Court of Appeal Renders Another Absurd Verdict on the Durres Mayor-Elect Case

The Durres Court of Appeal certified the mayoral mandate of Valbona Sako.

Judge Arjan Balliu refused to review Sako’s appeal of a previous first instance court verdict by Judge Mimoza Margjeka, which refused to certify her mayoral mandate.

Valbona Sako was the Socialist Party candidate in the June 30 local elections held in violation of the presidential decree cancelling the date.

Sako won the elections, as the Socialist Party did in all 61 municipalities across Albania after the opposition refused to participate.

Then the mayor-elect requested the Court of Durres to certify her mandate.

Judge Mimoza Margjeka concluded that the local elections were illegal due to the illegal participation of an unregistered, hence non-existent political party – the Democratic Conviction of former opposition member Astrit Patozi.

The Socialist Party refused to recognize the court decision.

Two days later, Mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako and Valbona Sako met with the President of the Court of Durrës, Judge Joana Qeleshi in her office.

Mayor Dako has been accused of colluding with criminal gangs to buy votes and intimidate voters in the 2017 general election. Today, the US State Secretary Mike Pompeo barred Dako and his family from entering the US due to his “involvement in significant corruption”.

Shortly after their meeting in Judge Qeleshi’s office, the Socialist Party filed a request with the same court to certify Sako’s mandate.

Judge Shpëtim Reka, a well-known Socialist Party supporter was then chosen by Judge Qeleshi, supposedly by lot, to rule on the case. Unsurprisingly, he ruled in favor of the Socialist Party, confirming Sako’s mandate.

Sako then filed an appeal requesting the court to overrun the first verdict by Judge Margjeka which denied her mandate.

Today, the Court of Appeal dropped Sako’s appeal arguing that her mandate was already certified in the second case filed with the first instance court. Hence, the court could not review the verdict of the first case.

The decision of Judge Reka to review the case of Sako’s mandate certification for a second time was already illegal and against the Constitution.

Today’s verdict of Judge Balliu to dismiss Sako’s appeal on the grounds that she was later confirmed as mayor by a second verdict of the same first instance court further deepens the violation of the Constitution. Moreover, it is an absurd verdict.