AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

                      Application No. 28858/95
                      by George GANCHEV
                      against Bulgaria


      The European Commission of Human Rights sitting in private on
25 November 1996, the following members being present:

           Mr.   S. TRECHSEL, President
           Mrs.  G.H. THUNE
           Mrs.  J. LIDDY
           MM.   E. BUSUTTIL
                 G. JÖRUNDSSON
                 A.S. GÖZÜBÜYÜK
                 A. WEITZEL
                 H. DANELIUS
                 F. MARTINEZ
                 J.-C. GEUS
                 M.P. PELLONPÄÄ
                 M.A. NOWICKI
                 I. CABRAL BARRETO
                 B. CONFORTI
                 N. BRATZA
                 I. BÉKÉS
                 J. MUCHA
                 D. SVÁBY
                 G. RESS
                 A. PERENIC
                 C. BÎRSAN
                 P. LORENZEN
                 K. HERNDL
                 E. BIELIUNAS
                 E.A. ALKEMA
                 M. VILA AMIGÓ

           Mr.   H.C. KRÜGER, Secretary to the Commission

      Having regard to Article 25 of the Convention for the Protection
of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

      Having regard to the application introduced on 26 September 1995
by George GANCHEV against Bulgaria and registered on 5 October 1995
under file No. 28858/95;
      Having regard to :

-     the reports provided for in Rule 47 of the Rules of Procedure of
      the Commission;

-     the observations submitted by the respondent Government on 29 May
      1996 and the observations in reply submitted by the applicant on
      25 September 1996;

      Having deliberated;

      Decides as follows:

THE FACTS

      The applicant is a Bulgarian national born in 1939 and residing
in Sofia.  He is the leader of the political party Bulgarian Business
Block (Balgarski Biznes Blok) and was, as from January 1995, a Member
of Parliament, the termination, in April 1995, of his functions as a
Member of Parliament being the object of the present application.

Particular circumstances of the case

      The facts of the case as submitted by the parties may be
summarised as follows.

      The applicant was born in Bulgaria and is a Bulgarian citizen as
from birth.  He spent an unspecified number of years in the United
States of America and became a United States citizen by naturalisation.

      In January 1991 the Sofia Regional Court (Sofiiski gradski sad)
registered the Bulgarian Business Block as a political party.  The
applicant was elected its chairman.  In the end of 1991 the applicant
was registered as a candidate for President of Bulgaria.  At the first
round of the elections he obtained 17% of the vote and did not qualify
for the run-off.

      On 12 November 1994 the applicant requested to be registered in
the Varna electoral district (Varnenski izbiratelen raion) as a
candidate for the parliamentary elections in December 1994.  On the
same date he submitted a declaration stating that he met the legal
requirements for election as provided for by, inter alia, Section 65
para. 1 of the Constitution, which stipulates that only Bulgarian
citizens without a second citizenship can stand for election (see below
Relevant domestic law).

      On 15 November 1994 the applicant was registered as a candidate.

      Following the elections, on 27 December 1994 the Central Election
Commission (Zentralna izbiratelna komissia) declared that the applicant
was elected a Member of Parliament from the Varna electoral district.

      On 12 January 1995 the applicant was sworn in as a Member of
Parliament.

      On 2 March 1995 the Chief Public Prosecutor (Glaven prokuror)
seized the Constitutional Court (Konstitutsionen sad) requesting the
termination of the applicant's  functions as a Member of Parliament on
the ground that the applicant had had double citizenship at the time
of his election.  On 8 March 1995 the Constitutional Court accepted the
case, communicated it to the applicant, to the Parliament, and to the
parliamentary group of the Bulgarian Business Block and invited them
to submit observations.

      The Court received and accepted written observations from the
applicant and his lawyer, from the parliamentary group of the Bulgarian
Business Block, from the Parliamentary Ethics Commission (Komissia po
parlamentarna etika) and from the Parliamentary Commission on Human
Rights and Religious Confessions (Komissia po pravata na choveka i
veroizpovedaniata).   The Court also admitted in evidence four letters
from the United States Ambassador in Sofia.

