The Bulgarian legislative body is the unicameral National Assembly consisting of 240 members elected to 4-year terms. Political parties must gain a minimum of 4% of the national vote in order to enter the Assembly. The Assembly is responsible for enactment of laws, approval of the budget, scheduling of presidential elections, selection and dismissal of the Prime Minister and other ministers, declaration of war and deployment of troops outside of Bulgaria, and ratification of international treaties and agreements.
The President of Bulgaria, elected for a 5-year term, is head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. The President's main duties are to schedule elections and referenda, represent Bulgaria abroad, conclude international treaties, and head the Consultative Council for National Security. The President may return legislation to the National Assembly for further debate--a kind of veto--but the legislation can be passed again by a simple majority vote.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) won the first post-communist Assembly elections in 1990 with a small majority. The BSP government formed at that time was brought down by a general strike in late 1990 and replaced by a transitional coalition government. Meanwhile, Zhelyu Zhelev, a communist-era dissident, was elected President by the Assembly in 1990 and later won Bulgaria's first direct presidential elections, in 1992. Zhelev served until early 1997. The country's first fully democratic Assembly elections, in November 1991, ushered in another coalition government, which was led by the pro-reform Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) in partnership with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF). This coalition collapsed in late 1992, however, and was succeeded by a technocratic team, put forward by the MRF, which governed at the sufferance of the BSP for 2 years. The BSP won pre-term elections in December 1994 and remained in office until February 1997, when a populace alienated by the BSP's failed, corrupt government demanded its resignation and called for new elections. A caretaker cabinet appointed by the President served until pre-term parliamentary elections in April 1997, which yielded a landslide victory for pro-reform forces led by the UDF in the United Democratic Forces coalition.
In 2001, former King Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha returned to power, this time as Prime Minister.
The Council of Ministers is the principal limb of the executive branch. It is usually formed by the majority party in Parliament, if one exists, or by the largest party in Parliament along with coalition partners. Chaired by the Prime Minister, it is responsible for carrying out state policy, managing the state budget, and maintaining law and order. The Council must resign if the National Assembly passes a vote of no confidence in the Council or the Prime Minister.
The Government is strongly pro-Western, with particularly good relations with the United States, and in April 2004 led Bulgaria into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Bulgaria’s leading policy priority is to join the European Union, which it is scheduled to do in January 2007.
Bulgaria's judicial system is independent and is managed by the Supreme Judicial Council. Its principal elements are the Supreme Court of Administration and the Supreme Court of Cassation, which oversee application of all laws by the lower courts and judge the legality of government acts. There is a separate Constitutional Court, which interprets the Constitution and rules on the constitutionality of laws and treaties.