Two MPs, Kavaja Mayor become first decriminalization victims
TIRANA, Dec. 29 – Albania’s Central Election Commission has ruled to strip three elected officials of their mandates over hiding their criminal past in declarations made earlier in 2016 as part of a decriminalization law scanning all public office holders over their integrity.
Ruling Socialist Movement for Integration MP Shkelqim Selami, Party for Justice Integration and Unity MP Dashamir Tahiri and Socialist Party Kavaja Mayor Elvis Roshi have all had their mandates removed after the general prosecutor’s office identified non-disclosure of criminal offences while abroad in their self-declaration forms.
All three officials say they will appeal the decisions with the country’s Constitutional Court which is little likely to overrule the Central Election Commission decisions.
Prime Minister Rama has already signed the dismissal of Elvis Roshi, the controversial mayor of Kavaja, a city some 50 km off Tirana. Roshi was arrested last June over false declarations in filling in his declaration form but later released under house arrest. Prosecutors unveiled Roshi, 38, had failed to report his drug and rape convictions in Switzerland and Italy in the 1990s when he was a migrant.
Kavaja, a municipality of some 40,000 residents which in the past five years had been run by Roshi is now expected to elect a new mayor in early 2017 ahead of next June general elections.
The situation for the two dismissed MPs is simpler as they will be replaced with other MPs from their parties’ MP candidate lists.
The departure of MP Dashamir Tahiri who had shifted with the opposition Democrats will give an extra MP to the Party for Justice, Integration and Unity, a ruling Socialist Party ally, further strengthening the ruling coalition ahead of the new mid-2017 general elections.
The General Prosecutor’s Office says they are investigating into 20 other senior elected officials, MPs and mayors who are suspected of having hidden their criminal past in the self-declaration forms.
Welcoming the decision, the U.S. embassy in Tirana hailed it as victory for the Albanian people and a warning for criminals considering whether to become candidates in the June 18 parliamentary elections. “Elected or appointed officials filing false declarations should be punished to the full extent of the law. Persons with criminal records should have no place representing the Albanian people,” the embassy said.
The late 2015 decriminalization law that took almost two years to get approved forced more than 1800 elected officials and civil servants to provide information on whether they had a criminal past and authorized the General Prosecutor’s Office to check their statements with foreign authorities.