Democrats return to parliament

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 29, 2014 13:59

Democrats return to parliament

Story Highlights

  • EU parliamentarians mediate deal that ended six-month boycott and allowed opposition MPs to return to their seats as deadline of losing them loomed.

TIRANA, Dec. 24 – The Albanian Parliament ended its last session for 2014 with the highest attendance since summer, as the main opposition Democratic Party of Tirana Mayor Lulzim Basha ended its lengthy boycott.

Democrats returned to parliament after an agreement mediated by two European lawmakers — Eduard Kukan of the European People’s Party and Knut Fleckenstein of the Progressive Alliance of the Socialists and Democrats, representing the European Parliament’s center-right and leftist groupings.

The opposition Democrats Tirana Mayor Lulzim Basha have been missing from parliament since July and started the official boycott in September, citing a series of grievances, including a physical attack on one of its MPs by two governing coalition MPs, who now face criminal charges. The opposition has also complained it is entirely sidestepped in parliament due to the governing coalition’s overwhelming 3/5 parliamentary majority.

The deal comes just in time to prevent the Democrats from losing their seats in parliament, which automatically expire after a six-month absence.

The opposition asked for international mediation, urging European parliamentarians Kukan and Fleckenstein to come to Tirana in the last days to help draft a resolution that was passed Wednesday unanimously with 126 votes.

The two political groupings have agreed to continue political dialogue, work together on important reforms and not allow people with criminal records take public or political posts. It also stressed that the assistance from the European Parliament will continue.

The session did not go smoothly, however. The Democrats asked the change of the daily agenda to deal only with the resolution, a proposal rejected by the Socialists.

It is a sign analysts believe indicates troubles ahead in January.

The governing coalition of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama and Parliamentary Speaker Ilir Meta of the Socialist Movement for Integration elected in June 2013 has a strong majority of 84 seats in the 140-seat house.

In a joint statement from the two European lawmakers, Kukan and Fleckenstein said they had worked to “to encourage the Albanian political partners to re-establish cross-party political dialogue and find solution to efficient functioning of the parliament.”

They also offered the bases for the political agreement which was later signed by both sides.

The agreement notes that the opposition returns to parliament, while ruling majority will not use its (3/5) majority to bypass the opposition but will seek together with the opposition “consensus on important reforms whenever possible.”

They urged political dialogue, primarily in the parliament, and the respect of the Constitution and systemic implementation of decisions of the Constitutional Court.

The agreement said both groupings should also review the rules on efficient functioning of the parliamentary inquiry committees.

The Albanian main political parties should also together, and with the EU help, agree to stop individuals with criminal records hold or seek to be elected or nominated to a public office.

Most of these points were requests of the opposition Democrats.

Kukan and Fleckenstein made separate visits to Tirana Dec. 19 and 22 meeting with Prime Minister Rama and Speaker Meta in the governing coalition and also Lulzim Basha of the main opposition Democrats.

Both Albania’s governing Socialist-led leftist coalition and the main opposition Democratic Party hailed the efforts of the EU parliamentarians who came to help.

Taulant Balla of the Socialists hailed the “principle-based stand” of both representatives of the two biggest groupings at the European Parliament and considered their statement “100 percent in line with the stand of the European Parliament.”

The Democrats also hailed the statement and expressed their readiness to reenter parliament as stated in the resolution.

Democrats started their boycott in July after one of their lawmakers was physically beaten by two governing Socialist counterparts. Then in September the party decided to continue its boycott formally asking the ruling majority to respect the Constitutional Court decisions, stop avoiding their requests and calls for parliamentary investigative commissions, as well as expel from parliament a number of lawmakers Democrats say have a criminal past.


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 29, 2014 13:59