The Venice Commission today stated that “Even if the President may have overstepped bounds in postponing elections, impeachment may not be justified”.
In a press release sent this afternoon by the Council of Europe, of which the Venice Commission are a part, stated that President Ilir Meta may have acted beyond his constitutional powers, “there are indications that his acts may not have been of a nature justifying impeachment”.
The opinion which was adopted today by the CoE was requested by Albanian Speaker of Parliament, Gramoz Ruci. Following investigations, a visit to Albania and meetings with all stakeholders, the Commission noted that the President cannot cancel the elections without political consensus. Even a state of emergency such as war or natural catastrophe, Parliament would have to adopt ad hoc legislation to postpone the elections.
Of course, in a Socialist Party majority parliament, this would have never been possible as the Socialist Party were not going to vote in favour of suspending an election in which they had decided to be running. The 30 June vote resulted in Albania being plunged into single-party rule, with the sole exception of the President, who they are now trying to remove.
The press release states that the Venice Commission questions whether the actions of the President could substantiate a “serious violation”, noting that it was a response to the political crisis in the country and an electoral boycott by most of the opposition parties.
Highlighting the President’s multiple calls for dialogue and his wishes that postponing the elections would have contributed to a compromise between parties, actions that were done in good faith. They also addressed the fact that there was no direct challenged of the President’s Decrees before the court.
On a Constitutional level, the experts noted that local elections do not enjoy the same level of constitutional status as parliamentary elections. They add that even if the Assembly was to establish “serious violations” this should not necessarily lead to impeachment as there are “other constitutional goals such as maintaining checks and balances and stability in the country”.
If the Assembly were to decide in favour of impeachment, it would be finally up to the Constitutional Court, which is currently not functioning, to confirm whether the President’s decisions amount to “serious” violations that would justify his impeachment.