16 July 2020 Statement of the President of the Republic, H.E. Ilir Meta
The first and foremost issue today should be coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, as the situation continues to be quite critical. However, in the agenda of public opinion, I did not put this but it is today the issue related to an initiative for some constitutional changes.
As President of the Republic, I have welcomed the agreement of 14 January 2020 that shaped the Cooperation Framework between all parties for the Electoral Reform, as a very important event, as it returned the opposition to the institutions.
I marked as an achievement of the Political Council, the Agreement of 5 June 2020, in the spirit of cooperation and joint contribution of all political forces for the progress of the integration process in the European Union.
This Agreement, as you know, was supported by the representatives of the international community in Tirana, as well as by the US Secretary of State, Mr. Mike Pompeo, the High Representative of the European Union, Joseph Borrel and the Commissioner for Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi.
Completion of the Electoral Reform with comprehensiveness and consensus would be considered by the European Union as the first condition met by Albania.
The initiative of the majority to change the Constitution, 10 days after an agreement was agreed and without the consensus of the Political Council, unilaterally terminates the June 5 Agreement, nullifies this achievement of Albania, and would damage the credibility of our Foreign Minister, at the same time Prime Minister, in his capacity and that of our country, as the chairman in office of the OSCE.
Proposal for Constitutional changes:
• Extinguishes the 9-months effort to find a consensus of all political parties in the country on Electoral Reform and returns the situation of political division to its beginnings.
• In order to maintain the stability of the country, it is necessary for the political parties to abide to the agreements reached, especially when Albania’s strategic partners, the US-EU, have invested in them.
• The agreement of 5 June paves the way for the fulfillment of 1 of the 15 conditions for the official start of negotiations for Albania’s membership in the European Union.
• These constitutional changes, which are intended to be implemented unilaterally, are contrary to the principles established by the Venice Commission set out in the Code of Good Practice for Electoral Matters of the Venice Commission, as the sole guide for Council of Europe countries to hold democratic elections.
Substantial changes to the electoral system must begin at least 1 year before the election period.
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Why does this Assembly not have the full and necessary legitimacy for constitutional changes?
• The Albanian Assembly does not have the constitutional and political legitimacy to implement the Constitutional changes.
• The current Assembly has only 82 legitimate MP-s who have won the mandate from the electoral process and which includes three opposition Mp-s who refused to resign after the decision of the United Opposition.
• After the resignation of 58 opposition MPs in bloc, 124 candidates for MPs of opposition parties refused to be part of the Assembly, in February 2019.
• Thus 182 MP-s and candidates for MP of the opposition refused to be part of the Albanian Parliament.
• Although they exhausted all the lists of opposition parties for 18 months, the Assembly today has only formally 122 MP-s out of 140 MP-s which is the obligation set out in Article 64 of the Constitution.
• All procedures provided by the Constitution, the Electoral Code and the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly have not been followed in the replacement of mandates.
• The Electoral Code in Article 164 provides that:
“The mandate of the MP, obtained according to articles 162 and 163 of this / Code, is terminated only for the reasons provided in article 71 of the Constitution.
Prior individual or collective agreements or declarations for resignation shall not constitute grounds for termination of the mandate. In the case of letters “a” and “b” of paragraph 2 of article 71 of the Constitution, the MP publicly declares before the relevant committee of the Assembly the refusal to take the oath or to resign from the mandate. In this case, the Assembly, no later than 30 days, notifies the CEC of the creation of the vacancy.”
• Thus, the Electoral Code prohibits resignation in bloc from the mandates.
• Meanwhile, no resigned MP was summoned before any Committee or by the Council for Regulation, Mandates and Immunity to be heard on the reasons for resignation and to publicly declare the resignation, according to the requirements of Article 164, paragraph 1 of the Electoral Code.
• The Assembly had 30 days for each MP to carry out these procedures, but did not comply with this requirement of the Electoral Code, rushing to replace the mandates through administrative notifications of the Secretary General.
• Pursuant to Article 71/2 “b” and 75/2 of the Constitution, Article 164/1 of the Electoral Code, as well as Article 13 onwards of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly of Albania, all procedural actions, evaluation and decision-making on the ascertainment of vacancies in the Assembly of Albania and the confirmation of the conditions for the ending of the mandate for each resigned MP should have been done first by the Council for Regulation, Mandates and Immunity and then by the Assembly of Albania with a decision in the plenary session.
• Meanwhile, contrary to the requirements of the Electoral Code and the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly, all actions, assessments and notifications for each of the vacancies displayed in the Albanian Parliament, created due to resignation from the mandate of the MP turn out to have been performed only by the Secretary General with simple administrative paperwork.
