Explaining The Albanian Opposition’s Gamble To Force A New Election

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The leader of the Democratic Party (PD) Lulzim Basha announced today that the parliamentary group has voted unanimously for resigning their parliamentary mandates in order to force early elections.

This means that if the National Council of the PD approves the decision, all 43 PD MPs will resign from their mandate in accordance with art. 71(2)(b) of the Constitution. A collective declaration of withdrawal itself, such as made by Basha today, is not enough, as clearly stipulated in Electoral Code art. 164(1): “Preliminary individual or collective agreements or declarations to withdraw from a seat do not constitute reasons for the interruption of the mandate.”

All PD MPs will be required to “declare publicly, in front of the respective Assembly’s committee, his/her refusal to take the oath or his/her withdrawal from the seat.” Once the MP has announced their withdrawal, Parliament has to notify the Central Election Commission (KQZ) within 30 days of the vacancy.

According to art. 164(2) of the Electoral Code, the mandate is then “transferred to the next candidate on the list of the same political party in the respective electoral zone.” This means that in order for the decision of the PD parliamentary group to be actually successful, that also all 151 unelected candidates on the 2017 electoral list of the PD will have to refuse in front of Parliament to take the oath of office.

This may actually take quite a while. Parliament has 30 days to inform the KQZ, which will then announce 43 new PD MPs, which will all have to come to Parliament, refuse to take the oath, after which Parliament has to inform the KQZ, and so on. Rather than coming to Parliament, the candidate MPs may also choose to fail to report to Parliament for 30 days, after which their mandate passes to the next candidate, etc.

A brief calculation shows this means that at least eight rounds of nomination and rejection will need to take place until the PD’s entire list is depleted. This is caused by the fact that in Gjirokastra, the PD won only one seat, but had a list of nine candidates. The electoral zone that will run out of candidates fastest is Kukës, where the PD has two MPs and four candidates on the list.

Assuming that this calculation is correct, the fastest scenario in which the PD can exhaust all its candidates is something like three weeks, assuming that each “round” takes an unrealistic two days. In the worst case, when Speaker of Parliament Gramoz Ruçi decides to draw out the entire process, and none of the new candidate MPs actually show up in person, the process might take 16 months!

At the moment that the PD has exhausted its list of party candidates from a particular electoral zone, the party with the largest quotient in the same coalition will be assigned the seats, as per Electoral code art. 164(4). However, the PD was not part of any coalition, so it is legally unclear where the remaining seats will go. This will therefore may require an interpretation by the KQZ, which can then be appealed at the Constitutional Court, which… does not exist.

So the PD has taken the gamble that the unclarity of the Electoral Code and the absence of the Constitutional Court will create either a vacuum in Parliament and will force Rama’s hand, either to go full-blown autocracy and fill Parliament with his own people, or announce early elections.

Much of what happens next will depend on whether Lulzim Basha and the PD will actually keep strong under the onslaught of international pressure by Rama’s friends in EU and US diplomatic circles. If they do not, all is lost for his party and he might as well resign and leave the country. If he does, he might have a chance to win a battle, but it is far from certain he might actually win the war.

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