From: Ilir Meta
OSCE/ODIHR Report, the Scanner That Separates the Propaganda State from the Rule of Law

“The political crisis intensified as Election Day approached.”

“This antagonism was indicative of the lack of shared responsibility toward the integrity of the electoral process that would transcend party divisions, and, consequently, negatively impacted the right of citizens to take part in government.”

These simple findings from the OSCE/ODIHR Final Report suffice to understand the synthesis of the entire political climate in the country that was further intensifying as the June 30 was approaching.

This relationship, which is described as antagonistic, was rightly noted as the highest degree of hostility and of a provocative environment as a result of the mutual irresponsibility by both parties for destroying the integrity and standards of the elections, with serious consequences for the European future of Albania.

“Several EOM’s interlocutors across the political spectrum shared their belief that an agreement between parties was needed to prevent further erosion of trust in democracy, elections and politicians.”

Therefore, OSCE/ODIHR assesses that most of their interlocutors from across the political spectrum shared their belief that it was time for an agreement in order to preserve and save democracy, protect political pluralism and elections, from the irresponsible behavior of the politicians, who were not willing taking into account the consequences of their confrontational behavior, who with a great determination continued to be strongly positioned in their trenches in order to annihilate each other politically.

“President  Meta  repeatedly  offered  to  facilitate  dialogue  among  parties  and  in  late  May (2019)  expressed  willingness  to  postpone  the elections.” 

This finding of the OSCE/ODIHR, on its Interim Report of June 14, just four days after the signing of the decree postponing June 30 as Day of Elections, shows that the President had consistently and repeatedly, in respect of his constitutional positioning above the parties, had made all his efforts to mitigate and overcome the crisis, in order to replace confrontation with a comprehensive dialogue.

The President, two weeks before issuing the decree for the postponement of elections, had publicly and formally stated his willingness to revise the date, with the purpose of holding comprehensive and all-inclusive elections, after both parties could reach an agreement through dialogue, as it would be the best way forward in the political point of view.

But what made it impossible the revision of the election date through the comprehensive dialogue?

It is already very clear: the stubbornness and determination of Prime Minister Rama to hold elections without the opposition, without making the most sincere minimal efforts as the Prime Minister of the country, in order to avoid the consequences.

“Through public letters posted on social media in late May, the Prime Minister invited DP chairperson Lulzim  Basha  to  enter  into  dialogue,  affirming  at  the  same  time  that  elections  will  take  place  on  30  June  and  arguing  against  a  precedent  for  rescheduling  elections.”

This OSCE/ODIHR finding clearly indicates that the Prime Minister’s public statements for dialogue were for propaganda consumption only, because by refusing to postpone the June 30 elections he made it impossible to reach a dialogue with the opposition.

For what reason would the opposition sit in a dialogue with the Prime Minister if he did not allow them to participate in normal and democratic local elections?

Let us not forget that the opposition had left Parliament and its 182 MP-s and candidates for MP had rejected their mandates of representation. Although all opposition party lists have been exhausted, 18 opposition seats still remain vacant in the Albanian Parliament. The Parliament has today only 122 out of 140 seats, which is the mandatory constitutional number.

While previously the majority had excluded the opposition from the consensual implementation of the Reform in Justice by provoking it with the unconstitutional election of the Provisional Prosecutor General (a term that does not exist in the Constitution of Albania) with 69 votes in an utterly unilateral manner.

Under such conditions, should the opposition had participated in a “dialogue” merely to congratulate the Prime Minister on winning 100% of the municipalities and municipal councils without opponents, considering that, based on of the results of the last local elections held in 2015, the parties of the united opposition represent 48.6% of the votes, and the SP together with its allies reached 43%?!

The Prime Minister Rama’s claim that changing the June 30 election date would constitute an unacceptable precedent, was completely dishonest and untrue.