• The Secretary General of the Assembly, out of his competencies and contrary to the procedure required for any submitted resignation, immediately (within a period of 1 to 4 days from the submission of the resignation) has performed the action of ascertaining the vacancy and notifying it at the CEC.
• All the activity and administrative practice followed in this regard is contrary to the requirements of the law and represents entirely elements of absolute invalidity.
• Under this regime and practice totally unconstitutional and illegal, the Central Election Commission, after the announcement of the creation of the vacancy by the Secretary General of the Assembly, although familiar with the fact that the written practice did not contain any decision of the Albanian Assembly according to law, still continued by following the procedures for the immediate filling of vacancies, in descending order in the multi-name lists, thus becoming part of this completely illegal process.
These are the main reasons that make those replaced opposition mandates illegitimate and for which you have often heard the President of the Republic mention it as a fact that the Assembly has no legitimacy to carry out constitutional reforms.
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Why is the initiative to change the Constitution in itself unconstitutional?
• The parliamentary procedure of the initiative for the revision of the Constitution is in flagrant contradiction with article 170 paragraph 5 and 177 paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of Albania and as such it cannot be reviewed. These provisions state that:
“During situations that require the taking of extraordinary measures, none of these acts can be changed: the Constitution, the laws on elections for the Assembly and local government bodies, as well as the laws on extraordinary measures.”
One could say that the state of natural disaster ended on June 23rd. Yes it is over but the Constitution is not a single article, but there are some which together make an entity of norms whose reading and application should be uniform and not separate.
I have to read to you another provision of the Constitution.
[…] 2. No revision of the Constitution may be undertaken during the time when extraordinary measures are imposed ”.
The initiative to revise the Constitution in this case was proposed in the Assembly by a group of opposition MPs who, as I quoted above, not only entered the Assembly hall in violation of the Constitution, the Electoral Code and the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly, but submitted their proposal to the Assembly with no. 1561 Prot, on 15.06.2020.
Exactly on this date, June 15, 2020, Albania was legally under the state of natural disaster declared by the Albanian Assembly itself with Decision no. 18/2020, a situation which ended according to this decision on June 23, 2020.
In these conditions, the “undertaking of the initiative” of these MP–s, although as it has been publicly revealed is inspired by the Prime Minister to revise the Constitution, was raised and developed exactly within the period when the country was subject to extraordinary measures.
Precisely for this reason, the Constitution says in article 177 paragraph 2, this initiative contradicts the clearly expressed provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Albania, and as such it can not continue to be considered.
In order not to forget this, I am reading once again Article 177, paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Constitution.
“[…] 2. No revision of the Constitution may be undertaken during the time when extraordinary measures are imposed.”
Therefore, the “undertaking of this initiative” could not be fulfilled at the moment when the extraordinary measures are being implemented in the country, that in this case, were in application as a result of the state of natural disaster.
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Why the banning of coalitions is unconstitutional?
The amendments that are intended to be made unilaterally to the Constitution of the Republic of Albania, not only have been deposited and are being examined in contradiction with the requirements of the Constitution, but also in terms of content, contradict its clear provisions.
The Constitution, in Article 96, clearly recognizes the coalition of political parties, when it sanctions in its first paragraph that,
“The President of the Republic, at the beginning of the legislature, as well as when the seat of the Prime Minister remains vacant, appoints the Prime Minister on the proposal of the party or coalition of parties, which has the majority of seats in the Assembly.”
The proposed changes, if they continue to be considered and approved, in addition to the unconstitutionality of the process itself, will create conflicts with this provision that recognizes the competence of the President of the Republic to accept the appointment of the Prime Minister by the party or “coalition” that has won the majority of seats after the election process.
Thus, the provision of Article 68 of the Constitution that is intended to be changed, with the absurd justification that there was a change made in 2008 in a hurry and that coalitions could and should have been provided only in the Electoral Code and not in the Constitution, falls down, in relation to the provision of Article 96 of the Constitution, which has never been changed over the years and which clearly recognizes the organization of political parties in coalitions.
It should be noted that Article 96 of the Constitution, as a very essential provision for the formation of the government, was established in the 1998 Referendum and is untouched!
The President of the Republic considers that the Constitution is the fundamental law of the state and can not be treated as a worthless document, which can be changed unilaterally and without any comprehensive discussion, to achieve the narrow political objectives of the moment of a political force.
Such a one-sided behavior further deepens not only the political conflict in the country, but also the institutional conflict.
As the guarantor of the Constitution and the unity of the people, the President of the Republic will exercise all constitutional responsibilities to hold back such an unprecedented action in 30 years of pluralism.
Such a unilateral act will not be recognized by the President of the Republic, who represents the unity of the people and is the only institutional guarantor of the Constitution that currently operates in the country.