President Meta has submitted an ‘Explanatory Report” regarding the electoral and political crisis, to the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s body which specialises in constitutional law.
The 61 page report outlines in chronological order details of the current political crisis including the electiongate scandal, constitutional crisis, the cancellation and rescheduling of the elections, the illegitimacy and bias of the Central Election Commission, alleged human rights violations, and the steps the President has taken along the way, including precedents set by previous Presidents.
The report also draws from the recent OSCE/ODIHR final report which was highly critical of the 30 June vote, the CEC, and also highlighted a number of irregularities throughout the campaign and execution of the vote.
The report opens with the statement that “EU accession is the national strategic objective of Albania” and that the recent actions of the President were “to guarantee the credibility of key reforms” and to enhance “Albania’s democratic credentials”.
It also states that the Albanian Constitution makes it clear that the President is “the only constitutional organ with the exclusive competence to set the day of elections.”
Published on the President’s website, the report provides the Commission with information relating to the leaked prosecution wiretaps that provide the basis for “reasonable allegations linking high officials of governing majority with notorious criminal gangs to rig elections in the 2016 local election in Diber and the 2017 general elections in Durres, in favour of the Socialist Party.”
It is noted how the authorities held onto the evidence for over two years, resulting in a situation where “all individuals exposed in respective electoral crimes continued to enjoy full political immunity.”
These wiretaps and the lack of action regarding them acted as a catalyst for the escalation of a period of civil protests that started with the student protests in December 2018. These protests became violent and appeared to be “escalating towards civil conflict” as the date of the June 30 election drew closer.
The President felt that these circumstances and the current climate posed a threat to public security, democratic stability and social peace in the country, thus leading him to cancel the 30 June elections. The report notes how this action resulted in “immediate impact in easing social tension.”
In the report, it states that the President’s Decree cancelling the 30 June election was “entirely based on constitutional and legal provisions and arguments”. Unfortunately, according to the report the “governing Socialist majority refused to abide to the President’s decree”, and undermined him in coordination with a “Central Election Commission dominated by representatives of the Socialist Part” and a “fictitious procedure in the Electoral College”, resulting in one-part voting.
The text states that;
“The decree of the President of the Republic no. 11199 on 10.06.2019 canceling June 30 elections is in force and binding to all. The decree is in its entirety of constitutional nature, and as such can be adjudicated only by the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court has not been functional for 18 months, up to date.”
‘Provisional General Prosecutor’ Arta Marku is also mentioned within the report, noting that she was appointed unconstitutionally into a position that does not exist in the Constitution. This in combination with a dysfunctional High Court and a Constitutional Court that has not functioned for over 18 months, and the “serious repercussions” of the judicial reform are a violation of the Venice Commission recommendations for the country, according to the report.
Following the refusal of the Opposition parties to take part in the 30 June vote, a new party comprising of ex-members of Opposition parties was created. According to the report, the Democratic Conviction Party was found to be invalid as a party due to a number of violations of the electoral code relating to its registration. These include a lack of the required legal documents and signatures required to register as a valid party.
This, says the report “proves once again the biased and illegal activity of the CEC throughout this period.” It also highlights the fact that that the CEC is in violation of the Electoral Code as it only has five of the stipulated seven members, four of which are representatives of the Socialist Party
In terms of decisions taken by the Electoral College, the report states that The Constitutional Court is “the only organ with a mandate to decide over the constitutionality of Presidential decrees” as the scope of the College only covers the electoral process.
The “propaganda operation at home and abroad” to create the perception that the Presidential Decree was repealed by the Electoral College was also mentioned, as a “worthless attempt by the Socialist Party to politically justify the illegality of its CEC members activity.”
The report says that “all the activity organized and developed by the CEC so far, inspired and supported by the Socialist Party and oriented by the Albanian Parliament, is an illegal, unconstitutional process that does not create any legal consequences.”
To support Meta’s cancellation and rescheduling of the elections, information is included relating to precedents where previous Presidents have taken similar action. President Ramiz Alia postponed elections in 1991 due to “the major political changes taking place throughout Eastern Europe” and to allow “newly established opposition forces to participate in the general elections.”
Other postponements of election dates have taken place in 2006, 2007, and 2017. The report states that these precedents show that the postponement of elections are dictated by “particular political circumstances, a climate of distrust between parties, political conflict, and tense social situations.”
Also listed are the President’s multiple attempts to initiate dialogue and negotiations between Rama’s government and the Opposition parties.
The report concludes that:
“Aware of the necessity to fulfill key priorities, particularly in view of EU accession negotiations, the President of the Republic throughout his activity has made every effort to avoid civil conflict and irregular elections, but rather to holding democratic and inclusive local elections that strengthen the credibility of the country in fulfilling political criteria, prior to 17-18 EU Council decision on Albania’s accession negotiations.”