Last Thursday, the Parliament of Albania was filled with tensions and verbal confrontations between the deputies of the majority and the Democratic Party, which at some point obstructed the parliamentary session from proceeding normally.
Many political analysts commented on this events, but no one actually analyzed the claims made by both parties. Exit explains below the actual events last Thursday in Parliament and the legality of the actions of Speaker of Parliament Gramoz Ruçi.
It has clear that Ruçi has acted far beyond his legal competences and has therefore seriously threatened the rule of law. It is also a reminder of the type of state the Rama government is constructing, a state in which Parliament is there to approve laws and nothing else.
One of the points on the agenda for the parliamentary session of last Thursday was the discussion and approval of the decision to establish a parliamentary committee for electoral reform. For this reason, four deputies of the Democratic Party, including party leader Lulzim Basha, had deposited one day earlier a request to debate this issue in the parliamentary session.
The session started regularly and in accordance with the Parliamentary Regulations, which regulate all parliamentary procedures and is the second most important law for Parliament after the Constitution.
The Parliament approved the minutes of the previous session and reported on new draft laws and new requests made to Parliament. After that Speaker Ruçi announced the agenda item regarding the establishment of the electoral reform committee.
Even though request to debate the issue had been deposited ahead of the vote, Speaker Ruçi decided not to allow discussion and proceed directly to the vote. Immediately before the vote, PD parliamentary group leader Edmond Spaho requested the floor to speak on procedural matters, and requested that following the Parliamentary Regulations time would be allotted to a debate before the vote.
Immediately after Spaho, PS and LSI parliamentary group leaders Taulant Balla and Petrit Vasili took the floor claiming that they were unprepared to discuss the issue, even though it had been on the agenda for weeks. For this reason, Balla asked that the issue be removed from the agenda and postponed for a later session. Vasili and the LSI agreed with him.
Speaker Ruçi immediately proposed a vote to remove the issue from the agenda and put it on the agenda for the next session. PS and LSI voted in favor, the PD against.
The PD deputies immediately denounced the vote as illegal and violating the Parliamentary Regulations. But their protests were ignored by Ruçi, who also refused to give them the floor to express their opposition.
PD leader Basha took the floor and asked for a meeting of the Parliamentary Group Leader Conference and the postponement of the session until the afternoon. But Ruçi didn’t allow him to speak, didn’t approve his request, and switched off his microphone.
At least two other PD deputies asked the floor to explain their vote against, which is a right acknowledged by the Regulations, bur Ruçi also refused their request and didn’t give them the floor.
To return to the order of the day, Ruçi asked Basha to leave the pulpit and announced that he would be disciplined if he continued to obstruct the session. Basha didn’t leave the pulpit and Ruçi interrupted the session.
After a few minutes Ruçi restarted the session but Basha and PD deputies continued to block the pulpit. Ruçi again warned Basha and again interrupted the session.
The same scene happened a few minutes later. Ruçi restarted the session, warned Basha, and interrupted the session again. All within 1–2 minutes.
Basha restarted the session for the third time, again asked Basha to leave, and after his refusal excluded him from Parliament and asked the security personnel to remove him with force from the session. In spite of the tension and noise, Ruçi decided to continue the session and proceeded with votes on a series of other issues on the agenda.
The legal violations of Speaker Ruçi
1. Ruçi violated since the beginning of the session art. 46(1) of the Regulations, which requires the Speaker to announce in the beginning the names of the deputies who requested to speak during the session, regardless of the issues on the agenda. Ruçi failed to do so in the beginning or at any other point during the session.
2. Ruçi violated art. 46 and 48 of the Regulations which give the right to any deputy to speak on any issue that is under discussion. Their preliminary registration is the only requirement. Even though four deputies registered a day ahead, Ruçi did not announce this and decided not to allow the debate and move directly to the vote.
3. Ruçi violated art. 30 and 31 of the Regulations which regulate the way in which changes in the parliamentary agenda are handled. Art. 31 prohibits the inclusion of agenda items during the session that are not on the agenda.
Removing the approval of the electoral reform committee was a special issue that was not on the agenda. The agenda point was in fact to approve it. The deputies could have voted in favor or against the creation of the committee but not to remove the issue from the agenda.
Art. 30 determines the procedure of how a change can be made in the agenda after it has been approved. The article clearly states that the proposal to change the agenda has to made before the beginning of the session, has to be made in writing, and has to be presented by at least 10 deputies, a parliamentary group, or the Council of Ministers. This proposal needs to be approved by 3/5 of those present in the session.
There are important reasons for this strict procedure: if an issue can be removed form the agenda in the middle of a parliamentary discussion, then in cases in which the majority sees that there are not enough votes to carry a proposal, it can just remove it from the agenda instead of losing the vote, and propose it at a later time.
Speaker Ruçi failed to follow any of the legal stipulations regarding the removal of the approval of the parliamentary committee for electoral reform from the agenda: the request was made during the session rather than before it; it was made orally in not in writing; and it wasn’t approved by 3/5 of the present deputies. Thus the vote on the committee was removed by Ruçi from the agenda without any legal basis.
4. Ruçi violated art. 51 of the Regulations, which gives any deputy the right to explain his vote against a proposal immediately after the vote. From the registration of the session it is clear that at least PD deputy Jorida Tabaku continuously insisted on her right to explain her vote against removing the vote from the agenda.
5. Ruçi violated art. 52 and 66 of the Regulations, which deal with the interruption or closing of parliamentary sessions. Art. 52 gives the Speaker the right to interrupt the session only once for the same reason, and for a period no longer than 60 minutes. Ruçi interrupted and restarted the session three times for the same reason and one of the interruptions was longer than 60 minutes.
Ruçi also violated art. 66, which requires him in case of noise or disturbance to suspend the session for a specific period or to close it and reconvene the next day with the same agenda. Ruçi insisted on continuing the session, interrupting and restarting it according to his personal preferences rather than the Regulations. He then continued the session in spite of the disturbance.
6. Finally, Ruçi violated art. 45 of the Regulations by denying the PD deputies their right to speak about any issue they want outside the agenda at the end of the session. On the contrary, Ruçi didn’t allow any discussion during the session making this perhaps the only session in the history in Parliament in which not a single deputy was allowed to take the floor, and not a single debate was held.