Albania President Rejects New Interior Minister Appointment – Adding to Fears of Constitutional Deadlock

Ilir Meta, Sander Lleshi, Edi Rama
Ilir Meta, Sander Lleshi, Edi Rama (from left to right)

Tirana, Albania | 04 Nov 2018 (Tirana Echo) – Albania’s President Ilir Meta  has refused to decree the nomination of Sandër Lleshi as the country’s new interior minister, in what is seen by many as an unprecedented and anti-constitutional move which may further aggravate the small Balkan nation’s political tensions. 

President Meta who immediately accepted the resignation last week of the former interior minister Fatmir Xhafaj, took the entire constitutionally granted  period of 7 days before trumpeting his refusal to accept Lleshi’s nomination by the prime minister to the media.

Following a formal meeting with Mr. Lleshi, the President’s press office sent a brief note confirming that “The President of the Republic, Mr. Ilir Meta, is not fully convinced in order to grant his full trust to the nomination of Mr. Sandër Lleshi as Minister of Interior”.

The rejection adds to growing rifts between President Meta and Albania’s socialist prime minister Edi Rama whose party’s votes catapulted Meta to the presidential position in April 2017, and creates an unprecedented constitutional muddle which may lead to further tensions in the country’s political stage.

Meta has similarly refused to decree the appointment of a new head of Albania’s secret service (SHISH) and may also block the upcoming appointment of the director of the High State Audit (KLSH). None of these decisions can be appealed as the small Balkan country does not currently have a functioning constitutional court. 

Mr. Meta, a former prime minister and founder of the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) which shared a governing coalition with Rama’s Socialist Party up to last year’s general elections, has not given any legal reasons for blocking Lleshi’s nomination.

However, earlier last week, Albanian media reported that the President’s office was expecting the Ministry of Defence to clarify Lleshi’s military status within the armed forces. The Albanian Constitution forbids any minister to hold another parallel position within state structures.

Despite unexplained hesitations from the president, Albania’s constitution does not grant the President explicit rights to refuse a ministerial nomination. The country’s Constitution says the “Minister is appointed or released from duty  by the President of the Republic following a proposal by the Prime Minister, within 7 days”.

Given the circumstances, PM Rama can either impeach President Meta or bypass this refusal by appointing Lleshi as Deputy-Minister of Interior and subsequently handing him over all ministerial competencies.

The President’s impeachment is currently made impossible as the country is currently without a functioning Constitutional Court, following a major unforeseen delay of vetting its judges as part of a controversial reform of the justice system, backed by US and EU diplomats.

Following Meta’s decision, PM Rama met with the President on Sunday afternoon without much information about the substance of the talks made public.

Earlier, Rama had allegedly texted all his socialist MPs warning them to refrain from any negative comments on the presidential refusal.

Please, no comments from anyone on the President’s decision! We are the majority and we have the duty to care for our people and the constitution maturely and decisively.  Politics is like Chess, do not forget this!” – Rama told his MPs.

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