The Electoral College is expected today to review a complaint of the small, government-allied Party of National Unity (PUK), led by Idajet Beqiri. The complaint touches indirectly upon the decree of President Ilir Meta, published on June 10, to revoke his presidential decree setting the date of the local elections to June 30.
The PUK, an ally of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s Socialist Party without any seats in Parliament, has appealed the June 13 decision of the Central Election Commission (KQZ) not to deregister the party. The PUK had requested to be deregistered, ostensibly because the presidential decree canceled the elections.
The request of the PUK was widely seen as an artificial test case the Rama government needed to bring the evaluation of the President’s decree to the Electoral College, which sits at the Court of Appeals of Tirana.
The government has argued, based on a verdict of the Constitutional Court from 2017, taken without quorum and therefore with only a provisional validity, that any presidential decree dealing with the elections can be evaluated by an administrative court, in this case the Electoral College.
Former opposition MP Oerd Bylykbashi has argued, based on a final decision of the High Court in 2003, that only the Constitutional Court can adjudicate issues pertaining to a Presidential decree. This decision, however, was overruled by the Constitutional Court in the same year. The Constitutional Court is currently dysfunctional.
The wager of the PUK test case at the Electoral College is the following. If the College agrees with the PUK that it should be deregistered from the local elections by the KQZ, it de facto approves the decree of President Meta, sanctioning the cancellation of the elections.
If the Electoral College declares the PUK’s request invalid, it supports the KQZ’s interpretation that the Presidential decree is absolutely invalid and can therefore be ignored. This would further strengthen the government’s case in the face of the internationals.
So far in this election cycle the Electoral College has sided with the government on a number of cases, including the inclusion of the “opposition” party Democratic Conviction in the elections and rejection of PD and LSI commissioners from the electoral administration.
According to the Electoral Code art. 146, the Electoral College is composed of 8 judges elected by lottery from the judges at the Court of Appeals in Tirana no later than five days after the Presidential decree that sets the date for parliamentary elections. The last time this happened was after in December 2016.
Because of the vetting, the Electoral College currently only consists of 5 out of 8 judges. These are Astrit Kalaja, Ridvan Hado, Lindita Sinanaj, Artur Malaj, and Tomor Skerli. Only Malaj has passed the vetting successfully.
The case at the Electoral College may also provide a face-saving mechanism for Prime Minister Rama. If the court rules that the PUK’s request is valid and therefore indirectly approves President Meta’s decree to cancel the elections, this would allow him to backtrack from his insistent commitment to holding the local elections without being seen as “giving in” to President Meta and the opposition.