Majority to respect Venice Commission, vote constitutional amendments on July 30

Speech by Prime Minister Edi Rama at today’s plenary session of Parliament:

I can inform you that the Venice Commission has underlined in its report not one, but a series of violations committed by the President of the Republic.

The violations are written in black and white.

A series of violations committed by the President of the Republic, which clearly justify the fairness of our decision to make these violation a subject to a special Parliamentary Inquiry Committee that has carried out a voluminous work and has provided a huge contribution through its respective recommendations, based on the entire analysis of the Venice Commission report and the respective findings about the activity of the President of the Republic in aspects we have deemed reasonable to launch such a process.

This case also represents another opportunity to clearly distinguish the difference between us and everything wrongfully or maliciously and deviously is said about us.

We have very carefully read the Venice Commission report and we have never considered the Venice Commission as an annex, but as a reference point for our activity  and since according to its opinion the Commission cannot clearly determine “whether the violations are not serious enough to dismiss the President,” we have carefully examined the conclusions drawn by the Venice Commission that doesn’t recommend us to dismiss President, but it recommends that we take actions in the future so that we can limit the scope of abuse by President. And it is not about the current President in office, but any future President, in order to make sure that in a Parliamentary Republic a President can do neither what this one is doing and what future presidents, based on the bad example of the current President, can commit.

There is a series of established and clearly argued violations.

Venice’s water has not washed out the President! Quite the contrary, it has revealed all violations one by one. These violations are related to a political will to exercise power unilaterally and act as the opposition’s tutor while serving in the office of the President of the Republic. This is the truth and everyone knows it.

Somebody here said something that is randomly stated by many others and it is constantly reiterated, suggesting that “it was us the ones to elect the President of the Republic.” However, anyone making such a statement forgets that Ilir Meta was elected as President with his and our votes we lacked to name another President. This is what they tend to forget. Back then I have stated that we voted in the best President that the opposition could have ever elected.

Of course, I myself did not cross my mind that the President would show such an amiable inclination towards the opposition that he would become bad for Albania by resorting to acts of vandalism against the Constitution and actions that run completely counter to the tradition established in that office by previous presidents of different profiles who came from various walks of life, but who never broke the limits of the constitutional framework.

I have stated it previously and I would like to reiterate the fact that former president Bujar Nishani would resemble George Washington if compared to the current President Ilir Meta. If we were to draw a distinction between the statements issued by Bujar Nishani and his actions while in the office of the president we can openly say that he absolutely respected the Constitution.

The same could be said about other previous presidents, but not about Ilir Meta.

Ilir Meta has turned the President’s office into a headquarters of one-sided political operations and into a fire-setting hotbed or a hotbed of arson by using the Constitution as a letter and his anger against this majority as gasoline. However, we, not only in the case in question, but in every case – and by “we” I mean the whole parliamentary majority – first and foremost are here to guarantee in every step and in every decision the right relationship with ourselves and the people. For the sake of this report and for the sake of the mission we have to emancipate Albanian politics, governance and the relations of a majority with the very sense of the state, we cannot ignore or pretend as we are not reading that point Venice Commission report, stating that, “in spite of all the violations that he has openly committed, the violations are not serious enough as to justify the President’s dismissal.”

The Parliamentary Inquiry Commission has established that there is not a clear determination about a serious violation by President, what an action can be deemed a serious violation to then determine whether or not it is serious action, but the message we convey, in the view of the future rather than the past in this case and taking notice of this case as an opportunity to address in the future what turns out to be room for abuse is that we are not here to exercise the will of the majority without considering anything else  beyond of this will. That is to say, in respect of the opinion of the Venice Commission we have consistently referred to and to which we have always reacted positively, we will stick to what we will do next.

That the President has exceeded his powers;

That the President has disproportionately interfered with the right to elect and be elected;

That the President has violated the principle of the sovereignty of the people;

That the President who has violated the legal provisions for the election date;

That the president has not respected the principle of unity of the people – these are established facts based on the opinion of Venice.

These are not essays.

These are legally proven facts!

It is an indisputable fact that the President has violated and serves by constantly violating the Constitution in that office. But, in addition to the Constitution, the President has consistently violated the ethics of that institution, has consistently violated what is the reason for the existence of the institution of the President, which is: To be a symbol of national unity and to be above the parties and not hold rallies by siding with one party against another party. I hope he is the first and the last President –and by this I mean a future Albanian president and not other presidents in parliamentary republics either in Europe, Africa, or on any other continent – who shows up in a rally calling on people to overthrow the government.