      The first letter, sent on 31 January 1995 in response to the
Chief Public Prosecutor's query, stated, insofar as relevant:

      "In response to your letter of this date concerning the
citizenship of Mr. George Ganchev, I am authorised to inform you
that he is a citizen of the United States of America."

      On 6 February 1995, in a second letter to the Prosecutor, the
Ambassador stated that upon the applicant's request the United States
authorities were examining the issue whether the applicant had lost his
United States citizenship by virtue of his registration as a candidate
for the December 1994 Bulgarian elections.

      A third letter, dated 1 March 1995 and again addressed to the
Prosecutor, stated, insofar as relevant:

"... the United States Government has determined that [the
applicant] is not a United States citizen.  An appropriate
document so stating has been issued to [the applicant]."

      The fourth letter from the United States Ambassador, sent on
27 March 1995 to the Constitutional Court in response to the Court's
request for information about the date and the grounds for the
applicant's loss of citizenship, stated that each of the three previous
letters had been correct at the time it had been written.

      The Court then requested the applicant to present the document
issued to him by the United States authorities and mentioned in the
Ambassador's letter of 1 March 1995.  However, the applicant refused
to do so.

      On 13 April 1995 the Constitutional Court delivered its judgment.
The Court found that the applicant, at the time of his registration as
a candidate and at the time of his election, had not met the pertinent
legal requirements to stand for election as provided for in Section 65
para. 1 of the Constitution.  On this ground the Court terminated the
applicant's term of office as a Member of Parliament.

      The Court noted that the applicant had obtained United States
citizenship by naturalisation and that this had been undisputed.  The
issue to be resolved was, accordingly, whether the applicant had lost
this citizenship prior to his election as a Member of Parliament.

      The applicant claimed three separate grounds why he had allegedly
ceased to be a citizen of the United States of America.

      The first argument was that he had relinquished his second
citizenship in a written declaration submitted to the United States
consular office in Sofia.  The applicant apparently did not state the
date of his declaration and did not submit any evidence in this
respect.  The Court found that any such declaration could have been
made only after 31 January 1995 and therefore was irrelevant to the
issue whether the applicant had been eligible to stand for election in
December 1994.  This was so in view of the contents of the four letters
of the United States Ambassador and also in view of the applicant's
refusal to present the document issued to him by the United States
authorities and mentioned in the Ambassador's letter of 1 March 1995.

      The applicant further contended that he had lost his second
citizenship in November 1994  by the very act of registering to stand
for election in Bulgaria.  Thus, Section 349 (4) of the Immigration and
Nationality Act of the United States of America stated inter alia that
"a person ... shall lose his United States nationality by voluntarily
..., with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality, ...
accepting, serving in, or performing the duties of an office, post or
employment under the government of a foreign state..."

      The applicant also stated that he had lost his United States
citizenship based on the provisions of the Naturalisation Treaty,
concluded between Bulgaria and the United States of America in 1923.
Thus, under Article III of the Treaty a national of either country, who
was naturalised in the other, was to "be held to have renounced his
naturalisation" if he renewed his residence in his country of origin
without the intent to return to that in which he was naturalised.
Under the same provision "the intent not to return [might] be held to
exist when a person naturalised in one country [had] resided more than
two years in the other."

      The Court dismissed these arguments stating that the applicant
could cease to be a United States citizen only if, in addition to the
existence of certain substantive legal conditions, an act to this
effect was issued by the competent United States authority under a
pertinent legal procedure.  Since such an act was issued only after 31
January 1995, it followed that the applicant had been a citizen of the
United States at the time of his election as a Member of Parliament.

      In a dissenting opinion Constitutional Judge Todorov stated that,
inter alia, it was doubtful whether the Court could rely on the letters
of the United States Ambassador and that loss of citizenship ex lege,
by virtue of performing certain acts, as provided for in the
Immigration and Nationality Act of the United States of America and in
the Naturalisation Treaty between Bulgaria and the United States of
America, was possible and should have been taken into account.

