Inaccessible Rights: The Unrealised Potential of the Bulgarian Constitutional Court

The current Bulgarian Constitution, adopted after the fall of communism, introduced a Constitutional Court entitled to centralised judicial review. This unprecedented institution was declared guardian of the fundamental rights entrenched in the new constitution. However, individual citizens were not granted direct access to this court. Moreover, its review powers were subjected to considerable procedural and substantive limitations, making it one of the most restricted institutions of its kind in the region. The paper explores how these limitations render fundamental rights almost practically irrelevant in individual litigation cases. The first part of the study, based on archival research of the constitution-making process, explores the rationale of the constitution makers and its potential links to the communist legacy of this process. The second part addresses landmark decisions of the Bulgarian Constitutional Court, where it failed to unfold its rights-protecting potential.