The two main factions within the Democratic Party (PD), Albania’s largest opposition party, have clashed over the interpretation of the party statutes regarding the calling of its highest body, the National Assembly.
The rift became most evident on Wednesday evening, after former PD leader Sali Berisha announced that he had submitted 4,200 written requests by assembly members to call a meeting to change the party statutes.
Berisha launched a national tour two months ago aiming at rallying PD supporters to remove current leader Lulzim Basha from power. This latter had excluded Berisha from the PD’s parliamentary group at the request of the United States, after Secretary of State Antony Blinken barred Berisha and his family from entering the US over allegations of corruption.
Berisha aims to replace Basha and become PD leader for a third time. He previously held the role in 1991-1992 and 1997-2013.
He chose to submit the requests gathered during his 2-month national tour to one of his supporters in the party, Edi Paloka, in the latter’s capacity as the head of the PD National Council, a body comprising 485 appointed and elected members, and tasked with guiding the party’s political actions.
They maintain that the signatures and mandates of the assembly members who have signed the 4,200 request forms can only be verified by an ad-hoc commission of the National Assembly on the day of its convention, December 11; i.e., one month after they announced the submission of requests.
The PD’s statutes stipulates the following:
“As a rule, the National Assembly meets every four years. The decision for the meeting of the National Assembly is taken by the National Council or the Presidency of the PD, upon the proposal of the Chairman of the PD. The Assembly can also convene when requested by 1/4 of the PD members or 1/4 of the members of the National Assembly. The date of the assembly and the agenda are announced at least one month before the first day of the assembly. The work of the Assembly is chaired by a Commission consisting of 5 members, which is elected at the beginning of its work, on the proposal of the party Chairman.”
The current leadership of the Democratic Party insists that the request should be submitted to the party’s registrar office, and it’s up to this office to verify the membership of those who have signed, and proceed with the National Assembly meeting if statute requirements are met.
Given that no request was registered so far with the PD to call for an assembly meeting, they argue, Berisha’s move violates the statutes.
The National Assembly has 7,600 members. It last met in July, when it made some changes to the party statutes to strengthen the party leader’s authority nearly a month after Basha was reelected, following the PD’s loss in general elections of April.
A meeting of the assembly can be called if requested by at least 25 percent of its members, that 1,900 people. Berisha claims to have the written support of 4,200 of them, which the current party leadership denies, and challenges him to follow the procedures they claim are required by the statute.
Berisha’s side claims anyone can check the 4,200 requests at Paloka’s office, but no institution has the authority to verify signatures and people’s assembly membership before the assembly day. Basha’s side claims an official request should be filed with the PD to call for an assembly, and party structures should take care of the process.
The rift between the two factions is expected to deepen with December 11 approaching, while some experts suggest that a final interpretation of the statutes may only be delivered by a court.