Exit Explains: How was the Political Council Formed?

On 14 September, the Political Council resumed its work which will reflect the constitutional changes in the Electoral Code.

The PD and LSI, in the last meeting, agreed to participate in the meetings of the Political Council, but requested the OSCE expertise for the constitutional changes approved by the Assembly on July 30.

The Political Council is a mechanism proposed by the opposition (PD and LSI), supported by the internationals and accepted by the SP to draft an electoral reform that should be agreed before the 2021 general elections.

But how was the Political Council created? Exit News brings below a chronology of all the actions that led to its creation.

On 18 September, 2019, the OSCE Presence and the Parliamentary Commission for Electoral Reform invited the opposition to participate in a conference on electoral reform entitled “Denied by the system: Building a comprehensive system to protect democracy.”

On 24 September, the PD accepted the invitation and attended a conference held on 25  September at the Palace of Congresses — on behalf of the opposition, attended by Ivi Kaso, PD Secretary of Elections; Muharrem Caka, the legal representative of the LSI in the CEC and Arjan Madhi the Deputy Chairman of the Republican Party.

Opposition participation in the conference was welcomed by US Ambassador Yuri Kim

At the conference, on behalf of the opposition, Ivi Kaso proposed the establishment of a special structure for drafting electoral reform, arguing that the parliamentary commission headed by Damian Gjiknuri and Rudina Hajdari was not legitimate.

As a solution, the opposition proposed that the process be led by a structure composed of representatives of international bodies, the OSCE-ODIHR, the EU, the US, a representative of the Assembly and a representative of the united opposition.

Kaso said that the proposals agreed by this structure should be “subject to public consultation through forms and methods that enable the opinion of citizens and be approved without change.”

On 1 October, 2019, Prime Minister Rama in an interview with Repolitix, agreed to sit at the table with the opposition on electoral reform:

“Whoever wants to have me at the table, I am ready, everywhere, even at the PD headquarters, if the meeting takes place, I go, I have no problem. It is not a matter of place, format, or imposition of the agenda, if they are comfortable with the clock that continues to fall 12, it is their job, my clock is running.

On 2 October, 2019, Democratic Party Chairman Lulzim Basha announced that the united opposition is ready to be part of discussions on electoral reform.

After a meeting with opposition allies, Basha said that the opposition has submitted to Prime Minister Rama a ‘plan for electoral reform’, part of which was the establishment of an external structure for electoral reform with the participation of international representatives

On 3 October, in a press release, Basha said:

“The plan is on the table, to take it, to implement it, not for my and the PD’s pleasure, but for the sake of the Albanian citizens, to implement it, or to open its arms.”

On 9 October, civil activists presented their proposals for electoral reform to a special parliamentary committee, including the opening of the lists.

Also on October 9, the co-chair of the parliamentary committee Damian Gjiknuri invited the representative of the Democratic Partythe following day.

But the PD decided not to attend the commission meeting. Gjiknuri told the media:

“Since we do not have the PD and they did not participate, we will discuss them at a wider table, as they were not there, and any recommendations will be discussed beyond this committee.”

On 14 October, OSCE ambassador Bernd Borchardt in an interview with Mimoza Picari expressed readiness to help organize working meetings on electoral reform, at the request of the PD:

“We are more than ready to organize these working meetings. “I can not speak on behalf of our partners in the United States or the European Union, but I believe they would be willing to contribute to this debate.”

On 18 October, in a discussion with journalists, PD Chairman Basha reiterated the importance of international involvement in the reform process:

“The mechanism should include three factors, the united opposition, those who have the keys to governance and the international factor, not as leaders but with the expertise […] to prove the willingness of the parties to move the process forward.”

Meanwhile, the PD set up a working group to draft parallel drafts of electoral reform.

On 24 October, after the end of the meeting of the parliamentary commission, Gjiknuri told the media:

“I am glad that the PD is taking the issue of electoral reform seriously. Even though they do not know the commission, we do not prevent them from creating any kind of communication to [enable] the proposals they have to be included as the work of the electoral reform commission.”

On 5 November, the Special Commission on Electoral Reform held a hearing with civil society on OSCE / ODIHR recommendations.

On November 19, the PD submitted some of its proposals for party funding at a technical roundtable organized by the EU Delegation and the American Democratic Institute (NDI).

On 20 November, the European People’s Party, the PD political family, advised Albanian political parties to overcome the political crisis with “a comprehensive dialogue and electoral reform that will pave the way for free and fair elections.”

On 7 January, Nisma Thurje submitted to the co-chair of the commission Rudina Hajdari and MP Ralf Gjoni a petition signed by 50,000 citizens requesting the transition to a national proportional electoral system with open lists.

On 8 January, the PD and LSI issued an official stance calling for the establishment of a reform commission composed of representatives of the OSCE, the EU, and the US.

On 14 January, the agreement for the establishment of the Political Council was signed, consisting of the two co-chairs of the parliamentary commission Damian Gjiknuri  (who is accused of involvement in election rigging and manipulation as a part of the Electiongate scandal) and Rudina Hajdari, representatives of the parliamentary majority and opposition; as well as by Oerd Bylykbashi and Petrit Vasili, representatives of the extra-parliamentary opposition, respectively PD and LSI.