Albania Crisis – MP Candidates break party ranks and take up vacated seats in Parliament

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Empty seats left by opposition parties at the Albanian Parliament are expected to fill up in coming weeks.

Tirana, Albania | 08 March 2019 (Tirana Echo) – Candidates on electoral lists have begun taking up vacated seats in Albania’s parliament, following an unprecedented decision by the country’s opposition parties to give up their mandates.

Following the decision by the Democratic Party (PD) and the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) to give up their parliamentary mandates ‘en-block’, the Central Elections Commission has kicked off the replacement procedure to fill up 56 vacated seats out of 140 total in parliament.

Four new MP’s from the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) were sworn in at Tuesday’s plenary session in parliament while 6 others, from both DP and LSI are expected to enter next week. Together with three existing opposition MPs who have refused to give up their mandate, the total number goes to 13 with 46 vacated seats to go.

After Lefter Koka (LSI), Rudina Hajdari (PD) and Myslym Murrizi (PD) refused to obey party orders, 4 replacement candidates from electoral lists of the LSI will now join them in parliament.

Edmond Rushi and Ylli Shehu from the Tirana LSI list as well as Enver Roshi from the district of Elbasan and Aurora Mara from Dibër, have now sworn in, grabbing vacated seats by their party colleagues.

Sources close to the Central Elections Commission have told Tirana Echo that they expect the number to rise rapidly, in what is seen as an unprecedented course of action which may end up with public condemnation of PD and LSI, pushing them further away from the formal political system.

Democratic Party chairman Lulzim Basha said the newcomers are traitors who have shamed their families and the country.

They are the traitors who will never be forgiven by history. May God have mercy on their souls, as they have now lost their face in front of all Albanians,” said Basha to his supporters during the last opposition protest in front of the parliament building.

According to Albania’s Electoral Code, parliament is elected out of a regional-proportional system with political parties proposing ‘closed electoral lists’, with a fixed order of candidates for MP.

The system has been heavily criticized by many analysts who say that fixed closed lists which were decided after a 2008 joint agreement between the socialists and democrats, give party leaders full control over who gets into parliament, penalizing independent-minded candidates and undermining the quality of the law-making process.

However, the unprecedented legal ground created by the radical decision by opposition parties to give up their seats in protest of ruling socialist PM Edi Rama, has obliged the Central Elections Commission (CEC) to kick start the process of replacing vacated seats with the next in line candidates.

PM Rama has vowed to continue his ‘people given mandate’ and push forward with justice reform and upcoming local elections in June.

In the meantime, Albania hopes to formally start membership talks with the European Union this year, pending on tangible results of a milestone and controversial reform of its highly corrupt justice system.

The United States and the European Union have called on individual opposition MPs to reject their party leadership line arguing the extreme decision would “undermine the basic principles of democracy and subvert the important progress Albania has achieved on rule of law and responsible governance.

Echoing such calls yesterday, the EU General Director for Enlargement Christian Danielsson said in Tirana that Albania faces challenges but the only democratic way to solve issues remains to engage in Parliament and that incitement to violent actions in protests is absolutely unacceptable.

I have emphasized that the decision by members of the opposition to give up their parliamentary mandates en-block, seriously undermines the path of Albania towards the EU. The insecurity must be overcome urgently and the normal democratic life must be restored.” said Danielsson after meeting with opposition representatives.

Opposition parties have called on their supporters to join them on a ‘decisive’ protest in Tirana on March 16th.

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