Left wing government has drafted a bill which aims to lift several powers from the president appointed by the right wing concerning the army. Opinions in favor and against this incentive and the president’s appeal: The government is making a mistake, Parliament should reject it. A delicate issue, for which this report IBNA hears from the President of Republic, Bujar Nishani, speaker of Parliament, Ilir Meta, former President Rexhep Meidani, Democrat MP, Helidon Bushati and military experts
Tirana, April 9, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Edison Kurani
A strong debate has been triggered in the recent hours, as the government has drafted a bill which aims to take over several powers of the President concerning the army. This is a draft law prepared by the ministry of Defense: Authorities and powers of leadership and Command of Armed Forces of the Republic of Albania, which is expected to replace the 2004 bill. The government will soon send the draft to Parliament. The draft has not been officially made public yet, nevertheless, it came into light by becoming an object of political debate and of a debate between experts.
Parliament says that the bill will be drafted based on the procedure. The opposition manifested a strong reaction by accusing the majority of trying to usurp powers.
The President of the Republic says that this is a plan to take over properties belonging to the army, which are in great numbers in the country and a part of which are located in strategic and tourist areas.
Former President Rexhep Meidani criticizes the incentive and says that he’s “against every such attempt made yesterday or today”, by suggesting that “there must always be vigilance” toward such attempts!
The bill that sparked debates
With the bill in power, the President of the Republic, in the quality of General Commander of Armed Forces, enjoys Full Authority of the Command and leadership of Armed Forces. Upon the proposal of the ministry of Defense, led by Mimi Kodheli, the powers of the President are significantly reduced. The government is expected to deposit in Parliament the bill “Authorities and powers of leadership and Command of Armed Forces of the Republic of Albania. This bill which has 27 articles, is supposed to replace the 2004 bill. In two articles of the draft which relate to the powers of the President and Prime Minister, there are significant amendments: The President, who is General Commander of Armed Forces, has 11 powers relating to the appointment of generals taken off. Some of the powers are bestowed upon the prime minister.
According to the 2004 bill which is still in force, the relief and appointment of senior officers was done by the President, upon the proposal of the minister of Defense. The bill transfers this power from the President to the Prime minister.
President Nishani says that by removing this prerogative on appointments and discharges of generals, “the chain of the hierarchy of command in times of peace is cut off and this causes a real concern in the structure and commanding chain of the Armed Forces”.
The head of the government will also have the right to approve, upon the proposal of the minister of Defense, the plan of the expansion of Armed Forces in times of peace, a power which is currently held by the President.
Mr. Nishani expresses great concern on this change: “What’s more concerning relates to the fact that the power that the President of the Republic has to approve the Expansion Plan of Armed Forces is transferred to the prime minister of the country. This marks the dismantlement and control of the management of the army properties, a cycle which with the new draft law is completed within the government, between the minister and the prime minister.
Another power that is taken over by prime minister Rama and which is currently held by President Nishani is the right to relieve or put out on reserve senior officers with the exemption of the General Chief of Staff.
The draft also sets several new deadlines to the president on the decrees. The head of the state will have 30 days to decree or overthrow the proposals on the generals, the chief of Staff and commanders of Land, Navy and Armed Forces.
“The President promotes upon the proposal of the ministry of Defense, he appoints, relieves from duty or puts out on reserve or discharges upon the proposal of the Prime Minister, Chief of Staff, he appoints or discharges upon the proposal of the Minister of Defense commanders of Land, Navy and Air Forces. The President of the Republic has 30 days from the presentation of proposals, by approving or refusing the proposal. In any case, the refusal must be motivated”, states the new bill.
Thus, the President is allowed to appoint or relieve from duty, upon the proposal of the minister of Defense, only the Commanders of Land, Navy and Armed Forces and even with them, if there’s a refusal, he must issue a motivation. Thus, according to the new bill, the Prime minister will be the one who will sign for all other senior officers holding a general title or higher.
Commenting on the change of this power for IBNA, a military expert, who wanted to remain anonymous, says that this leads to disequilibrium in the performance of tasks.
“The President of Republic, as General Commander of Armed Forces, appoints, promotes, discharges and puts out on reserve senior officers upon the proposal of the Minister of Defense. This is not only a right, but also an exclusive responsibility of the President. This article sanctions relations between the general Commander of Armed Forces with senior officers such as generals. It’s important for this to continue in order not to cause problematic situations in the army”, says the expert.
Meanwhile, the draft also abrogates the article where the President of the Republic recommends to the Council of Ministers changes in the budget for defense based on needs.
Former president Meidani: We must be alert!
Former President, Rexhep Meidani, one of the most prominent names of the Albanian left wing, is critical about the incentive of the government to give more powers to the prime minister and take powers off the president.
“Every open or discreet attempt to accumulate power by reducing powers belonging to other persons or powers, without legal arguments, is not only dangerous to democracy, but it also inspires autocratic decision making”.
Mr. Meidani also launches a significant appeal: “We must be vigilant against every such attempt made yesterday or today!”
DP: Rama is extending his tentacles toward the Armed Forces
Democrat MP, Helidon Bushati says that this is Rama’s project to take over 11 power currently belonging to the President concerning the management and leadership of armed forces. “Rama has taken another step toward capturing independent institutions for the interests of his clients and at the detriment of the state”.
Bushati says that this “is an alarm bell for the rule of law in the country and the division of powers according to the Constitution”.
President: I was not informed on this bill
The government’s draft doesn’t directly affect the President, but he says that his opinion and that of the presidential staff was never asked. Nishani says that he was acquainted with the draft when it was delivered to him by the minister of Defense a few days ago. Meanwhile, sources from the ministry of Defense told IBNA that on March 31, the President has been delivered a draft and has been invited to offer his opinions.
Mr. Nishani warns that he has an important constitutional power, that of decreeing a law or returning it to parliament for further deliberation. “The President has the right to decree a law approved in parliament or reject it as anti constitutional and return it to parliament for further deliberation”, “threatens” Nishani.
In order to avoid this, he has an appeal for parliament: “I’m convinced and hope that Parliament of Albania will not accept such legal incentive, because if such thing happens, it will be another step backwards as far as standards that a NATO member country like Albania must have”.
Speaker of parliament, Meta: The law gives, the law takes
Speaker of Parliament, Ilir Meta says that the President is being lifted several powers which are bestowed upon him by the Constitution. He says that these are “powers that are sanctioned on the law and which can be lifted by amending the law”.
Is the new law necessary?
Nishani says that “such law for the commanding powers of Armed Forces is entirely unnecessary”.
“Our allies have never expressed concerns or addressed requests for interventions in the current legislation. This incentive is unilateral, unjustified, unfounded and against the constitutional provisions of the government. It’s entirely unnecessary”, says the President, who has previously served as minister of Defense and minister of Justice. He says that he will inform the international institutions, in order “to stop every attempt coming from the government for such imbalance of powers and deformation of the mechanisms of the rule of law and functional democracy in Albania”.
Army experts say that the current law has never been seen as problematic in the past 10 years. The drafting of the new law is seen by experts as a clear attempt to weaken the powers of the President, but they say that the fact that the Constitution considers the President as General Commander of Armed Forces, makes the government incentive arguable. Moreover, no expert or representative of the institution of the President of Republic has been called in the process of the drafting of the bill, although this law amends the powers of this institution. /ibna/