From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
Venice Commission: Constitutional Court Decides Whether President Meta Violated Constitution

In its final opinion “On the Scope of the Power of the President to Set the Dates of the Elections,” the Venice Commission concludes that it is up to the Constitutional Court to decide whether President Ilir Meta violated the Constitution by canceling and postponing the June 30 local elections.

The Venice Commission’s final opinion can be considered a partial vindication for President Ilir Meta, who always insisted that only the Constitutional Court can decide whether his actions were Constitutional or not.

A draft opinion dated September 29, which was leaked to the Albanian media, held that

99. The President thus exceeded his competences under the Constitution by first cancelling, then postponing the local elections. It will be for the Assembly and finally the Constitutional Court to establish whether this amounts to “serious violations,” which would allow for an impeachment of the President.

In a long public response to this draft opinion President Meta pushed back against this conclusion, arguing that

Only the Constitutional Court can judge the decrees of the President that have constitutional nature.

This now appears to be confirmed by the Venice Commission in its final opinion:

99. It will be for the Assembly and finally the Constitutional Court to establish whether cancelling, then postponing the local elections amounts to a violation of the Constitution and whether the violation is of a serious character, which would allow for an impeachment of the President.

The Venice Commission furthermore doubts whether the President’s actions, even if considered a violation of the Constitution, are serious enough to warrant impeachment:

100. As set out in this opinion, a number of factors indicate that [this] may not have been of such a character necessary to substantiate a serious violation. This concerns, notably, the President’s calls for dialogue, the expectation postponing elections would contribute to the pursuit of a compromise between parties, the lack of a direct challenge of the President’s Decrees before a court and the constitutional status of local elections as compared to parliamentary elections.

101. Taken together, […] these acts might not meet the requisite criteria of sufficient seriousness in the circumstances to warrant an impeachment of the President.

Nevertheless, the Venice Commission concludes that

94. […] in absence of a statutory provision on the issue, the President can only cancel elections for local government bodies in a situation which meets the criteria for taking emergency measures. Even then the President needs a specific – ad hoc – legal basis to postpone elections.

Immediately after the publication of the final opinion, the Office of the President released a declaration stating that “the President of the Republic hasn’t violated the Constitution and has not overstepped his constitutional competences.”

At the same time, Chief Whip of the Socialist Party Taulant Balla responded with his own declaration, stating that “President Ilir Meta acted without legal basis.”

And so, the Venice Commission’s final report has provided each party with what they desired, while the constitutional crisis remains as deep as before.