President says he canceled June 30 elections due to parties' "conflict agreement"

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 9, 2019 13:55

President says he canceled June 30 elections due to parties'

TIRANA, Sept. 9 - Albanian President Ilir Meta told the parliamentary investigative commission on Monday that he canceled the June 30 local elections because the opposition was not participating and needed to protect the right of citizens to vote.

Meta cited Bulgaria's precedent in the Strasbourg Court in front of the parliamentary commission investigating his act regarding the local elections. 

"Our constitution is clear, and the Convention on Human Rights clearly explains the difference between voting and elections," Meta said.

He presented the Strasbourg Court's ruling in 2015, where single-candidate elections were considered fictitious, denying citizens the right to vote.

"In 2015 the Strasbourg court ruled in a similar case against Bulgaria, where some Bulgarian nationals of Turkish descent claimed a violation of their right to vote. The Court has reasoned that: 'the right to vote guaranteed by Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 is not limited to the action of electing a candidate and casting his ballot in the ballot box. The vote of every voter should create the opportunity for the latter to influence the formation of legislative bodies, otherwise the right to vote, the election process and, consequently, democratic order in general, would lack the right to the substance of the law. Calling elections with one candidate means creating a fictitious process, thus denying citizens the right to vote. For this matter, Bulgaria was sentenced to a fine," said Meta. 

The Albanian parliament, at the request of 55 deputies, launched a dismissal procedure against Meta for heavy violations of the Constitution. 

Responding to questions from the parliamentary inquiry commission, Meta stressed that his decision to postpone the election was the only solution under conditions when both political parties, he said, "had a conflict agreement." 

He said that the conditions set by the leader of the Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha, not to sit in dialogue with Prime Minister Edi Rama, and the condition of the head of government not to negotiate a new election date were unacceptable.

Meta said he could not allow any policeman to be killed by both furious demonstrators and "the PM's often poisonous language."

"The OSCE also mentioned in its report that the president made repeated calls for dialogue. I made an effort, but there were two obstacles, first the stubbornness of the Prime Minister not to discuss the possibility of postponing June 30 and the second stubbornness of the DP Chairman not to sit at a table with Rama as Prime Minister," said Meta

He added that he disagreed with the opposition when it said it did not hold the people accountable for the demonstrations, but never agreed with the government's rallies, which were essentially anti-rallies. 

"Every time the opposition came to protest on the boulevard, Rama also organized rallies against the opposition regardless of the fact there was a more important task at hand and regardless of the fact that his often poisonous language aggravated the protesters," Meta said.

The president emphasized that by issuing that decree he defended the right of Albanian citizens to vote and avoided an undemocratic process of voting with one candidate.

"On Saturday before I decided on such an act, after I was introduced to the secret state documents that the Albanian Parliament could burn, I momentarily acted the best I could It was impossible for me to call a table, when the two sides had an agreement on confrontation, it was my duty to avoid consequences that would hurt Albanian citizens," said President Meta.

He added that the president could do nothing but postpone the election when both sides wanted a confrontation, that he could not wait for a policeman to lose his life because it would be a huge bill for the stability and credibility of the country. 

Asked by the commission's leader Ulsi Manja, Meta also said he had warned opposition leader Lulzim Basha that if something like this happened, the consequences would be entirely the opposition's fault.

"This has also been my warning to Basha when I got on the phone as the protests started and when protesters left for the parliament, and I made a public call for the protesters to be dispersed, the message was clear to Basha and others that if they were there, it would be their sole responsibility as they had been warned in advance," Meta said. 

Meanwhile, analyst Afrim Krasniqi said today's session will go down in history as the first time an initiative has been taken to oust the republic's president, despite the initiative being destined to fail.

"Today's act of the parliamentary commission to question the head of state and the decision of the President of the Republic to go there is more of an attempt by both parties to follow the procedures provided by the Constitution. Both parties are aware that today's hearing was more a part of public relations, than a solution to the crisis," Krasniqi said. 

"Special today were the low tones and the courtesy displayed, so much that it seemed the meeting was not seeking the dismissal of the head of state, but clarifying a misunderstanding of statements. The de facto dismissal of the President is difficult, not to say impossible. From a legal point of view, the majority needs to collect two thirds of votes with the new opposition in Parliament, to hope that the Venice Commission will not speak out and that the Constitutional Court will function and confirm the dismissal," said political analyst Lutfi Dervishi.

This is the first time in the history of Albanian pluralism that a president faces an investigative commission to be questioned on suspicion of violating the Constitution, risking his dismissal.

This process can only be concluded with an interpretation and decision by the Constitutional Court, which is still not functional.



Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 9, 2019 13:55