Judge Refuses to Certify Durrës Mayoral Election Result

The Court of Durrës refused to certify the mandate of the Socialist Party (PS) mayor-elect Valbona Sako following the June 30 local.

Judge Mimoza Gjekmarkaj decided that Sako’s mandate was irregular due to the illegal participation in elections of the Democratic Conviction (BD – Bindja Demokratike) party.

The court verdict stated that the Central Election Commission (KQZ) decision to register the BD in the June 30 local elections, without a final court verdict confirming its foundation, was “absolutely invalid”.

The law prescribes that elections with participation of illegally registered parties are also illegal.

The court verdict is expected to be appealed. However, it has brought back to public attention one of the main legal violations related to June 30 elections: registration by KQZ of the “opposition” party Democratic Conviction (BD) headed by Astrit Patozi after the deadline.

On April 23, BD filed a request with the Court of Tirana to register as political party. On the same day, also the deadline for political parties to register for June 30 local elections, it submitted a request to the KQZ. The request did not include BD’s certification as political party by the court, as required by law.

The Court of Tirana hastily approved the foundation of the new political party on April 27. The law requires the court to verify the 3,000 signatures necessary to form a party, and to check in details that its political statute complies with the Constitution. It is reasonable to think that the process requires a much longer time than 4 days.

The court decision was appealed by five citizen who claimed they had not signed as founding members of the BD and their signatures submitted to the court were forged.

On May 10, the Court of Appeals decided with a final verdict to register BD as political party. The decision was not made public and it’s not clear how the court dealt with claims of signature forgery.

However, until May 10 the Democratic Conviction of Astrit Patozi was not a political party yet, which means that the KQZ registered it in local elections, in violation of the law, 17 days before it was certified as party.

The KQZ decision by its Social Party members to register the BD in local elections was in clear violation of the law. Furthermore, in a same case in 2015, the KQZ had voted unanimously against registering the “Shkodra 2015” Party without a final court verdict confirming its foundation. Back then, the same PS appointees at KQZ had voted against the registration.

The Democratic Union Party (DUP) filed an appeal to the Electoral College challenging the KQZ’s decision to register the BD in elections.

In its 9 May decision, the Electoral College dismissed the case, stating that the complainant DUP has no legitimate interest in challenging the legality of registration of other contesting parties, and therefore cannot appeal KQZ’s decision.

The KQZ’s legal violation was also noted in the OSCE preliminary report on June 30 local elections:

The Central Election Commission [KQZ] registered Democratic Conviction (DC) as an electoral subject on 27 April, although the latter was registered as a political party only on 25 April, with a court decision becoming final on 10 May. Further, the CEC [KQZ] did not require the newly registered DC to collect supporting signatures, ignoring the six-month period requirement.

Furthermore, OSCE also found that the Electoral College dismissal of the DUP appeal was also questionable:

Section 3.3.f of the 2002 Venice Commission Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters recommends that “All candidates … registered in the constituency concerned must be entitled to appeal”.

The registration of the Democratic Conviction Party in the June 30 local elections, which were cancelled by President Meta, shows once again that the KQZ is under the government control.

Following the opposition boycott of the elections, the ruling PS tried to create a façade of pluralist elections. Having failed to secure independent candidates or other political parties to participate in elections, the PS got the help of former opposition Democratic Party MP Astrit Patozi, who attempted to urgently create a political party on the last day of the KQZ registration deadline.

The Democratic Conviction of Astrit Patozi gave Prime Minister Edi Rama the needed façade pluralism in 22 of the 61 municipalities. In 31 municipalities Rama’s Socialist Party participated without opposition, and won in all 61 municipalities across the country.

Had the Democratic Conviction not been illegally registered by the KQZ, and had it not participated in local elections in violation of law, the PS would have run with no contest in 53 of the 61 municipalities.