It’s as unimaginable as it is ridiculous.

However, if Ilir Meta doesn’t mind becoming ridiculous, we cannot afford becoming non-serious and thoughtless about what another party tells us – a party above the parties in this case – which is the Venice Commission.

We have never claimed to be perfect, because we are simply not, we have never pretended to be infallible, because we are not, and, above all, we have never taken advantage of our majority to cover our mistakes and we have never escaped our mistakes thinking that they will be all forgotten.

Quite the contrary!

I would invite you to name a Prime Minister of Albania in the past 30 years, who has publicly issued an official apology when something turns out to be wrong!

We are absolutely aware that as long as we work, as people say, we also can make mistakes. But the difference between those who commit mistakes is great; when you acknowledge and admit it and reflect on your mistake, but when you pretend to be right, though, you know you are wrong.

To cut this part short, I want to emphasize that it is time when this Parliament should act through the will of these representatives of the people in this very hall to clarify the President’s formal and substantial powers, as well as envisage these powers on an organic law on the institution of the President.  A lot has been said about this organic law on the institution of the President previously, but for one reason or another initiative has not been taken forward and finalized over all these years. By “all over these years” I mean the past 20 to 25 years, and I am not referring to the past years we are in office. The organic law on the institution of the President should envisage the unlocking mechanisms in case of inaction in the exercise of powers, which would include clear provisions for not blocking the future electoral processes in the country and avoid creation of scandalous precedents that distort democracy and insult the sovereign people, where the provisions on procedures for the appointment of the court members are simplified to make sure that the process is based on the Venice Commission recommendations to ensure the nine-year term in office for each court justice and the respective mechanisms to unblock the process of nominations to the Constitutional Court, as well as other appointments to the country’s justice system.

What will parliaments do, what will parliamentary majorities or minorities do when they have to address problems of various natures? Will they continue to establish inquiry committees and engage in debates about the President’s whims?

It just can’t continue this way!

Just like it is no longer tolerable and it should not happen ever again that the President refuses to decree appointment of cabinet members.

It has never happened before!

All these should be addressed by a package that this parliament should undertake to vote, not for Ilir Meta, but for the institution of the President that is currently grabbed by throat and is being used as a tool to play party politics, take political position to attack for political purposes and incite conflict.

Of course, everyone is responsible for what they do and we are responsible for what we do. Therefore, despite the fact that we have a capricious President, who is ready to cooperate when things take a different turn – as it was the case during the first phase of the fight against Covid-19 – we are certainly ready. Because we are not serving Ilir Meta as a person, we are serving the country and the people.

It is not us the ones who incite conflicts, it is not us the ones who want conflicts, it is not us who live in conflict. But of course, we are elected to govern. We are not the ones who should follow the lead of those who have not been elected at the helm of the country.

This is the reason why on July 30 we all will vote the changes we have agreed upon, no matter whether they like it or not all those outside parliament think the more they threaten us the more they can gain.

They will gain nothing on that path!

We adopted the June 5 agreement here and we will stick to that deal. Those claiming that the July 30 would jeopardize the June 5 agreement are unaware of what they say. This is because the June 5 deal doesn’t block the provisions we need to reflect after the constitutional changes.

The content of the June 5 agreement focuses on the election administration, financing of the political parties and all these issues won’t be affected and will be fully implemented as we already agreed.

Of course, after the vote everyone has the right to keep on discussing. That’s why I reiterate my appeal to the Democratic Party and to the whole group outside parliament not to cease for a moment the July 30th vote.

July 30 is done!

It is an agreement signed by everyone and all those who have pledged to vote for it, will do so. This is a closed issue, because it is the will of this parliament, which could be considered illegitimate by Ilir Meta in certain cases, but not when it adopts the June 5 agreement. According to him, you are also illegitimate here, but not according to me. You are fully legitimate.

