constitutional authorization.

The Constitution arrangements for the term of office show a model which presupposes a full term for state bodies, that is, the length that is fixed in the Constitution. Provisions about the term of office of various institutions show the existence of express rules of earlier expiry and the grounds of expiry. First, this is done directly if the length of the term of office is given in the Constitution – e.g. for the National Assembly or the President; second, this is done indirectly for Constitution-established state bodies and institutions whose organization and activities are subject to a law arrangement which includes, inter alia, fixing the length of the period over which they are to perform state functions. There is no need for the authorization to cover all elements of the term of office. The judgment is left to the delegating authority. In general the requirement for proper functioning of the state and for the exercise of powers calls for full-term prerogatives, that is, over the period whose length is fixed a priori, yet a provision is made for an earlier expiry of a personal term of office. The question to ask is about the limits of this exception of the general rule and whether the enumeration of the grounds on which an earlier expiry can occur is complete and whether other grounds could be extracted from the systemic coherence of regulations and the nature of the term of office relationship and the logic of the regulations. No doubt the earlier expiry of a personal term of office needs specific circumstances that occurred after the assumption of office and these circumstances must be stated expressly by the Constitution or by a law which is based on the Constitution (express grounds) as a legal fact for the expiry. However, the earlier expiry may also be associated with the emergence of other legally relevant facts in the regulations concerning a certain state body. The role of the authority that legislates the term of office goes beyond defining the scope of prerogatives and vesting them to be exercised over a period of fixed length. The fact that prerogatives are predefined in a Constitution provision or in a Constitution-based law provision does not mean that the scope of prerogatives and the length of the period over which they are to be exercised cannot be prolonged or shortened in an order in which the prerogatives were originally defined, i.e. by the passage of a new Constitution or law provision. The prerogatives and their exercise are under the control of the authority that legislates the term of office.

The problem of earlier expiry of a term of office by virtue of a law is politically intricate and delicate. Given these two aspects, the problem is always complicated. Further, it affects the functioning of state bodies and the balance within the system of state bodies and their activities. That context invites the problem of the violation of the principle that the Republic of Bulgaria is a state committed to the rule of law (Art. 4, para 1 of the Constitution) and of the inadmissibility for a law to contravene the Constitution (Art. 5, para 1 of the Constitution) since the Legislature is not in possession of infinite prerogatives but is in obedience to the Constitution. Therefore, interpretative work will have to conform to the supremacy of the Constitution as set forth in its general principles and in its concrete provisions that determine the current legislation.

1.2. Regarding the individual term of office, apart from the grounds that can be obtained from the Constitution, respectively from the law that the Constitution states, it is accepted that the members who serve in a particular office shall not be dismissed, made redundant or removed in whatever form and under whatever pretext. The grounds for the earlier expiry must be expressly stated and the Constitution and the law do that. Though the situation is that clear, it does not preclude the possibility to ask the question whether a law will suffice for the earlier expiry of the term of office of a state body, respectively of its members on grounds other than the expressly stated ones. First, whenever the Constitution expressly provides for these grounds and second, whenever the Constitution provides that the term of office and the length of time are to be established by a law. If the term of office is established by a law which provides for the length of time, the earlier expiry will be based on the grounds that are laid down in the law since the Constitution delegated to it the establishment of the term of office and to a certain extent and within a given scope provided the guidelines for the legal regulation. The earlier expiry of a term of office is a matter that has been discussed by the Constitutional Court. It appeared the length of time depends on the prerogatives that were vested in the state body and a connection between the two. No doubt an individual term of office may expire earlier on grounds that are expressly stated. These are established objective facts or resignation. Should such circumstances arise (grounds for suspension) the consequences are always the same: earlier expiry regardless of the authority which has the power to do so.

The regulation of the earlier expiry of a term of office is diverse and varies from country to country.

Art. 72 of the Constitution expressly states the grounds of the expiry of an MP's prerogatives before the expiry of the term of the Legislature where he or she won a seat after elections. Though the statement is not explicit the expiry of the term or the suspension of the National Assembly's legislating work, whatever the reasons, is the end of the MP's individual term of office whereas the prolongation of the National Assembly's term of office results in the prolongation of the MPs' individual term of office.

The Constitution does not fix the length of time for the Government to remain in office: it is the vote of confidence of Parliament that keeps the Government in place. However, the Constitution provides for a Government in resignation. Art. 111 of the Constitution gives in general the reasons for an earlier expiry of the authority of the Council of Ministers. There exists no separate provision about the earlier expiry of the authority of the Prime Minister. If the grounds ,, death” and “resignation” [of the Prime Minister] are in Art. 111, the question is if these are the only personal grounds for the earlier expiry of his authority and whether all problems will be solved on the basis of his resignation, whether the Prime Minister must resign or proceed with a vote of no-confidence. This is important as in all cases this will be the end of his authority and will lead to the end of the authority of the Government whose term of office, in principle, should coincide with that of the Legislature, that is, the National Assembly.

