Prime Minister Edi Rama’s consolidation of power appears to be unstoppable. After all but announcing a one-party state in late September in which he proclaimed the merger of state, party, and parliament, the Prime Minister has made a next step in retroactively legalizing his “co-governance platform with ordinary citizens.”
The co-governance platform originally started as a post-electoral invention of the Prime Minister to find another “partner” to govern with (and cast blame on) after the absolute majority of the PS made a political coalition partner like the LSI irrelevant.
The platform took shape through a series of public, and legally baseless, accusations and allegations against the Albanian bureaucracy, which would systematically “abuse ordinary citizens.” This was accompanied by public shaming of some state employees and arbitrary dismissals of others.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister started a hiring campaign, without any official funding or basis in the Law on Public Administration, to fill up a new state institution “for co-governance with the ordinary people.” Also a website “For the Albania that we love” was launched to accommodate the complaints and suggestions of the “ordinary people,” who could write directly to the Prime Minister, who would then “deal” with their issues. Again, the funding for this website remained a mystery, as well as the official responsibility for it: it showed no government logo or information, despite its wide dissemination through the Prime Minister’s Facebook.
Yesterday, the Council of Ministers approved a Decision (VKM) for the “creation, organization, and functioning of the Agency for Dialogue and Co-Governance.” Note how the word dialogue resonates with the Center for Openness and Dialogue, a euphemism for Rama’s vanity gallery in his own office.
The Agency for Dialogue and Co-Governance (ADB) will be a state institution directly under the Prime Minister, and its mission appears to be a potpourri of donor-friendly keywords:
The ADB has as its mission the direct provision of public services, to guarantee all-inclusive co-governance in policy and decision making, through interaction on the electronic platform “With you, for the Albania we love” [note the addition of “with you,”] of citizens, NGOs, and private enterprise with the state administration and governing institutions, as we as the support of projects and programs for an open society and for institutions closer to citizens, civil society, youth, and other actors, in different fields such as innovation, creativity, transparency, education, youth, science, art, culture, and vulnerable groups.
The list of “different fields” at the end of already shows how unfocused and made-up this entire “agency” is. It mixes the mission statements of the failed propaganda project Transparenca.al with the failed gallery project of the COD; it talks about a Sorosian “open society” and “civil society,” while the Prime Minister himself has declared civil society “dead” and largely irrelevant to the decision making of his government.
The official functions of the ABD raise uncomfortable – but by now common – questions about the separation of powers in the Albanian political system. For example, the ABD “treats and organizes interpellation requests for the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers, specific ministries, or a group of them.” Interpellation is the right of Parliament, which, after all, has been chosen for four years to represent the people. Through this function, the ABD basically offers a “fast lane” to the government, circumventing the role of Parliament and elected deputies, and therefore fundamentally weakening Parliament as the place where the grievances, issues, and ideas of the “ordinary people” are supposed to be represented. It moreover weakens the accountability of individual deputies to their electorate.
Furthermore, the ABD “treats and coordinates […] denunciations of abusive or corrupt behavior, from citizens and enterprises.” Again, this is taking over key tasks of the prosecution, police, and justice system in general. The whole point of the existence of a separate branch of government dedicated to justice is the ascertain that the bureaucracy isn’t its own judge. Again the ABD undermines this crucial distinction – and therefore undermines the rule of law.
However, the key to the real role of the ABD in Rama’s orbit, just like the COD, is in its “Advisory Board,” which offers a by now common enumeration of “eligible” members, including “members of the corps diplomatique accredited in Albania,” “experts, academics, and professors of prestigious Albanian and foreign universities,” and “representatives of similar public or private institutions of other countries.”
It is an enormous question why a foreign diplomat would want to compromise their position by taking place in the board of an institution that is so specifically tailored to suit the egomania of a single person; or where the Prime Minister found these “prestigious” Albanian universities; or in which other country there is an agency solely dedicated to taking over the tasks of Parliament and shifting to the private management of the Prime Minister – Turkey perhaps?
Whoever will take place in this Advisory Board – perhaps one of the poorly informed ambassadors in this country will be blinded enough by self-delusion to do so – will be reduced to publicly proclaimed sycophant of an equally delusional autocrat, and a vehicle, just like the “esteemed” board members of the COD, for a personal quest for power that knows no limits.