From: Bledar Qalliu
Albanian Parliament to Vote on Extending Mandate of Judicial Vetting Bodies

On Thursday, the Albanian Parliament convened to vote on constitutional amendments to extend the mandate of judicial vetting bodies.

As part of Albania’s far-reaching justice reform, two commissions were established in 2016 and tasked with vetting over 800 judges and prosecutors. Their mandates expire in June 2022.

They began to operate in October 2017, and until October 2021, the two institutions had vetted 455 magistrates, or less than 60 percent of the total.

The numbers show that decisions were taken at an average pace of two cases per week.

In September last year the Socialist majority requested an extension by two years for the mandates of these bodies. Representatives of countries supporting the reform – the United States, the European Union, Germany, the United Kingdom – have since then repeatedly called on all political parties to vote in favor of the extension. A Venice Commission opinion also supported the extension.  

Changes to the Albanian constitution require the vote of two-third of the 140 members of parliament, i.e. 94 votes. The ruling Socialist Party has 74 votes, which makes the opposition’s support indispensable.

Last year the opposition Democratic Party led by Lulzim Basha attempted to use this fact as leverage to obtain the Socialists’ support to change the constitution to enable the vetting of politicians, as well as electoral and territorial reform. The ruling Socialists have refused.

Today Basha announced his party will vote in favor of the extension, in accordance with the Socialists’ proposal. He assured that in exchange, the Socialists would vote in favor of establishing parliamentary commissions for the electoral and territorial reforms.

The vetting of politicians remains his party’s top priority for the future, Basha explained, due to the time needed to prepare for it, while the extension of terms for vetting bodies is urgent.

In the meantime, an internal strife over the party’s leadership has divided the PD, which may reflect on today’s vote. While Basha announced his and his supporters will vote in favor, it remains unclear how Sali Berisha’s supporters and the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) will vote. 

Some opposition MPs had called for a public debate on the results of the justice reform prior  to the parliamentary vote. Its poor implementation left Albania without a functioning Constitutional Court (January 2018 – December 2020) and High Court (May 2019 – April 2020), while the vetting of magistrates has gone much slower than planned.

The Socialists’ 2-year extension suggests that they expect that vetting bodies will essentially double the speed at which they work. It remains unclear if that is possible, and how it would affect the quality of the vetting process.