As to the Judiciary, Art. 129, para 3 of the Constitution does not use the concept ,, term of office”; however, the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Cassation, the Chairman of the Supreme Administrative Court and the Prosecutor General shall be appointed for a period of seven years and may be removed earlier on the grounds that are expressly stated in sentence 2 of the text in question. Art. 130, para 8, items 1-4 of the Constitution enumerates the cases in which the mandate of elected members of the Supreme Judicial Council expires but death is not among the occurrences; the disciplinary removal from office, however, is not what Art. 129, para 3, item 5 of the Constitution refers to vis-à-vis the magistrates. Art. 133 of the Constitution provides for a law on the organization and activities of the Supreme Judicial Council. As concerns the Inspectorate with the Supreme Judicial Council, Art. 132a, para 10 of the Constitution left its organization and activities to an ordinary law.

1.3. The MPs who ask for interpretation believe that the term of office is individual and an earlier termination of an authority is possible but upon the expiry of its term of office. However, the Constitution decrees otherwise. A collegiate state body serves a term of office. See Art. 64, para 1, Art. 111, para 1, item 1 and other Constitution texts. The connection between the term of office of an individual and the term of office of an institution should be taken into account accordingly.

It is not to be assumed that the Constitution implied something other than the earlier expiry of a state body's term of office. Rather the Constitution presumed that the question is answered given the requirement posed to the institution of a term of office and the determining importance of its substantive component over the time component. The term of office that the Constitution specifies will change in the procedure by which Constitution texts are amended. This holds good, among other things, of the codification of grounds for expiry. Whenever a Constitution provision makes it binding on the current lawmaker to institute a term of office and pass the relevant provisions, then, in abidance by the rules of drafting and amending laws, a change may be approved regarding the term of office and the grounds on which it expires. The opposite would be a contradiction with the principle of separation of powers and their competences and specifically, a restriction on the Legislature outside the Constitution rules. The argument that it is the earlier expiry of an individual term of office that has received legal treatment is untenable. The express regulation of the earlier expiry of an individual term of office does not cover all cases and is needed because the individual term of office can exist on its own and the length of time is other than that of the collegiate body's term of office and because it affects the person and the legal status of the subject of law, an individual who is the holder of the individual term of office. The very fact that there exist general grounds for expiry in the regulations concerning separate state bodies shows not just that grounds never run out by means of express provisions for the expiry of an individual term of office but also presupposes the non-admissibility of other grounds related to the existence and functioning of collegiate bodies. A restriction beyond the Constitution limit of changes in the term of office will mean to stop legislation and to deny its formative role in the regulation of the social processes.

The movants maintain that the Constitution calls for stability of the bodies and institutions of the state. However, in law, constitutional law included, stability does not stand for irreversibility. What matters is the measure and the criterion. Stability and mobility must be refracted through the prism of social needs. Therefore, a ,, harmonious compromise” is justified for the static and dynamic condition as is the maintenance of the ,, various balances” along the horizontal and vertical axes of public-law relations and this compromise is reached providing changes are allowed. The efficiency of legal provisions and activities pivots on their compliance with the public life needs and when public life needs a change, a change will be effected even if it is earlier expiry of a term of office. There is just one restriction: compliance with the Constitution and with the Constitution-established procedure. Ultimately, the observation of the fundamental Constitution principles. It cannot be said that the earlier expiry is always at variance with the law-abiding state. The delegation by the Constitution to a law to make provisions for social relations, no doubt, presupposes changes in the legislation. Therefore the restructuring at the level of law is not in contravention of the Constitution as it is the Constitution that provides that it be established by a law and such a regulation invariably includes a possibility of legal appropriateness. This appropriateness covers, inter alia, the needed real reforms in the state structures, reforms that are imperative in the course of social development. The state bodies regulation shows that the Constitution is not rigid but receptive to legal changes in these bodies. A change is not to be ruled out, including internal restructuring within the frame of the Constitution, and this is relatable, inter alia, to the components of the term of office when it is instituted by a law.

