President calls for referendum in country's protection

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 24, 2019 11:07

President calls for referendum in country's protection

TIRANA, Nov. 24 - Albanian President Ilir Meta called for a referendum on Friday "in protection of the Republic" according to him, but without specifying what the referendum should focus on.

In a special speech he first praised the Constitution adopted 21 years ago, on November 22. 

"Designed to lay the foundations of a state that guarantees the fundamental freedoms and rights of the individual, the separation and non-usurpation of powers, the preservation of sovereignty and the building of the country's European and Euro-Atlantic future, the Constitution of '98 enabled restoring social peace and normal political rotation in the country," said Meta, also recalling that "this Constitution, which still enjoys the respect, esteem and nostalgia of all Albanian citizens, was unfortunately abolished overnight in complete darkness by the political agreement of parties of 2008."

Meta spoke in a critical tone about other changes that the Constitution underwent in 2016 as part of the Justice Reform, which he said "have highlighted three other acute problems today, which, to be true, were warned they would happen. First, the Constitution turned into a regulation with dates and deadlines, which unfortunately have all been violated. This excess of time has caused a constitutional and legal chaos that is leading to the paralysis and destabilization of the entire justice system in the country," the president noted.

"Secondly, as the Venice Commission had warned, the implementation of this drastic and unprecedented process would have to be cautious, gradual given the human resources available. The aim of the reform was not the bankruptcy of the judicial system, but its profound reform and the increase of its credibility towards the citizens, the Albanian justice,", said Meta. "Thirdly, Meta said the implementation of such constitutional changes should be done while maintaining a spirit of cooperation, to ensure that new justice institutions are not seized by the political force in power. 

For President Meta "as if all this were not enough, we are now facing an even more dramatic situation, where the Constitution of the Republic of Albania, as recommended by the Venice Commission, is being openly violated with the sole aim of concentrating all powers in the hands of the current Prime Minister." 


What the Constitution and the Law on Referendums foresee


Nonetheless, his call for a referendum was in general terms, and it remains unclear what Albanians will have to say about it. The special referendum law of 2003 provides for a Constitutional Referendum, or General Referendum, in addition to the Local Referendum. Although President Ilir Meta's speech was largely focused on the Constitution, this does not appear to be the option he may be considering, as in this case, the request for a Constitutional Referendum is initiated by parliament, by a third of the deputies and should receive two-thirds of its approval before it can be done.

Meta will likely be able to refer to Article 150 (1) of the Constitution, while says "the people, through 50'000 citizens with the right to vote, has the right to a referendum to dispower a law, as well as ask the President of the Republic to hold a referendum on issues of particular importance."

In this case, under the law "the matter must be formulated clearly, thoroughly and without equivalence, and in such a way that the electorate responds with 'YES' or 'NO.' Here comes the question of what would be the issue that would solve the problems listed by him, with a "YES" or "NO". All the more so when it seems that in this version the Constitution cannot be touched.

The procedure followed in this case is not very fast. The request is first passed to the Central Elections Commission, which decides whether or not to approve the request within 90 days, and then, if it approves, conducts and verifies the signature collection process.

For referendums on issues of particular importance, the 2016 constitutional amendments have avoided the need for an assessment by the Constitutional Court, although they have not been reflected in the relevant law, leaving a gap for the steps to be followed.

However, everything will be clearer as the president himself gives more detailed explanations of what kind of referendum he is referring to.


US Embassy advises parties to consult Venice Commission on CC establishment 


The US Embassy to Tirana issued a statement on Thursday advising political parties in Albania to consult the Venice Commission's legal opinion for the differing interpretations regarding the nomination process of Constitutional Court members. 

"In the absence of an appropriate Albanian legal institution that could rule on the diverging interpretations, the United States supports referring the question to the Venice Commission as a competent, neutral third party for its legal opinion. We further encourage disputing parties to abide by the Venice Commission's legal opinion," the statement reads. 

It says this strategy would be fully consistent with the country's European aspirations. 

"Albania's legal institutions, the constitution, and judicial reform implementing laws must guide the process of resolving these disputed interpretations," it further reads. 

The statement highlights the ongoing judicial reform is among the US' highest priorities in Albania and its progress is essential for advancing Albania's European future. 

"The United States will continue to stand by Albania as it undertakes these essential reforms as a friend, a partner, and an ally," it concludes. 


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 24, 2019 11:07