The Venice Commission approved on Friday a final opinion on President Ilir Meta’s decision to cancel June 30 as an election date.
In a statement, the VC notes that its experts are of the opinion that although the President may have acted beyond his constitutional powers, his actions do not justify his dismissal.
Following the plenary hearing of Albanian President Ilir Meta’s case on cancelling the election date, the statement mainly focuses on whether or not to dismiss Meta, as the parliament has already set up a special investigative commission inquiry.
“While the President may have acted beyond his constitutional powers, there are indications that his actions may not have been of such a nature as to justify his dismissal,” the statement said, referring to expert conclusions.
In fact, the draft opinion which surfaced one week ago stated that “the President has exceeded his constitutional powers by announcing and postponing local elections beyond the local authorities’ electoral mandate without a specific legal basis. However, the elements set forth above could lead to the conclusion that these acts may not have been of a sufficiently serious nature to authorize the dismissal of the President.”
On Friday’s final report, it was stated that “even in the case of a state of emergency, such as war or natural disaster, the Assembly would have to adopt special legislation to delay elections.”
In the draft opinion, the VC experts, given the situation in Albania, point out that Meta may have had legitimate intentions, but that he had no legal basis for the decision.
“Annulment of elections is possible only in situations that meet the requirement to declare a state of emergency. However, the applicable constitutional rules for emergency situations have not been followed in this case. There has not even been a political consensus that would have allowed the definition of an ad hoc legal basis.”
According to the statement, “in response to the political crisis in the country and an election boycott by some major political parties, the President initially canceled and then postponed the local elections.”
The draft opinion gave a more detailed explanation of this, given that the opposition boycott was one of Meta’s arguments to cancel June 30 as the main opposition forces did not participate in those elections. And according to experts, “the boycott of elections by political parties, even if they represent a significant part of the electorate, cannot hinder the conduct of regular elections. Otherwise, these parties would take the power to completely hinder any elections.”
Referring to Parliament’s ruling on the case, the statement notes that “even if the Parliament was to find that the President exceeded his powers, the Venice Commission questions whether the action was of such a character as to prove a ‘serious violation,’” while further adding that “even if the Assembly were to determine the seriousness of the violations, this should not necessarily lead to dismissal, taking into account the power of the plenary session to consider other constitutional purposes, such as safeguarding of checks and balances and stability in the country.”
While noting that the president’s decree was not challenged before a court, in Friday’s statement, it is underlined by the Venice Commission that “if parliament were to favor dismissal, it would ultimately be up to the Constitutional Court, which currently does not function, to confirm whether the President’s decisions are “serious” violations that would justify his dismissal.”
The draft opinion of the Venice Commission was criticized by Meta last week.
At the heart of the objection was the fact that, in his view, legal assessments “are insufficient unless they are decided in the light of the extreme circumstances in which they are applied.” According to Meta, “the draft opinion is often contradictory” and “one gets the impression that the experts of the Venice Commission are a priori guided by some fixed ideas, making the facts and analysis inconsistent with the conclusions of the draft opinion.”
On Friday, however, Meta’s Spokesperson Ted Blushi issued another statement, blaming the Socialist government of “misusing” the VC draft opinion in order to wrongly inform Albanians of the commission’s opinion of Meta’s legitimacy and breach of the constitution.
“I will let you know and confirm with the utmost responsibility that the Venice Commission reiterated that the President of the Republic has not violated the Constitution of the Republic of Albania. The Venice Commission has also highly praised the President’s calls for dialogue and his efforts to reach a compromise between the parties that were instrumental in resolving the crisis,” Blushi’s statement said.