On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court of Albania decided to ask for the opinion of the Venice Commission on the constitutionality of the June 30, 2019 local elections in the country. The news was made public the Albanian president’s legal representative in the case.
Today, the court started to review the case presented by the Association of Albanian Municipalities, led by the only opposition Democratic Party mayor, Voltana Ademi of Shkoder, who had asked the court to rule whether local elections were in compliance with the constitution.
Six months after it reached a quorum following two years of dysfunctioning due to dismissals of its members by the vetting, on Wednesday, the court ruled against two requests submitted by the Socialist government of Edi Rama and the Association for Local Autonomy headed by Erion Veliaj, the Socialist mayor of Tirana, who had asked for the case to be dropped.
It relates an unprecedented decision by the country’s president to cancel the election date he had decreed earlier in 2019, and set another date for a few months later.
In October 2018, President Ilir Meta decreed regular local elections to take place on June 30, 2019.
In April 2019, the opposition boycotted the elections, following protests demanding the demise of the Rama government and establishment of a technocratic government. None of the parties registered within the deadline with the Central Elections Commission (CEC) for the June 30 local elections.
On June 10, President Ilir Meta issued another decree cancelling June 30. He called on parties to consult with him on setting a new election date.
The government claimed the presidential decree was unconstitutional and decided to hold elections on June 30, according to the previous decree.
On June 27, the president issued a third decree, setting October 13 for local elections to take place.
The government and the CEC dismissed this decree as well and organized elections on June 30.
While all opposition parties boycotted the election, the Socialist Party ran uncontested in about half of the country’s 61 municipalities. In the rest of municipalities its candidates were challenged by those of the opposition Democratic Conviction, whose establishment was announced on the last day of registration with the CEC.
Following the Socialist Party victory in all 61 municipalities, the elected Socialist mayor of Shkoder was found to have been convicted for drug trafficking and could not take office. As a result, Voltana Ademi of the Democratic Party remained mayor.
Mayor Ademi asked the Constitutional Court to declare the June 30 elections unconstitutional for having been held in violation of the presidential decree. Also, she asked the court to rule whether the alleged registration in elections of the Democratic Conviction party before it was formally established violated the Constitution.
The Socialist majority in parliament set up the first ever inquiry committee to dismiss an Albanian president, claiming he had committed “serious violation” of the constitution by cancelling the election date and setting another one. At the same time, the parliament asked the Venice Commission for an opinion on whether the president’s decisions warranted his dismissal.
In their opinion, the Venice Commission argued that the president had exceeded his competences by cancelling the elections date but this should not lead to his dismissal. The parliament dropped the inquiry.
In addition, the Venice Commission stated that it was up to the Constitutional Court of Albania to rule whether the president’s cancelling of elections amounted to violation of the constitution. However, the Albanian court decided today to ask the commission’s opinion on this exact question.