The ideas of a Constitution and Parliament, of electivity and representation emerged even before the restoration of the Bulgarian State in 1878 under the influence of European thinking and practices. The epitome of some of these ideas could be seen in the convocation, proceedings and decisions of the Ecclesiastical and People’s Council held in Constantinople in 1871 (the adoption of the Statute of the Bulgarian Exarchate) and the activities of the Bulgarian national revolutionary movement (BRCC), which set itself the task of liberation and establishment of an independent Bulgarian state. The Assembly in Oborishte held on 14 April (old style) 1876 made the historic decision to announce the April Uprising, having all grounds to be considered the precursor of the Bulgarian National Assembly and parliamentarianism in Bulgaria. It was again prior to the Liberation that the Bulgarian public raised the idea of a constitutional government. The Political Programme of BCPS (former BRCC), which was worked out for the Bulgarian People’s Assembly at the end of 1876 and sent to the Istanbul Ambassadors’ Conference, emphasized that the Bulgarian statehood had to be restored and explicitly stated that: “The Bulgarian State will be governed independently in accordance with a Constitution elaborated by a legislature elected by the people”. It further read in the following two articles that “All branches of government will have special laws in the spirit of the Statute and in accordance of the people’s needs” and “All foreign nationalities intermingled with the Bulgarian people will enjoy the same political and civil justice”. This is not only the historical tradition but also the democratic principle underlying political life in post-Liberation Bulgaria.
The Constituent Assembly in Veliko Turnovo (10 February 1879 – 16 April 1879) set the beginnings of parliamentary life in liberated Bulgaria. It was convened in accordance with Article 4 of the Berlin Treaty. It consisted of 229 members (100 were elected at a ratio of one per 10,000 inhabitants and the others participated ex officio either appointed or representing associations and organisations). Instead of the Organic Statute prescribed by the Berlin Congress, the members of the Constituent Assembly worked out the Turnovo Constitution and signed it unanimously on 16 April 1879. It included 169 articles grouped into 22 chapters. The Principality of Bulgaria was defined as “a hereditary and constitutional monarchy with people’s representation”. The National Assembly could be either grand or ordinary. The Assembly adopted the principle of separation of powers into executive, legislative and judiciary. The Constitution protected civil freedoms, the inviolability of ownership, the freedom of individuals, the equality before law, the right to association, the abolition of class-related rights and slavery, etc. Eastern Roumelia, a short-lived province with its centre in Plovdiv, which survived from 1879 to the Unification in 1885, had an Organic Statute in force. It was developed by a special commission consisting of representatives of the Great Powers and the Ottoman Empire. The Statute provided for strict separation of powers and the Provincial Assembly was at the top of the legislative power. It consisted of seven religious leaders ex officio, ten representatives appointed by the Governor, and 36 elected members. The ten-member Standing Committee ensured the co-ordination between the Governor and the legislative power exercised by the Provincial Assembly. The Turnovo Constitution was the fundamental law of Bulgaria from 1879 to 1947. It was amended twice on 15 May 1893 and 11 July 1911 and it was suspended twice at the time of the Full Powers Regime (1 July 1881 – 6 September 1883) and the 19 May Regime (1934).
The Seventh Grand National Assembly voted the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria on 12 July 1991. It also consists of 169 articles grouped into ten chapters but it has transitional and final provisions in nine paragraphs. The July 1991 Constitution states that Bulgaria is a republic with parliamentary government and it is a democratic and social state with rule of law. It enshrines the principles of separation of powers, the rights and freedoms of citizens, and the supremacy of the Constitution. The National Assembly elected for a four-year term and consisting of 240 Members of Parliament exercises the legislative power and parliamentary oversight. Unlike the preceding fundamental laws, the July 1991 Constitution states that the National Assembly is a standing body. Its sittings are open to the public, and the laws and decisions it makes are binding on all state bodies, organisations and citizens of the Republic of Bulgaria. The Members of Parliament represent not only the voters in their respective constituency but also the entire people. They are guided in their actions by the Constitution and the laws, acting in accordance with their conscience and convictions. The Constitution provides for both Ordinary and Grand National Assemblies to be elected. The Grand National Assembly is convened on special occasions such as the adoption of a new Constitution or a change of the form of government or essential amendments explicitly stated in the provisions of the existing Constitution. 39 Ordinary National Assemblies and seven Grand National Assemblies (1879, 1881, 1886-1887, 1893, 1911, 1946-1949, and 1990-1991) have been elected and functioned so far. For a short period of time after the suspension of the Turnovo Constitution during the Full Powers Regime (1881-1883), a State Council functioned as the supreme institution. In the wake of the democratic changes since November 1989 and the decisions of the National Round Table, in April 1990 the National Assembly voted an amendment to the 1971 Constitution pending the adoption of the existing Constitution.
The building where the 41st National Assembly sits is of historic significance and it is a monument of culture. It was built in 1884-1886 at the design of architect Constantin Yovanovic, who studied in Vienna and Switzerland and authored the design of the Serbian Assembly (1891-1892) as well. The style of the building is neo-Renaissance. The interior has been refurbished many times but its appearance has been basically preserved in its original shape. Since 1991, the National Assembly has been using another building as well, that in 1 Knyaz Alexander I Square.