From: Bledar Qalliu
Albanian Opposition Urges for Vetting of Politicians to Start with Prime Minister

Democratic Party (PD) leader Lulzim Basha urged the Socialist majority of prime minister Edi Rama to agree to the opposition’s proposal to vet politicians, starting with Rama himself, and followed by all deputies and mayors.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Basha laid out the PD’s proposal for constitutional changes covering electoral reform, territorial reform, and the vetting of politicians.

The PD first proposed a vetting procedure for politicians in 2018, claiming that a number of Socialist mayors and deputies in parliament had a criminal past.

The Socialist majority refused to back the proposal, arguing that such vetting would interfere with the work of the new institution created via the justice reform: Special Prosecution against Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK) and the National Bureau of Investigation (BKH).

Back in 2018, none of the two institutions existed as the justice reform had just begun to be implemented. However, SPAK is already fully functional and BKH is expected to become functional within this year.

The PD’s proposal was submitted to parliament this week and stipulates that SPAK and new courts against corruption and organized crime prioritize the vetting of politicians. It also demands background checks on politicians to verify if they have ties to criminals, and whether they can justify the sources of their wealth.

The vetting proposal comes as part of a bundle with two more projects for electoral and territorial reforms, two areas where the Socialist majority made unilateral changes after the Opposition had boycotted Parliament.

The socialists got rid of “counties” as an administrative unit, and shrunk the number of municipalities to only 61. They also prohibited party coalitions from proposing candidates in elections. The opposition claims these changes were the foundation of the Socialists’ alleged “electoral massacre” in April 2021, as well as in the one-party local election of June 2019.

The recent European Commission report on Albania urged the country to undertake both electoral and territorial administrative reforms.

Basha said the proposals would help put an end to Albania’s transition from dictatorship to liberal democracy, and invited the majority to support them.

He added that the proposal represented the voice of all Albanians who want to see corrupt politicians out of parliament and public institutions.

The opposition leader offered to become the first politician to be vetted by SPAK, once the constitutional amendments passed in parliament.

Constitutional amendments require the support of both opposition and majority in Parliament. 

On Wednesday, prime minister Edi Rama refused to give his opinion on the three amendments, but said he was open to sit in talks with the opposition.