The Constitution itself vests competences in the current lawmaker to judge how, within the frame of constitutional admissibility, to provide for the term of office, in particular for its earlier expiry, while changes in the legal framework are not to be ruled out. Therefore two situations are indisputable: the legal competences and the possibility to amend legislation. These situations are general. They cannot be excluded vis-à-vis definite issues and definite institutions providing they fall into the Legislature's competences and abide by the Constitution fundamental principles. This is what the Constitution guarantees. The same holds good of the implementation of the principle of the term of office and its codification. The opposite would be tantamount to a restriction of the National Assembly's legislating functions and a negligence of the principle of the separation of powers and would render meaningless the constitutional delegation of legislation on the state bodies' organization and activities. As the Constitution delegates to the current lawmaker the passage of laws of organization, it delegates the passage of amendments to these laws accordingly. Changes are a tool to achieve a definite lawful result in the public interest. This is not an infringement on the institutions' organizational independence nor is it a disruption of the balance of powers; this is the provision of an opportunity to ensure efficiency in exercising powers and in carrying out reforms.

In the context of the independence of powers, the issue of an earlier expiry of a term of office assumes an additional dimension. It is an admissible tool to deter actions that go beyond the competences – i.e. when a body acts or acted and the actions go or went beyond the prerogatives it has as a body that serves a term in office. In such a situation the term of office may cease to be the guarantor and defender of the independence of powers and become an antipode. The earlier expiry defends the state, the society and the Constitution-enshrined values that are ensured by the term of office. Once the Constitution delegates to a law to determine the term of office and its regime, these two can always be changed following an amendment to the law. The amendment is a responsible statesmanlike and political choice amid many various models and options; the amending act must be compliant with the Constitution.

The expiry of a collegiate body's term of office results in the expiry of all body members' term of office. The earlier expiry of the term of office of a collegiate body's member (the grounds are not always personal, see the text about the Council of Ministers, Art. 111 of the Constitution) does not result in the expiry of the collegiate body's term of office. This is clearly demonstrated in the organization of state bodies that act on a rotating or quota principle.

There exists no general regulation about the earlier expiry of a collegiate body's term of office as bodies are established to perform definite state functions and to carry out activities of public interest for the full length of time, yet an earlier expiry is not to be entirely ruled out. Though the earlier expiry of a collegiate body's term of office is treated as an exception, it is not a priori to be excluded from the Constitution. Whenever a collegiate body becomes incapable of performing its functions, the earlier expiry is an option. One example could be the resignation of the collegiate body members; another example could be the resignation of some members, enough to upset the majority; yet another example could be the fall of the number of members below the minimum that the law requires or an incomplete quota in a body with a term of office and operating on a quota principle, etc. The consequence, the earlier expiry, conforms to the legal order and the law-abiding state and to the requirement of certainty and predictability. While the balance of powers does not allow the earlier expiry of a state body's term of office for momentary reasons, at the same time it makes it imperative to recognize the need of due performance of the Constitution-assigned functions and the combined and concurrent action of principles of the state committed to the rule of law.

Therefore, the general conclusion is that a term of office expires upon the expiry of the term for which the prerogatives are vested (full term of office) and that an earlier expiry of a collegiate body's or an individual's term of office is possible and admissible.

2. The earlier expiry of a term of office that is established by a law along the lines of delegated legislation is subject to a law. The Constitutional Court has ruled that the admissibility of a change subject to a subsequent law is determined by a change of the constitutional structure. The existence of such a change calls for an amendment to the Constitution.

The Constitution deliberately left the regulation at the level of the law by a provision to that effect. Such an approach makes possible different regulations and a different regime within the confines of the Constitution frame which is determined by the fundamental principles. Otherwise the acts on structure and organization would not be able to conform the organizational structure to the present functions of the bodies and institutions nor would they be able to achieve the optimal organization of the performance of public functions. Not only does the Constitution not exclude changes but in principle it is open to changes and this holds true of all the three powers. The approach accepted to the Judiciary constitutes a combined solution of the issues concerning the term of office, including an earlier expiry, and that solution is in the Constitution and in the Judiciary Act. The legal arrangement is based on and conforms to the Constitution provisions. An earlier expiry of a body's term of office should comply with a number of prescriptions like: it shall not violate the principles of the Constitution; it shall not upset the balance of powers. An earlier expiry is a matter of legislative prudence, of priorities in the administration of state and social processes, of integration processes and reforms in different public life sectors, that is, an earlier expiry must respond to a public need and to the public interest. When the earlier expiry does not affect the overall characteristics and keeps in place the body's Constitution-assigned functions, it is not in contravention of the Constitution and there is no room for repudiation. Possible complications and interim problems are solved in transitional and concluding provisions which must likewise conform to the Constitution-proclaimed principles, values and standards – in general to the fundamental principles of the Constitution and to the principles of the state committed to the rule of law.

Whenever the term of office is subject to a law, the earlier expiry must conform to the conditions that this law states. The lawmaker has placed the restrictions and it is the lawmaker alone that has the authority to remove or to put new restrictions following an amendment to the law in conformity with the Law on the Normative Acts.



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