VC: “President exceeded constitutional powers, but no grounds for dismissal”

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 4, 2019 09:13

VC: “President exceeded constitutional powers, but no grounds for dismissal”

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  • In their conclusions, having analyzed the case in detail, the commission's experts point out that “in the absence of a legal provision, the President can only cancel elections to local government bodies only in an extraordinary situation that meets the criteria for taking action,” but according to them “even then the President needs a specific legal basis to postpone the elections.”

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TIRANA, Oct. 3 – The Venice Commission assessed in its draft report that President Ilir Meta acted in excess of his constitutional powers in deciding to cancel June 30 as the date of local elections, but that it did not constitute a serious breach that would lead to his dismissal.

In their conclusions, having analyzed the case in detail, the commission’s experts point out that “in the absence of a legal provision, the President can only cancel elections to local government bodies only in an extraordinary situation that meets the criteria for taking action,” but according to them “even then the President needs a specific legal basis to postpone the elections.”

Further on, in the commission’s draft opinion “the cancellation of elections is only possible in situations that meet the requirement to declare a state of emergency. However, the applicable constitutional rules for emergency situations were not followed in this case. There was not even a political consensus that would allow the creation of an ad-hoc legal basis.”

The document also states that “the cancellation of elections also affects the electoral rights recognized by international human rights instruments.”

Meta, defending his act, said that as long as the right to set an election date is recognized, it automatically grants the right to change or cancel it. According to the document drafted by experts, the power to set the election date has been vested in the President “because of the neutral position that the Albanian Constitution attributes to the President of the Republic as the Head of State and as the body” representing the unity of the people. 

Further noted, “these qualifications do not mean that the President’s authority is over politics. They mean the president must stay out of party politics in order to ensure, among other things, fair competition between the parties and the proper functioning of any form of government and its activities. 

While Meta has stressed the lack of the main opposition forces in the local elections, Venice experts on the other hand point out that “the electoral boycott by political parties, even if they represent a significant part of the electorate, cannot prevent regular elections. Otherwise, these parties would get the leverage to completely hinder any election.” 

Analyzing the opposition’s decision not to run in the local elections, the Venice Commission explains that “the boycott itself does not lead to a constitutional crisis or instability of public order, but it can happen after elections if elected political parties do not hold sufficient efforts to reform the constitutional system and communicate with abstained political parties or the electorate. Postponing elections is thus not the only solution to deal with the situation.”

Experts further note that “the right to vote includes the right to choose between candidates. The absence of the two main opposition parties, the DP and the SMI, could really affect the right to vote. However, it was not the Albanian State that prevented these parties from contesting the elections, but the parties themselves decided to boycott the elections.”

While they have no doubt that “the President exceeded his powers under the Constitution, first by announcing local elections and then by postponing them,” experts from the Venice Commission point out that “it is up to the parliament and finally to the Constitutional Court to determine whether this would constitute ‘serious violations,’ which would allow a dismissal of the President.”

Experts, on their part, consider that “a number of factors indicate that the character of the President’s actions did not constitute the necessary aim to establish a serious violation. This is particularly relevant to the President’s calls for dialogue, the expectation that postponing the elections would contribute to parties’ compromising, the lack of a law that precisely regulates the powers of the President, the inability to directly challenge them, the Presidential Decrees before a court and the constitutional status of local elections compared to parliamentary elections.”

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 4, 2019 09:13