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The State under Dimitrov

In the 1946 elections, noncommunist parties in the Fatherland Front lost influence far out of proportion to the numerical election results. The most salient new feature of the Dimitrov Constitution was that it rejected the separation of powers among government branches in favor of a "unity of state power," lodged in a presidium wielding legislative, judicial, and executive powers and chosen by the National Assembly with party approval. As before, the National Assembly was a unicameral legislature; elections were to be held every four years, and members could be recalled at any time. The assembly would meet in regular sessions twice a year, or by special order of the Presidium--making the full assembly little more than a rubber-stamp body. The Presidium met continuously and exercised all constitutional powers of the National Assembly when the assembly was not in session. The Presidium's powers included controlling the selection of the Council of Ministers, amending the constitution, approving the national economic plan, declaring war, and making peace. The president of the nineteen-member Presidium thus became one of the two most powerful men in Bulgaria.

The Council of Ministers retained a nominal executive authority as a cabinet, but it was overshadowed by the designation of the National Assembly as "supreme organ of state power." In practice, the council chairman, who by office was prime minister of the country, was always the first secretary of the BCP. This gave the prime minister power equal to that of the Presidium president. The judiciary, now also chosen by the legislative branch at all levels of government, lost all independence. Independent local political power was eliminated when province and district jurisdictions were restructured into people's councils. The councils elected executive committees analogous to the national Presidium and overseen by that body. As at the national level, local government bodies were filled primarily with party officials. Thus, the Dimitrov Constitution achieved unprecedented centralization of political power in Bulgaria.

Like its Soviet model, the 1947 constitution guaranteed broad freedoms to all citizens (religion, conscience, assembly, speech, the press, emancipation of women, and inviolability of person, domicile, and correspondence). The Bulgarian document differed from the Soviet by allowing private property, but only if the privilege were not used "to the detriment of the public good." All means of production shifted to state ownership. Universal suffrage was guaranteed, as were welfare and employment. Guaranteed employment was restricted to socially useful occupations, however.

Government practice soon eroded the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. Between 1948 and 1952, several official acts repressed the Bulgarian religious community. In 1948 the exarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was forced into retirement for his refusal to defend the communist state and the Soviet Union. In 1949 the Law on Religious Organizations put all churches under state control; over the next four years, Catholic and Protestant clergy were harrassed and imprisoned as part of an overall policy of preventing contact with the West. During this period, the Dimitrov government continued purging party and nonparty officials, imitating the contemporaneous Stalinist practice of eliminating all possible political rivals. The most notable victim was the hardline Stalinist and long-time party leader Traicho Kostov, convicted and executed in 1949 as a collaborator with the fascists and Josip Broz Tito, the heretical Yugoslav communist leader.

Data as of June 1992