Albania’s opposition has set the stage for its main political battle for the next few months. Its largest party, the Democratic Party (PD) has requested that parliament create three committees of inquiry, in its first major political action in parliament after more than two years of boycott.
The initiative for three committees of inquiry to be created simultaneously comes at a time when the PD chairman Lulzim Basha faces growing pushback against his leadership.
Former PD leader Sali Berisha has embarked on a national tour with party members, with the final objective of toppling Basha, who excluded him from the PD parliamentary group at the request of the United States.
Berisha now accuses his former protégé Lulzim Basha of colluding with prime minister Edi Rama to keep the opposition weak.
Parliamentary committees of inquiry are a tool for parliament to recommend to the prosecution office that this latter further investigate the evidence and conclusions of the committee.
Upon approval in parliament, their final report is presented to the General Prosecutor, who is required to inform parliament on whether they will launch a criminal investigation. The parliamentary committees of inquiry cannot file criminal charges.
Albania’s largest opposition party maintains that the general elections of April 2021, which gave prime minister Edi Rama a third consecutive term in office, were rigged by the government.
The parliamentary committee of inquiry will aim at investigating what the Democrats believe to have been an “electoral massacre”.
It will specifically investigate a government order, issued shortly before elections, demanding Albanian emigrants arriving in Albania to quarantine, thus making it impossible for them to vote; the government’s awarding of economic assistance right before elections, allegedly amounting to €2.5 million; the alleged hiring of 13 thousand people during the electoral campaign, paid with public money; and the leak of personal data of 910 thousand Albanian voters, according to MP Enkelejd Aliabeaj, who is expected to preside over the committee.
MP Grida Duma said a second committee will inquire into the responsibility of government officials in relation to the €110 million arbitration award in favor of Francesco Becchetti, the owner of a TV station the government of Edi Rama shut down on “politically motivated” grounds in 2015, according to the arbitration panel.
A third committee will focus on another major theme of continuous political accusations against the government of Edi Rama in the last couple of years: three waste incinerators worth €72 million, built with public money through public-private partnerships and operated by private companies. MP Jorida Tabaku said the opposition aims at inquiring into prime minister Edi Rama and former minister of finance Arben Ahmetaj, whom they accuse of corruption.
There is almost no chance the final reports will pass in parliament if they will blame the socialist majority of rigging the elections, and its government of corruption. However, in addition to the certain political spectacle on the screen, the coming months could trigger more public debate on the issues under inquiry, and possibly put more pressure on prosecutors to investigate opposition concerns.