On Monday, President Ilir Meta filed a criminal report with the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office (SPAK) against Minister of Justice Etilda Gjonaj and two other high officials.
Meta accuses Minister Gjonaj and MoJ Secretary General Gentian Deva of abuse of office, exercise of unlawful influence and forgery of documents. He also accuses Etleva Haxhia, Director of the Center for Official Publications, of abuse of power.
All three accusations relate what President Meta considers illegal publication in the Official Gazette of a decision of the Justice Appointment Council (KED) on November 9, 2019.
The KED decisions ought to be published on the website of the High Court, but the one involving the ranking of Constitutional Court candidates was published in the Official Gazette.
President Ilir Meta argues that the Parliament, KED Chair Ardian Dvorani, Minister Gjonaj and Secretary General Gentian Deva have conspired to illegally publish the KED decision in an “attempt of coup d’état”.
According to Constitution art. 179, the Constitutional Court members shall be appointed on rotation basis, one by one, respectively by the President, Parliament and High Court, until all nine seats are filled. The KED has to send a list of ranked candidates to the institution for the current vacancy at the Constitutional Court. If the institution does not appoint any of the candidates in the list, the first in the ranking is automatically considered appointed.
This is a brief overview of what happened and why the President considers this an attempted coup:
On September 22, the KED published four candidate lists for vacancies at the Constitutional Court.
On October 8, the KED sent two candidate lists to President Meta for two vacancies at the Constitutional Court. On October 13, the KED sent two other candidate lists to Parliament. Lists sent to both to the President and Parliament, almost at the same time, led to a de facto unconstitutional situation, in which both President and Parliament were seemingly forced to elect (within the 30 day constitutional deadline) two candidates each, in violation of the rotation prescribed by the Constitution.
On October 15, President Meta appointed the first member of the Constitutional Court, Besnik Muçi.
According to the Constitution art. 179(2), Parliament should have subsequently elected the second member, which by November 7 it still hadn’t done. President Meta wrote a letter to the KED, Parliament, and the National Ombudsman stating that he could not appoint a second member until Parliament had done so, even if that meant that he would violate the 30-day deadline that was widely assumed to be mandated by the Constitution.
On November 8, the Parliament asked the KED regarding President’s choice for Constitutional Court member. According to documents published by President Meta, KED Chair Ardian Dvorani responded on the same day, without calling a KED meeting and by taking over Constitutional Court attributes to interpret the Constitution regarding the rotation requirement. Dvorani wrote that given President’s silence for 30 days, the first candidate in the KED list, Arta Vorpsi, was to be considered the appointed Constitutional Court member.
On the next day, November 9, Saturday, Parliament Secretary General Genci Gjoncaj forwarded the Dvorani answer to the Ministry of Justice.
The President further claimed that Minister Gjonaj ordered the Secretary General to publish in the Official Gazette the KED ranking of candidates for the Constitutional Court vacancy to be appointed by the President. This move was allegedly taken to give an official aura to the President’s lack of choice – once the list is published in the Official Gazette and 30 days have passed, the President cannot claim another second round to appoint a second member, the rationale would be, according to the alleged plan.
One day later, on Saturday, an official holiday, the Secretary General ordered Director Etleva Haxhia of the Center for Official Publications to publish the KED decision containing the candidate list, according to a document published by President Meta. Although KED decisions are not to be published in the Official Gazette, Director Haxhia obeyed, and published it on the same day.
Meta argues that these coordinated moves within 24 hours between the Speaker of Parliament Gramoz Ruci, Parliament Secretary General Genci Gjoncaj, KED Chair Ardian Dvorani, Minister of Justice Etilda Gjonaj, MoJ Secretary General Gentian Deva, and Director Etleva Haxhia, were meant to force the President to give up his constitutional right to choose Constitutional Court members, and instead to appoint the first in the list, Judge Arta Vorpsi, who Meta claims was the Socialist Party favorite for the position.
Meta claims this is a “mafia scenario of capturing the Constitutional Court” and an “attempt of coup d’état”.
Last week, the president had informed the public he would report Minister Gjonaj for criminal charges to the SPAK. Gjonaj responded that the President was “ethically unbalanced”, against the justice reform, and his report to SPAK was his “next lunacy”.
Following today’s report at SPAK, Gjonaj stated she was ready to face prosecutors, and added that she hoped Meta would also accept the SPAK’s work when it starts to investigate corruption of politicians.
President Meta has also filed charges against the KED Chair Ardian Dvorani over related violations. He has accused Prime Minister Edi Rama of attempting a coup d’état via a number of manoeuvres undertaken over the past two years.
On Wednesday, he invited the people to protest on March 2 against what he considers a government coup d’état.