With growing dismay I have watched how in the last few weeks the international diplomats in Tirana have failed to appreciate the deep risks of the current Constitutional crisis.
Even though foreign media published extensive and shocking evidence of widespread vote-buying during the 2016 and 2017 elections by the Socialist Party, they have not released a single comment or denunciation.
Even though it is crystal clear that holding local elections with basically a single party will inevitably lead to a one-party rule in Albania by precisely the party that has openly colluded with drug trafficking criminals and murderers to rig the elections, they strongly support going ahead with the elections.
By failing to denounce what are clearly – to speak with former US ambassador Donald Lu – “big fish” crimes, and supporting “imaginary” local elections sanctioned by a Parliament in which the Socialist Party holds an absolute majority, a partially functional Central Election Commission in which the Socialist Party holds a majority, and a partially functional Electoral College in which only one judge has been vetted, the internationals show themselves to be sleepwalking into an autocracy.
Because that is what you call a political system in which a single party controls Parliament, all levels of government, the Prosecution Office, the Central Election Commission, while having disabled an independent judiciary. All of this is happening, while the Speaker of Parliament, arguably the second-most powerful political office in Albania, is held by a Socialist minister from the former communist dictatorship, who was responsible for the killing of democratic protestors.
Instead of stating that the current government has lost all credibility to hold free and democratic elections and openly declare that Edi Rama and his party pose a serious threat to the fundamental values held dear by the European Union, EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca has sought his salvation with establishing a Constitutional Court “as soon as possible.”
This “as soon as possible” should worry anyone who knows anything about the justice reform so far. Because “as soon as possible” means: without vetting. As I have reported before, the Justice Appointments Commission (KED), itself incomplete and containing members that have not been vetted, has decided (in violation of both Constitution and Vetting Law) that members of the Constitutional Court do not have to be vetted. They have no doubt decided this on the basis of advice by EU-sponsored “legal assistance mission” EURALIUS, whose experts themselves are candidates for the Constitutional Court.
At the same time, the institutions who are supposed to execute this vetting have rang the alarm, once again, over the fact that they are not being paid for overtime, while still being understaffed, as a result of deliberate budget cuts by the Rama government: under pressure, understaffed, and without sufficient budget – the ideal conditions for corruption and flawed process. For the justice reform to have any redeeming quality, the vetting institutions should have been the best-funded, best-equipped courts of Albania.
Without proper vetting, the chances are considerable that the Socialist government will stack the new Constitutional Court with a group of subservient judges that will approve the dismissal of President Ilir Meta and approve all the anti-constitutional laws passed by the Socialist Party in recent years. And with the Constitutional Court in his pocket, Edi Rama will become a de facto autocrat.
Similar issues hold for the OSCE. As long as the OSCE stays in the country to “observe” elections that no longer have any official legal validity, they support the government in its claims that the elections are legitimate and that – by extension – President Meta ought to be dismissed. For example, recently the Central Election Commission, which has ignored the President’s decree, approved 150 OSCE electoral observers. Rather than withdrawing from Albania, with these acts the OSCE actively supports a government that has committed massive electoral fraud in previous elections – under the OSCE’s watch.
Of course, not only the internationals ought to be blamed for the present situation. The entirety of the Albanian political system, in its failure to reform the Electoral Code and its acceptance of a justice reform that was flawed from the beginning, is co-responsible for making the power grab of Prime Minister Edi Rama possible.
But the international bureaucrats, in their ridiculously naive appraisal of the current political state of affairs, their utter lack of vision, absurd and illogical support for the current government, and silence in the face of the worst crimes against the rule of law and democratic values, will have wasted whatever what was left of their credibility. Soon it will no longer suffice to wave with vacuous numbers such as “93%,” but face the real and possibly incontrovertible damage they have done to their own reputation and the future of Albania in Europe.