      On an unspecified date the prosecution authorities instituted,
ex officio, preliminary investigations against the applicant on
suspicion of having contravened Section 313 of the Penal Code
(Nakazatelen Kodeks) by knowingly making a false declaration when
registering to stand for election in November 1994.  On 30 May 1995 the
Varna District Prosecutor (Varnenski raionen prokuror) terminated the
proceedings as, in her view, the applicant had lost his United States
citizenship ex lege, based on the provisions of the United States
pertinent legislation and the Naturalisation Treaty between Bulgaria
and the United States of America.  In any event, no wilful conduct had
been established.

Relevant Domestic Law

      The pertinent provisions of the Bulgarian Constitution of 1991,
insofar as relevant, provide as follows:

<Translation>

Section 65

     "(1) Any Bulgarian citizen who does not hold another
citizenship ... shall be eligible for election as a Member of
Parliament."

Section 72

     "(1)  The functions of a Member of Parliament shall be
terminated before the expiry of his term of office in cases of:

     ...

     3. establishing his ineligibility or incompatibility;

     (2)  The decision for termination shall be taken, ... under
subparagraph 3, by the Constitutional Court."

Section 150

     "(1)  The Constitutional Court can be seized by ... the
Chief Public Prosecutor."

COMPLAINTS

      The applicant complains that the Constitutional Court decided
wrongly that he had been still a United States citizen at the time of
his election as a Member of Parliament.  He submits that he had lost
his United States citizenship before the elections.  Moreover, the
Court was partial and the resulting termination of his term of office
as a Member of Parliament was a politically motivated action.

       The applicant submits that he has lost his United States
nationality as early as in 1992, when he stood for election for
President of Bulgaria.  Also, he uses his Bulgarian passport when
travelling abroad.  Moreover, Constitutional Judge Todorov, a leading
Bulgarian professor in international law, was of the opinion that the
applicant had ceased to be a citizen of the United States.  This
opinion was shared by another professor of international law, who had
worked at the United Nations Organization; it was supported in the
submissions to the Court made by two Parliamentary Commissions and by
the Bulgarian Business Block; and was also confirmed by the District
Prosecutor in Varna.

      The applicant has asked the Commission to clear his name from the
false accusations and to help him to be reinstated in the Parliament,
to which he was elected by a democratic vote.

      The applicant does not invoke any particular provision of the
Convention.

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

      The application was introduced on 26 September 1995 and
registered on 5 October 1995.

      On 26 February 1996 the Commission decided to communicate the
application to the respondent Government.

      The Government's written observations were submitted on 29 May
1996, after an extension of the time-limit fixed for that purpose.  On
5 June 1996 a copy of the Government's observations was sent to the
applicant who was invited to submit, before 10 July 1996, any written
observations which he might wish to make in response.   The applicant
did not reply within this time-limit and did not request its extension.
By letter of 28 August 1996 the applicant was warned about the
provision of Article 30 para. 1(a) of the Convention.  On 25 September
1996 the applicant acknowledged receipt of the Secretariat's letter of
28 August 1996 and stated that he had replied on an unspecified date
to the Government's observations, his reply apparently not having been
received by the Commission.  The applicant's letter of 25 September
1996 also contained his response to the Government's observations.


THE LAW

      The applicant complains that the Constitutional Court decided
wrongly when examining whether he had been eligible to stand for
election as a member of Parliament.  He submits that the Court was
partial and that the termination of his term of office as a Member of
Parliament was a politically motivated action.

      The Commission has examined the applicant's complaints under
Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-3) to the Convention which provides as
follows:

           "The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free
      elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under
      conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion
      of the people in the choice of the legislature."

      The Government submit that the applicant has complied with the
requirements of Articles 26 and 27 (Art. 26, 27) of the Convention.
They also submit that the decision of the Constitutional Court in the
applicant's case is a serious breach of his rights, that it also
violates the sovereignty of the electorate who had elected him to
Parliament, and that it has damaged the prestige of his political
party.

