It is only a week ago that Albanian Electiongate exploded, but already seems ages ago. Prime Minister Edi Rama has in recent days launched an all-out attack on the opposition using any means necessary to discredit or weaken their credibility.
To recap: The German newspaper Bild published a series of wiretaps, implicating the entire top layer of the Socialist Party in Durrës county, including Durrës mayor and close Rama ally Vangjush Dako, in a collusion with criminal gangs to buy votes in the run-up to the 2017 parliamentary elections.
The wiretaps belonged to the so-called dossier no. 339, the investigation of which has been dragged out under the watch of Temporary General Prosecutor Arta Marku and Director of the Serious Crimes Prosecution Donika Prela. Details from dossier no. 339 were first leaked in January.
The decree of President Ilir Meta, issued on Monday, to in effect cancel the local elections of June 30 has provided Prime Minister Rama the necessary cover to launch a counter-attack using all the means he currently has at his disposal: government, electoral administration, parliament, and the prosecution office, profiting fully from the absence of Constitutional Court and High Court.
After the declaration of President Meta on Saturday, the government immediately circulated a legal argument among the corps diplomatique in Tirana trying to undermine the President by arguing that his decree was “absolutely invalid.” This argument was then quickly taken over by the nominally independent Central Election Commission (KQZ), where deputy chairman Denar Biba literally repeated that argument. As a result, the electoral administration continues to prepare for the June 30 elections, as if the President never decreed anything.
At the same time, the Socialist majority proposed a resolution in Parliament repeating its argument about “absolute invalidity,” thus buttressing the KQZ’s actions, while also laying the groundwork for a possible procedure to fire President Meta. Knowing that to fire the President 93 votes are needed, the approval of the resolution was intended to be a show of force: indeed 100 MPs voted for the resolution, which includes more than 20 members of the “opposition,” MPs from the nether regions of the candidate lists of the PD and LSI, lured in with the attractive privilege of immunity from criminal proceedings.
Finally, to round it all off, the prosecution office, led by the only nominally independent Temporary General Prosecutor Arta Marku, who was unconstitutionally voted into office with solely the votes of the Socialist majority, launched criminal proceedings against opposition leader Lulzim Basha over supposed links to the “Russians.” Not only is the entire case based on questionable information, a very similar case involving Prime Minister Edi Rama was never properly investigated even though Rama’s collaborators were convicted in the United States.
This asymmetry, together with the complete lack of progress on dossier no. 339, shows precisely the amount of control the government exerts over the prosecution office, despite the “successes” of the justice reform proclaimed by the eurocrats on every street corner.
The coordinated nature of this counter-attack on the office of the President, the opposition, and Albanian democracy shows precisely why President Ilir Meta took the right decision to call off the elections. To also put the entire local government in the hands of single party led by a single man would indeed be a grave risk to democracy. We are now seeing what Prime Minister Rama is capable of in his irrational anger to protect himself and his party, and I do not doubt for a second that he’d gladly throw all his political opponents in jail.