This because the first precedent of the postponement of local elections was created by Mr. Rama himself in 2007, when he was in opposition, in fact the head of the opposition, and at the same time the mayor of Tirana, and when he refused to participate in the local elections due to demanding the inclusion of a technical element (a certificate) in the election process. And at that time, thanks to the willingness of former Prime Minister Berisha, the postponement of the elections was accepted and this very technical opposition demand was met.

In addition, the political, constitutional, parliamentary and institutional situation was now much worse than it was 12 years ago, when at the time parliament was operational, the Constitutional Court respected by all, and the justice institutions were uncontested.

“The presidential decree of 27 June remained unpublished in the Official Gazette, although the publication of acts issued by the President is required by law.”

“Only the Constitutional Court is authorized to rule on the constitutionality of the decrees of the President of the Republic.”

These findings, in a crystallized manner prove the illegality of the actions of the Assembly and the “conclusions” of the Resolution that was used only to justify politically the unlawful act of the CEC for refusing the decrees and the manipulation for propaganda purposes of the Electoral College.

The non-publication of the Presidential Decree in the Official Gazette was one of the most outrageous acts in the history of our state, and is rightly highlighted by the OSCE/ODIHR Final Report.

“The uncertainty was further compounded by the disagreement among the electoral stakeholders regarding the division of responsibility between the Constitutional Court, as the only body mandated to decide on the constitutionality of presidential decrees, and the Electoral College that is mandated to oversee the legality of the electoral process.”

With this reiterated finding, the OSCE/ODIHR report once again points out:

Firstly, how absurd was the majority’s attempt to create through its propaganda the idea that the Electoral College had the power to overrule the President’s decree,

And secondly, that only the Constitutional Court has the mandate to decide on the constitutionality of presidential decrees, while the Electoral College has a mandate only to oversee the legality of the electoral process.

“With reference to the request of the National Unity Party to withdraw from the elections and the relevant decisions of the CEC and the electoral college, the ODIHR’s report expressed concerns: i) about the CEC’s lack of impartiality and instances in which majority of CEC members voted along party lines; judges of the electoral college are subject to the ongoing “vetting process”, which could affect the security of their tenure and thereby potentially impact their independence.”

This finding again and very clearly proves the propaganda maneuvers orchestrated by the majority in an unconstitutional and unlawful way, by politically abusing the CEC and politically influencing the Electoral College farce in order to create the false idea that the President’s decree was overruled and the election process could proceed based only on biased political decisions.

The only excess of the procedural deadline by the President’s acts is that of the procedural deadlines provided by the Electoral Code (by three months) but even this exceeding was entirely insignificant compared to the principles of the Electoral Code itself which was built not to accept fictitious elections without opponents.

This is made very clear by OSCE/ODIHR when it states in its Interim Report of 14 June 2019 that in the Electoal Code:

 “There are no specific provisions for the conduct of unopposed elections.”

It is not by accident that the Electoral Code does not provide for elections without an opponent, because it is built on the constitutional principle of free and fair elections. The Constitution itself has borrowed the “right to elect” from the fundamental principles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Whereas, the European Court of Human Rights, in interpreting the meaning of the right to elect in 2015, has clearly defined what it implies with the right to elect.

“The right to vote guaranteed by Article 3 of Protocol no. 1 is not limited to the action of electing a candidate and casting a ballot in the ballot box.”

“The vote of each elector must have the possibility of affecting the composition of the legislature,  otherwise  the  right  to vote,  the  electoral process  and,  ultimately, the  democratic order itself, would  be  devoid of substance.”

Therefore, elections without alternative candidates are merely a fictitious voting process that undermine the democratic order and political pluralism, this being the foundation of all the construction and the functioning of the rule of law.

The Prime Minister’s stubbornness to hold unconstitutional, illegal and entirely monist elections on June 30 served for all Albanians to discern very clearly the state of propaganda from the rule of law.

Ilir Meta is the President of the Republic of Albania.