From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
Crucial Election Deadline Looming, But Nobody Cares

It already seems a long time ago, but the 2017 parliamentary elections were basically the death throes of the Electoral Code. In violation of the Electoral Code, the elections were postponed; the opposition parties were registered much later than the legally mandated deadline; and the prohibition on electoral coalitions brokered by Prime Minister Edi Rama and opposition leader Lulzim Basha to crush the LSI had no basis in the law and deprived the smaller parties of their legal rights. But now, as the saying goes, the chickens have come home to roost.

Because many small parties on the right felt betrayed by the agreement struck by Rama and Basha, they now refuse to join the Democratic Party in its boycott of Parliament. As a result, many of their MPs, placed by Basha on unelectable positions, now take up the parliamentary mandates that were vacated by the Democrats. Recently, several of these “renegade” opposition members formed a “Democratic” parliamentary group led by MP Rujdina Hajdari, one of the two Democratic MPs who refused to vacate her mandate. As their numbers continue to grow, Hajdari will no doubt be relaunched by the government as de facto leader of the opposition, in the hope to pass several pieces of legislation that require a qualified majority, including the Electoral Reform, the election of Constitutional Court judges, and the election of the new General Prosecutor.

However, much of Hajdari’s future political leverage will depend on whether she will be able to enter the local elections with a new party. Last week, there were consistent rumors that Hajdari would launch a new party called “Democratic Conviction,” but so far she has been coy on its prospects. In a recent Facebook post, Hajdari states:

“What strikes me in this “psychotic political state” we are is the fact that they qualify me personally, without me giving any declaration or undertaking any related initiative, as the leader of a new political forum that is being created […] about which I have not expressed myself before.

Albanians need ‘a new political elite’ and we consider it a principal obligation to prepare an appropriate formula for political representation, in a manner that MPs and those who are elected are determined by the citizens and not by party leaders.”

So far, both the PD and LSI have boycotted the electoral preparations, refusing to propose key administrators for electoral zones and voting centers, and refusing to register as political parties. The deadline for registration is tomorrow.

If this deadline passes with neither Hajdari’s “new” opposition nor the “legacy” opposition parties registering for the local elections, we basically enter the territory of 2017, when the final deal was brokered weeks before the election and the Electoral Code was by all means and purposes suspended to the advantage of the two main parties. Although it is less likely that a deal will be made this time, with Rama practically holding a qualified majority in Parliament and an international community openly in his support, the passing of tomorrow’s deadline will seal the fate of the Electoral Code as an untenable piece of legislation, and highlight the government and opposition’s inability to come up with a credible Electoral Reform.

This reform has been made one of the crucial evaluation points for the opening of accession negotiations. The German Bundestag already made very clear last year that no negotiations will be opened without the reform. Yet, even though in November 2018 Socialist MP Taulant Balla promised this reform to the European Parliament before Christmas, nothing has moved forward. It might be possible that the Rama government will conjure such a reform from its hat just before the elections, but it will by then no longer be feasible to implement it on time.

The current Electoral Code is in full swing, but it is about to collapse.