Speaker of Parliament Gramoz Ruçi has sent a letter to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe to request advice regarding the current crisis surrounding the status of the local elections of June 30. With the end date of their mandates on August 10, several mayor from the opposition parties have indicated that they will refuse to vacate their positions until the new local elections decreed by President Ilir Meta for October 13. Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission (KQZ) has refused to start preparations for the elections.
Speaker Ruçi’s letter gives an account of the President Meta’s initial decree to hold local elections on June 30, and his subsequent decree to cancel them in order to protect Albanian multiparty democracy. The letter also lists the decisions of the KQZ and Parliament, both under control of the Socialist Party to consider the decree to cancel the elections “absolutely invalid,” based on an argument initially circulated by the PS among foreign representatives.
Now that Parliament has started a procedure to remove President Meta from office, Speaker Ruçi has sent the following questions to the Venice Commission:
- What is the role of the President of the Republic in parliamentary regimes such as Albania in relation to the powers of the state as regards electoral processes?
- What are the constitutional and conventional duties imposed on the President of the Republic in parliamentary regimes, such as Albania, in the exercise of his competence to determine the election date?
- Are there limitations in the exercise of this competence that follow from the democratic right of voters to exercise this right according the constitutional agreement, with certainty and predictability?
- Is the competence of the President of the Republic to determine the election date a right of his to determine the exercise of the sovereignty of the people, or a duty of his to guarantee qualitatively the exercise of popular sovereignty through the elections of its representatives within the limitations that the sovereign has set through the Constitution approved by it?
- If the President of the Republic, after determining the date of the elections and the electoral administration organs are acting according to the law, cancels it and determines another date, are we dealing with an impingement on the principles of the electoral rights and constitutional certainty, as regards the respect for the rule of law?
- In the above case, are we dealing with an intervention of the President of the Republic in the electoral process, impinging on the right of electoral subject to compete in an equal and free manner?
- Starting from the principle that government has to come from a system of periodical elections that are held every four years, does the publication of the President’s Decree that cancels the June 30, 2019 date as date for the local elections and extends the duty of representatives in municipal councils and mayors beyond the four-year mandate respect the principle of periodicity of elections?
- Taking into account that the change of the electoral date influences the legal expectations for electoral subjects and voters, is legal certainty in this case considered to be impinged on? Is the impingement on legal certainty related to its consequences or is the violation of constitutional previsions sufficient and the impingement considered made?