      The Government refer to the Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt v. Belgium
judgment of 2 March 1987 (Eur. Court HR, Series A no. 113) and to the
Commission's practice stating that the applicant's complaints fall
within the scope of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-3) to the
Convention, as this provision covers the issue of eligibility to stand
for elections for Parliament.  The Government note at the same time
that the applicant does not challenge the constitutional rule whereby
a person having double citizenship is not eligible to be elected to
Parliament.  His complaints concern only the manner in which the
Constitutional Court examined the facts and the law in respect of his
double citizenship and the prejudice suffered by him as a result of the
Court's decision.
      The Government submit that the decision of the Constitutional
Court is ill-founded and lacks solid argumentation, as indicated in the
dissenting opinion of Judge Todorov.  Thus, while it is undisputed that
having double citizenship makes a candidate ineligible to stand for
election, it may be open to discussion, in the Government's view,
whether the office of a Member of Parliament with double citizenship
should be terminated or whether the elected person should only be
obliged to renounce his second nationality.

      The Government further note that the applicant registered a
political party in Bulgaria, ran for President in 1992 and won 17 % of
the vote in the first round, and registered for elections for
Parliament in 1994.  From these facts it is allegedly clear that the
applicant did not have any intention to return to the United States,
and that therefore he had lost his United States citizenship before the
1994 elections, under the provisions of the Bulgarian - U.S.
Naturalisation Treaty.  The Government submit that the Constitutional
Court wrongly assessed this issue, the correct assessment having been
given in the dissenting opinion of Judge Todorov.

      Moreover, the Constitutional Court wrongly dismissed the
applicant's arguments based on the provisions of the U.S. Immigration
and Nationality Act.

      The applicant replies that the Government's observations prove
that the Constitutional Court acted unlawfully in his case.

      The Commission recalls that, in accordance with Article 19
(Art. 19) of the Convention, its only task is to ensure the observance
of the obligations undertaken by the Parties to the Convention. In
particular, it is not competent to deal with an application alleging
that errors of law or fact have been committed by domestic courts,
except where it considers that such errors might have involved a
possible violation of any of the rights and freedoms set out in the
Convention (No. 10000/82, Dec. 4.7.83, D.R. 33, pp. 247, 255).

      Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-3) to the Convention guarantees
the individual's right to stand for election and, once elected, to sit
as a Member of Parliament (No. 10316/83, Dec. 7.3.84, D.R. 37, p. 129,
133).

      This right is not absolute.  Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-3)
does not in principle preclude States from subjecting this right, in
their internal legal orders, to conditions.  States have a wide margin
of appreciation in this respect, but it is for the Convention organs
to determine in the last resort whether the requirements of the
Convention have been complied with.  They have to satisfy themselves
that the conditions do not curtail the rights in question to such an
extent as to impair their very essence and deprive them of their
effectiveness; that they are imposed in pursuit of a legitimate aim;
and that the means employed are not disproportionate.  Also, for
purposes of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-3), any electoral system
must be assessed in the light of the political evolution of the country
concerned; features that would be unacceptable in the context of one
system may accordingly be justified in the context of another (Eur.
Court HR, Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt v. Belgium judgment of 2 March
1987, Series A no. 113, pp. 23, 24, paras. 52, 54).
      The Commission notes that in the present case the Government
submit that there has been a breach, on the part of Bulgaria, of
Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-3) to the Convention, and that
therefore the application is admissible.

      However, the Commission recalls that an issue going to the merits
of a case, such as for example the question of applicability of a
Convention provision, has to be examined independently of the attitude
of the respondent State (Eur. Court HR,  H. v. France judgment of 24
October 1989, Series A no. 162, p. 20, para. 47; cf. also No. 14365/88,
Dec. 17.5.90, unpublished;  Robins v. the United Kingdom, Comm. Rep.
4.7.96. paras. 27, 28 and 38).

      The assertion of the Government that the facts complained of
constituted a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-3) to the
Convention is a statement concerning the merits of the application
which cannot be relied upon by the Commission, even at the stage of
admissibility, without an independent assessment of the case.

      The Commission must, therefore, undertake an examination of the
facts of the case and also of the submissions of the parties, and on
this basis establish whether the application is inadmissible on any
ground related to the merits of the case.

