Albania: monitors call on all political forces to overcome political crisis and commit to electoral reform

Following a visit to Tirana, the co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Albania, Andrej Hunko (Germany, UEL) and Joseph O’Reilly (Ireland, EPP/CD), have called on all political forces in Albania to show the political will to resolve the systemic political crisis that has plagued the country.

“We reiterate our position that parliament is the forum for political dialogue and discussion, and that therefore boycotts and the burning of political mandates should have no place in a democratic society. At the same time the ruling majority should pay more than just lip-service to the role of the opposition in a pluralist democracy, and engage in genuine dialogue and consultation with the opposition on important reforms and the political challenges that the country is facing,” emphasised the two co-rapporteurs.

In addition, they urged all political forces to refrain from any actions that could increase tension and further undermine political pluralism in the country. They welcomed the recent Venice Commission opinion on the scope of the President’s power to set the dates of elections, which noted that, although the President might have exceeded his constitutional competences by cancelling and postponing the local elections without a specific legal basis this would in its view not warrant the impeachment of the President. The co-rapporteurs expressed the hope that all political forces would take this opinion, and its conclusions, into account.

In the view of the co-rapporteurs, electoral reform followed by elections could be key to overcoming the political crisis. All political forces, including the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary opposition, should be fully engaged in the electoral reform process in order to address shortcomings noted during previous elections, and – once and for all – to decide on a framework for genuinely democratic elections that has the agreement and trust of all political stakeholders.

The co-rapporteurs welcomed the repeatedly-expressed commitment of the authorities to reform the judiciary and the justice system in Albania. With regard to the ongoing vetting of judges and prosecutors, the co-rapporteurs noted the high number of dismissals and resignations a result of this process. While, in their view, this underscored the necessity for the vetting process, they expressed concern that, more than a year after the process has started, key judicial institutions such as the High and Constitutional Courts, as well as the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutors and Courts, had still not been appointed or established due to a lack of vetted candidates. They therefore welcomed assurances that these institutions will be functioning before the end of the year.

“This is especially relevant with regard to the establishment of the Constitutional Court, which could play an important role in defusing political tension, as there is currently no independent arbiter to decide on the constitutionality of decisions and their outcome by the different authorities,” the co-rapporteurs underlined.

The co-rapporteurs were concerned by suggestions from several journalists and NGOs that the media environment is deteriorating. They called on the authorities to take into account all recommendations made by the OSCE Representative on the Freedom of the Media concerning the draft law on media and services, and to publish this draft law as soon as possible, in order to dispel any concerns that it would limit freedom of expression in the country.

The co-rapporteurs said they intend to present an information note on their visit during the December meeting of PACE’s Monitoring Committee.