On Thursday, the Democratic Party asked the Political Council on Electoral Reform that Electoral College judges not undergo vetting for four years, the full length of their term. Earlier, the Socialist Party had proposed the Electoral College be dismantled and be replaced with the Administrative Court of Appeals. The Electoral College is currently the highest authority to decide on electoral disputes.
The Democratic Party Proposal
- Electoral College judges will not undergo the vetting process for four years since their nomination date.
- If their vetting process has already begun, or is being appealed, it will stop for four years.
- Electoral College members will also be picked from the ranks of First Instance Court judges with at least seven years of experience.
- The Electoral College will increase to more than the existing 8 members, though to no more than 15.
PD argues that implementing these changes would free Electoral College judges from governmental pressure that may be exerted via the vetting process.
PD bases its proposal on the observations of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) who stated in their final report on the June 2019 elections:
Some ODIHR EOM interlocutors expressed concerns about the CEC’s lack of impartiality, pointing to instances in which majority of CEC members voted along party lines.91 While the Electoral College judges enjoy immunity and cannot be subject to disciplinary proceedings during the entire term for which the College is constituted, they are subject to the ongoing “vetting process”, which could affect the security of their tenure and thereby potentially impact their independence
The Socialist Party Proposal
In December 2019, the Socialist Party filed a proposal regarding the Electoral College with the Justice Reform Special Committee advising the following:
- The Electoral College shall be dismantled, with any complaints against the Central Election Commission (KQZ) to be handled by the Administrative Court of Appeals.
- Decrees of the Administrative Court of Appeals may be appealed at the High court.
- Given that the High Court remains incomplete, the Electoral College will remain operational until September 1 2022 until the High Court achieves the needed number of members.
The Electoral College
The Electoral College is responsible for handling any electoral disputes and appeals of any KQZ rulings. Its rulings, that must be published within 10 days, are final.
The Electoral College must be made up of 8 members that are picked by lot by the High Judicial Council from the ranks of Appeals Courts judges, and serve 4 year terms.
Electoral College judges do not undergo disciplinary proceedings during their terms, but they do undergo the vetting process as any other judge would.
The Current Electoral College
The current Electoral College body, made up of six members, ruled on the June 30, 2019 elections. Gjin Gjoni was not present for the ruling as he was on parental leave, whereas Sotiraq Lubonja was dismissed by the Independent Qualification Commission (KPK) in October 2018.
The College has shrunk further after Artur Malaj was dismissed by the Special Appeal Chamber (KPA) in October 2019. Meanwhile, Shkëlqim Mustafa is currently being vetted, whereas Astrit Kalaja’s confirmation by KPK has been appealed at the KPA by the Public Commissioner.