Member of the European Parliament David McAllister has expressed deep concerns regarding the ruling Socialist majority’s plan to approve changes to the Electoral Code without waiting for an opinion by the Venice Commission in December.
McAllister, who is also chair of the EP Foreign Affairs Committee, noted that such a move by the Socialists would amount to “unilateral changes” to their electoral deal with the extra-parliamentary opposition. This, he warned, could jeopardize April 2021 elections and Albania’s EU talks.
Unilateral changes to the agreement could further entrench the climate of mistrust and polarization in the run-up to the general elections of 25 April 2021. They will be counterproductive to the efforts of opening the first intergovernmental conference by the end of the year.
— davidmcallister (@davidmcallister) October 28, 2020
David McAllister is a member of the German Christian Democratic Union, part of the European People’s Party, of which Albania’s opposition Democratic Party also is an associate member.
The changes were passed in October, with the votes of Socialist majority and parliamentary opposition.
The two largest opposition parties, PD and LSI left the parliament in February 2019 and launched nationwide protests to force Prime Minister Edi Rama out. While their votes in parliament could have stopped the changes were they still valid, the opposition was unable to exercise enough pressure on the matter from outside the parliament on the Socialist majority.
President Ilir Meta vetoed the approved law, and also asked the Venice Commission for an urgent opinion. The commission replied that it will not approve an urgent procedure and will review the law in December.
The majority decided to move ahead with changes, and scheduled the final vote on Thursday.
They maintain that the parliament has a sovereign right to change the laws, and that they have fully complied with the electoral reform deal signed with the opposition.
The EU and US ambassadors said they regretted the adoption of changes to the Electoral Code without consensus with the extra-parliamentary opposition but acknowledged the parliament’s right to do so.
US Ambassador Yuri Kim, one of the main facilitators of the deal, said the electoral reform deal was not breached.
Calls by the European Commission and several MEPs on Albania’s Socialist leader and prime minister, Edi Rama, have been to no avail in making the majority delay the second and final approval of changes.
The Socialists had claimed earlier that delaying the approval would breach parliamentary procedures and jeopardize the implementation in next elections of the changed Electoral Code.
The opposition claims the changes are a breach of the electoral reform deal, which was one of the conditions for the Albania to sit in EU accession talks. In its latest progress report on Albania, the European Commission said the Albanian government has met this condition. However, the final decision for the start of talks lies with a unanimous vote of all EU Member States.