      The Commission notes at the outset that the applicant does not
challenge the constitutional rule whereby a person having double
citizenship is not eligible to be elected to Parliament.  His
submissions indicate that he is concerned only with the allegedly wrong
and partial assessment of the facts and of the law in the decision of
the Constitutional Court in his case.  Furthermore, the applicant did
not object to the Government's observations where they expressed the
same understanding about the scope of his complaints.

      In this situation, the Commission is only called upon to examine
whether the manner in which the Constitutional Court terminated the
applicant's functions as a Member of Parliament was arbitrary or
unreasonable, or otherwise encroached the very essence of the
applicant's right to stand for election and, once elected, to sit as
a Member of Parliament, as derived from Article 3 of Protocol No. 1
(P1-3) to the Convention.

      In this respect the Commission notes that the Constitutional
Court in the applicant's case acted under its constitutional competence
to examine the eligibility of a Member of Parliament.  The Court was
seized by the Chief Public Prosecutor, as provided for under Section
150 of the Constitution.

      The Commission further notes that the Court invited and accepted
written memorials from the applicant and his lawyer, from several
institutions and from a political party.  The Court examined all
evidence in the case and gave a detailed reasoning, addressing the
relevant arguments of the applicant.
      In its findings, the Court relied inter alia on letters from the
U.S. Ambassador in Sofia, which indicated that on 31 January 1995, a
month and a half after the elections, the applicant was still a citizen
of the United States.  Based on the principles of international law,
it was not arbitrary to accept that the authorities of the State
concerned, the United States of America, were competent to certify
whether the applicant did or did not have this State's nationality.
Furthermore, the Constitutional Court noted that the applicant refused
to submit a copy of the certificate which allegedly proved that he had
relinquished his United States citizenship.   In this respect it does
not appear unreasonable to conclude that, if the applicant had lost his
U.S. citizenship, this must have happened after 31 January 1995 and,
hence, after the elections.

      As regards the submissions of the parties related to the
allegedly wrong interpretation of the law of the United States and of
the evidence in the case, the Commission finds that it cannot, as urged
in the present case, embark on a revision of the impugned judgment,
substitute its own assessment of the facts and of the law for that of
the Constitutional Court, or state whether dissenting Judge Todorov or
the majority decided correctly.

      Lastly, the argument was advanced that, even if the applicant had
had double nationality at the time of the elections, the Constitutional
Court should not have terminated his functions of deputy, but should
have obliged him to relinquish his second citizenship.  However, the
Commission notes that only the Government, and not the applicant, have
raised this issue before the Commission.  Moreover, it has not been
shown that the applicant has raised it before the Constitutional Court.

      The Commission does not consider, therefore, that the
Constitutional Court decided arbitrarily or that it acted in a manner
which was otherwise incompatible with the essence of the applicant's
right to be elected and to sit as a Member of Parliament, as protected
under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-3) to the Convention.

      The applicant also contends that the Constitutional Court was
partial and that he was a victim of a political plot.  Examining this
allegation under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-3) taken alone or in
conjunction with Articles 14 or 18 (P1-3+14, P1-3+18) of the
Convention, the Commission notes that the applicant's sole argument was
that the Court decided wrongly and arbitrarily.  However, the
Commission has already dealt with this assertion.

      The Commission further finds that the applicant's complaint of
the alleged partiality of the Constitutional Court, apart from its
pertinence under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-3) to the Convention,
does not fall to be examined under any other provision.  The Commission
notes inter alia that the Convention does not provide for procedural
guarantees, as such, in proceedings determining the eligibility for
Parliament (cf., mutatis mutandis, No. 15344/89, Dec. 14.12.89, D.R. 64
p. 210).

      The Commission finds, therefore, that the application is
manifestly ill-founded and has to be rejected under Article 27 para. 2
(Art. 27-2) of the Convention.

      For these reasons, the Commission, by a majority,

      DECLARES THE APPLICATION INADMISSIBLE.


        H.C. KRÜGER                          S. TRECHSEL
         Secretary                            President
     to the Commission                    of the Commission