So, we are governing the country and this certainly pits us sometimes in conflicts that are not our choice. We have always resorted to dialogue, communication and interaction with everyone. I have never declined to sit in a table of talks with Lulzim Basha, who has constantly refused to sit with me. Socialist Party has never refused to sit at the same table with the Democratic Party, but it is the latter that has consistently refused to do so. The ad-hoc parliamentary commission on electoral reform, when we were both part of this commission, has never refused to include the Democratic Party in this commission, but it was the latter that has refused to join it sticking to its hostage-taking mentality. But nobody can take the Socialist Party and our parliamentary majority hostage. Nobody can take our government hostage.

I would like to tell all of those who describe this decision as a change of course towards Ilir Meta that they are wrong. It is not like that. It was us who thought that Ilir Meta should be dismissed and it is who now thinks that he should not be dismissed.

But we are different. The Venice Commission has provided us a clear sentence, saying “the violations are there but they are not that serious.” Although we think these violations are grave ones, but in respect of a simple truth that, we have never told ourselves that we are infallible and we have never based our decisions on the idea of ​​our infallibility, maybe they are right and we are not! I think we are right, yet, in this case, we don’t simply represent a group of people. We represent Albanian state. We represent the government of the Albanian state and as such we represent the government and the state seriously. This is simple.

In our view, Ilir Meta deserves to be discharged, but if the Venice Commission opinion doesn’t recommend this and since we have asked for the opinion of the Venice Commission as a good, wise and unbiased advisor then we should obey it.

Most importantly, the future should not involve more unconstitutional violations and vandalisms by the President’s office. Therefore, an organic law on President and other legal interventions are necessary to make sure that the head of state doesn’t act on his whims at a time when the Albanian people should go to elections, but instead he opts in more weird actions, we never think about them, because those who have written the Constitution have never thought about this.

As to the July 30, the Constitution clearly stipulates in black and white that the President has no powers to act on Parliament’s decision to change the Constitution. The President has no powers at all!

In this case, the President is not asked about an opinion. They should simply accept it, as everyone else will, just like Korab and Myslim did, though stating “we won’t recognize the ’98 constitution,” yet, you not only recognized, but also obeyed it. This will be also the case with the June 30 constitutional changes. You are all in a process of internal transformation that you will take forward to the end. And to take it to the end, you Korab should give up the nostalgia for the old party. The new party you may wish to establish should not resemble at all to the old one. Then it is up to you what to do with Ilir Meta. Perhaps you succeed in securing a number of MPs to force us and elect you as president. What will they supposedly say then? Will they say that “Edi Rama elected Koran as president?” No, you would become president thanks to your votes, just like it was the case with Ilir Meta. So, the July 30 vote is unchangeable. Let’s be clear on that. We can then discuss the candidate open-lists issue. We can of course accept 100% open lists. Yet, this can be done through discussion and not through ultimatums and statuses on what the united opposition decided to do.

Second, the coalitions will continue existing. It is not true that we are seeking to ban the pre-electoral coalitions.

We will deny nobody the right to come together under one same umbrella, but we will include this issue on the Electoral Code too. The Constitution is not a military regulation, although one can be forced to turn the Constitution into a regulation when having an individual like Ilir Meta as President. So, we will also examine this issue in the process and of course they are welcomed to join us in the discussion and table their options. Myslym Murrizi and Rudina Hajdari were there when we asked them to name a single country with the pre-electoral coalitions like us. And the answer we were provided was “this was found in a La Sapienza University book,” yet they were unable to name a country. The case of Latvia was provided in the most recent meeting that I didn’t attend. Yet the pre-election coalitions in Latvia are precisely organized the way we are proposing to organize them. The same goes over the pre-election coalition system in Kosovo. So, we are willing and ready to discuss everything.

Having a parliamentary and extra-parliamentary opposition is a trouble that befell us. We will cope with it to the end, but making it clear to both oppositions that none of them can demand everything the way they want them. And by making it clear to all of those outside the parliament that the fact they are not here doesn’t grant them any special power over us here in this hall, but quite the opposite. Therefore, let’s never forget that it is this hall where the decisions are made. There are lawmakers like the one who took the floor earlier and who doesn’t mind if derided and branded as bastard, illegitimate MPs and stuff like that, but generally speaking, in my view, I respect more the opposition inside this hall than the one outside this gall. So, despite outcries voiced in this podium, on July 30 we will adopt nothing less and nothing more but what we have agreed upon. The candidate lists will open and the pre-electoral coalitions will be formed like everywhere else in Europe we are seeking to join.

Thank you!