Court Confirms the Elected Durrës Mayor, in an Illegal Second Hearing, After Initially Turning Her Down

Court of Durrës Judge Shpëtim Reka ruled in favor of certifying Valbona Sako’s mayoral mandate, ignoring the ruling of the same court by Judge Mimoza Margjekaj, made just two days before, which refused to certify Sako’s mandate.

Sako which ran in the election as a member of the Alliance of European Albania (AEA) of which the Socialist Party is a member, had her mandate refused on Wednesday by Margjekaj on the grounds that she participated in illegitimate elections against the candidate of an unregistered party– Democratic Conviction of Astrit Patozi.

Yesterday , the Court of Durrës saw the same case at the behest of the Socialist Party and approved her mandate, in total disregard of the previous decision. This goes against all principles of the rule of law and violates a law which states that the object of a case cannot be adjudicated twice by the same court.

Judge Reka should not have accepted a case that had already been ruled on by the same court just two days before. It should also have been denied on the grounds that the Socialist Party have no right in filing such a case instead of the Alliance for European Albania.

Firstly, Sako was a mayoral candidate for the AEA and not for the PS.

Secondly, the mayoral mandate is given to the individual candidate, not their political party. This means that only individual or entity that can request court certification of a mandate is the mayor-elect themselves. Sako’s request was already refused by Judge Margjekaj two days before.

This is the first time in Albanian history that a political party has demanded certification of a mayor-elect.

A source told Exit that prior to this extraordinary and unprecedented decision being made, the current Mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako and Valbona Sako met with the President of the Court of Durrës, Judge Joana Qeleshi in her office.

Mayor Dako has been accused of colluding with criminal gangs to buy votes and intimidate voters in the 2017 general election. His voice appears on a number of leaked prosecution wiretaps that were published by Voice of America in January.

Shortly after this meeting Qeleshi’s office, the Socialist Party filed a case to request the certification of Sako’s mandate (although it had already been rejected by the same court). Judge Shpëtim Reka, a well-known Socialist Party supporter was then chosen by Judge Qeleshi, supposedly by lot, to rule on the case.

It appears that following the rejection of Sako’s mandate, Dako and the Socialist Party have colluded with the President of the Court of Durrës and Judge Qeleshi to find an obedient judge that would have no qualms in bypassing the rule of law and all due process and certifying Sako’s mandate.

It is not known whether they will attempt a similar ‘coup’ in Vorë where the Court of Tirana also refused to accept the request of Socialist Party candidate Agim Kajmaku to certify his mandate.