The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Albania have stated that “electoral reform followed by elections could be key in overcoming the political crisis”.
They added that all parties should be involved in electoral reform to note the “shortcomings” of previous elections and to decide on a framework for “genuinely democratic elections”.
Joseph O’Reilley and Andrej Hunko visited Albania at the end of October and met with political leaders from both the Socialist Party and the opposition, journalists including Exit.al, members of civil society, and delegates from international organisations to get a picture of the political crisis, justice and electoral reform, and media freedom in the country.
In a statement on Thursday, they called on all political forces in Albania to “show the political will” to resolve the crisis that has “plagued” the country. Whilst criticizing the opposition for boycotting the parliament, which they state should have no place in a democratic society, the co-rapporteurs go on to say that “the ruling majority should pay more than just lip-service” in a pluralist democracy. It called on the Socialist Party to “engage in genuine dialogue and consultation on important reforms and political challenges.”
They also asked the parliament to take the recent Venice Commission opinion into account, and not impeach President Ilir Meta.
Welcoming the recent opinion offered by the Constitutional Law division of the CoE, they note that it “clearly states” that whilst Meta may have exceeded his constitutional competencies by postponing the 30 June vote, this would not warrant impeachment.
In terms of the vetting process, they noted the high number of dismissals and resignations but expressed concern that there is still no High Court, Constitutional Court, Special Anti-Corruption Court, or applicable prosecutors.
“This is especially relevant with regard to the establishment of the Constitutional Court, which could play an important role in defusing political tension, as there is currently no independent arbiter to decide on the constitutionality of decisions and their outcome by the different authorities,” the co-rapporteurs underlined.
In terms of media freedom, the rapporteurs noted concern from journalists and NGOs regarding the deteriorating media environment. They called upon the government to take into account all recommendations made by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media regarding the draft “anti-defamation” law. This, they said would “dispel any concerns that it would limit freedom of expression in the country.”
O’Reilly and Hunko will present an information note on their visit during the December session of the PACE Monitoring Committee.