Is Albania facing the possibility for early elections?

Is Albania facing the possibility for early elections?

Tirana, 17 March 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Edison Kurani

In the past two and a half decades, early elections in Albania have taken place twice: In 1992, one year after communists won the elections after the return of pluralism and in 1997, when the state fell as a result of the demonstrations for the loss of money in Ponzi schemes.

However, almost every year, there have always been talks of early elections, which have always been demanded by the opposition and never accepted.

In the recent days, the situation seems different. Voices within the majority impose a challenge for new elections, while the opposition is against.

What is happening?

The reform in the judiciary system is perhaps the most important one in the past 25 years. Among others, it changes up to 40% of the Constitution. What’s more, it has given hope that justice will be independent, fair and uncorrupt.

The package with amendments in the judiciary system was drafted by a group of Albanian and foreign experts. The socialist leader decided to send it to the Venice Commission for revision and then send it to parliament for voting.

The recommendations of the Venice Commission have arrived and they include discrepancies in a part of the 89 points.

The opposition doesn’t agree with the government in 11 points. The most important one is the National Bureau of Investigation, a copycat of the American FBI. The government wants to control it, but the opposition wants it to be independent or controlled by the General Prosecutor. The Venice Commission also said that the government shouldn’t control this institution.

Another point where the opposition and majority are divided is the voting of the judges of the main courts of the country, such as the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court. The Democratic Party demands these changes to be made with 3/5 of the votes in the 140 seat parliament, while the government says that 2/3 are sufficient.

In all of this story, the Socialist Movement for Integration of the speaker of Parliament, Ilir Meta seems to be unchanged in its stance. It says that it will vote the package of the reform in justice system only if there is political consensus.

This stance is putting the governing coalition at risk.

The SP led by PM Edi Rama cannot pass the amendments on its own, therefore it is threatening early elections.

The first one to break the “ice” was former PM Pandeli Majko, Rama’s supporter. He said that he will propose to the socialist Congress which will be held on 19 March, to announce early elections.

Majko’s declaration was backed by Erjon Brace MP, who is also Rama’s supporter.

The opposition’s reactions came a few hours later. The head of the Democrat Parliamentary Group, Edi Paloka, said that “early elections are necessary, but not because they are demanded by Majko or because Rama threatens with them, but because the country has sunk in an irreversible crisis”.

The Democratic Party imposes conditions on the government if it announces early elections. According to it, elections cannot be organized if Edi Rama is Prime Minister, by demanding a technical government which would prepare the new electoral process.

“Edi Rama must leave in order for Albanians to hold free and honest elections and then have a government which would work for their interests”, Paloka said.

On the other hand, the historical leader of the Democratic Party, Sali Berisha is against the idea of early elections with Rama as prime minister. “If the reform in the justice system is not passed with Edi Rama as prime minister, a man who doesn’t hold elections in his party, I would like to assure the Albanian people that never, since the time of Enver Hoxha, their will has been in danger more than now. And they must never accept it, they must overthrow him through a process of democratic revolution in order to have free and fair elections after his departure”, says former PM and the democrat MP.

A few hours after Berisha, PM Edi Rama spoke for the first time for early elections. He warned that if the reform in the justice system doesn’t pass in parliament, then Albanians may face fresh elections.

Although it is clear that it is not just the opposition against the elections, but also the SMI which says that it will vote only if there’s consensus between the DP and SP, Rama only addresses public accusations against the democrats. He also uses ironic tones with the Venice Commission, which turned down several points of the package.

“The reform in the justice system has become a necessity not only by time, but also by the sovereign will of Albanians. Whatever they do and however they use the Venice Commission, the 1 million ‘slaps’ that they received two and a half years ago will be nothing compared to those in the next elections”, Rama said.

But what do early elections mean for the majority in parliament?

If the SP decides to hold early elections in a few weeks, before June 2017, the coalition is divided. In all likelihood, relations between SP and SMI would be ruined. This would lead to a new configuration of the Albanian political arena.

If the DP, SP and SMI run on their own, the scenarios are both predictable and unclear.

If the SP wouldn’t create a new government, it would not join votes again with the SMI. But it would not be a surprise if SMI went back to its “old love”, the current opposition to bring it back to power. /ibna/