We open lists to allow citizens elect not only political party, but also preferred candidate

Address by Prime Minister Edi Rama to today’s plenary session of Parliament:

First of all, I want to express happiness about the incredible physical condition of Mr. Alimadhi, who, I believe, is a living proof of the excellent job of our doctors and our health system on the line of fire, where, unfortunately, lawmaker Alimadhi found himself in after contracting the virus! I avail myself of this opportunity to state this today, but I have not been given the opportunity, because Mr. Alimadhi and everyone else who end up in the hands of our doctors and nurses in our health system have been provided excellent and fantastic care. Your health condition today is a testimony to this. As to the “National Front”, everybody already knows that it has fallen out of shape a long time ago now and no matter how excellent your form is you won’t be able to compensate for the irreversible course of the fall of the National Front. However, since I have been accused of treasury by the staunch voters of the Socialist Party, as well as by my supporters over the years just because I honoured Mit’hat Frashëri, whom I respect and I will continue respecting his figure without any hesitation, trust me that if Mit’hat Frasheri was to be alive today, he would have sided with Myslim and not with you. Of course, the fight between you features a reminiscence of the long-time battle and dispute between the National Front and the Legality Party, but this is your business, so, taking advantage of the absence of his “highness”, Kujtim Gjuzi, I would consider Myslym as the highest representative of the monarchic tranche.

However, attentively following some of the statements and attitudes expressed here by several lawmakers, because it is not just a National Front, but many and this was one of the main features of the destruction of the National Front, I came across another National Front representative whose stance would humiliate Mit’hat Frashëri, humiliate Mit’hat Frashëri’s culture, his patriotism, and indeed shows why the cause of Mit’hat Frashëri stood no chance of success, because the one who took the floor to issue statements of a typical National Front member is actually worthless.

In the meantime, I also saw several ladies who raised an outcry over the alleged dictatorship and the parliament’s legitimacy. But, could you honourable ladies explain how comes that this Parliament is illegitimate, while you are legitimates one?! I am not going to comment further, because I do respect your status as ladies, but I really regret for the ethics-related impropriety you convey to the public from the rostrum of this parliament by your plaintive cries and inappropriate language and words that are a feature of many men who used to gather around and assault this parliament.

Today, although we differ on a lot of things that divide us, our shared vote actually makes us be on the right side of history of democratic development, perfecting pluralism and being on the right side of the Albanian people, Albanian voters, whom with the today’s vote we provide them the opportunity to elect not only their preferred political party, but also the preferred candidate MP. Opposing this means you are on the wrong side of history and you are against your own people. Having no trust in your people means you do not deserve their trust as long as you are unable to provide them to make the choice on their own.

Since we are concluding today a non-easy phase of a reform that thanks to this parliament became a reform, since prior to June 5 was merely a formalin, I would like to express my appreciation to all lawmakers for their contribution to make this day possible here in parliament and I would like to also express gratitude to our friends and partners, who have been involved in the process, yet I would like you to allow me to extend from this very podium a message to all our friends and partners, hoping they would read this message the way it is, a message delivered from the podium of a sovereign parliament, a sovereign government and a Prime Minister, who represents a sovereign state.

I’d start with quoting the Venice Commission on the electoral systems: States have a wide margin of discretion in selecting the electoral matters; states also enjoy this wide margin of discretion, because these elections are political decisions. Neither the Venice Commission, nor the OSCE/ODIHR recommends any specific system. Similarly, there are no international standards to recommend a specific method or a proportionality level regarding the mandated distribution. This is the standard unanimously set by the whole group of international bodies to safeguard free vote: OSCE/ODIHR, Council of Europe, the Venice Commission and the Strasbourg Court.

Therefore, our friends and partners need to hear that this is a decision by the Parliament of Albania and it is up to the state of Albania to decide through its parliament what it does about the electoral system. It is not a decision we are obliged to share neither with the American Ambassador, nor with the EU Ambassador or any other ambassador, by respecting them maximally and considering them as Gods. I am saying this because 30 years already passed and 30 more years could pass if we continue to refrain from saying things the way they are.

Of course, it is not the American ambassador, the EU ambassador, Washington or Brussels, Berlin or Paris to be blamed why in the past 30 years we have tried to find a solution to our own Albanian problems in English, why for 30 years have always sought to find a mediator to communicate with each other and solve the very problems we actually cause or we should solve ourselves together. It is not them to be blamed and they deserve appreciation and respect for this. However, when I hear the American ambassador saying “we will hold leaders to their word”, frankly speaking I don’t feel so happy, not about myself, but about everyone here. That sentence is a reason for every person in this country, be them either Socialists or Democrats, Legalist or even a National Front supporter, who when taking over to represent his or her people in this hall or at any level of representation he should not make  his people and country look ridiculous, should not make his state look ridiculous, because we have created a low legacy, which is the continuation of a long history of misunderstanding among Albanians, who have lead Albanians into unjustifiable situations, hampering this country become what God has so generously created by providing everything people need to live with dignity. This is our decision fully in line with international standards, completely in line with the ambition to make Albania a more democratic country, a country with more responsibilities of the elected to the voters,  a country where responsibility is translated into hard work for Albania and not into disputes among Albanians.

Me poshte vijon pjesa e dyte e fjalimit te KM Rama ne parlament:

Therefore, by further elaborating on what the Venice Commission notes in its interpretive statement on the best practices of the Code, I would wish that all of our friends and partners hear this message, which should be also carefully heard by our colleagues who have taken the streets, even though it was not us to send them to the street. They did so themselves. Parliament should be aware that it should safeguard essential elements of the electoral process in choosing an electoral system and its implementation mechanisms, which guarantee a direct and fair link of the citizens’ vote and the candidate, the political subject they elect to represent them. And if there is a mechanism that best ensures a fair and just connection between the citizen’s vote, the candidate and the political subject that best represents them  from Vancouver to Vladivostok, in the entire OSCE area, with more than one billion people, that system is the unique electoral system of the so-called combined coalitions. It is purely a typical Albanian invention, typically trickery, yet a trick that seriously compromises the election standard, a trick that fails to ensure what the Venice Commission has underlined as the best electoral practice in 2005; that is the direct and fair link between the citizen’s free vote and the candidate and the political subject. What sort of direct and fair link is established when you tell the voter that there is a long train of 40 political parties, yet you are not allowed to see them, because they sit inside the train’s wagons. You just cast your ballot here at a certain wagon and your vote won’t end up for those inside that very wagon, but instead all your votes are collected at the locomotive or at the second wagon that plays the locomotive, by dragging this and that, depending on the case, with the half of the votes gained as candidate MP, who are to be found inside the locomotives of these endless long trains. What is this all about?! Nobody knows this! Today we will eliminate this, even though this is a very belated elimination of a trick that has marred election processes in Albanian and has deformed the will of the Albanian voters over the years.

Churchill used to say: “A fool never changes his mind” and I feel very relaxed today that though I am not a man of high thinking just like Myslim and Rudina Hajdari or others are when it comes to what the open lists will bring about, I know for sure that this is what people want. And this is what we will do. It is as simple as that. While as far as the term “communist” is concerned, I tell you that I have no emotional, intellectual connection with communism. Yes, my father was a communist, just like many others and he was on the right side of the history.

However, I would like to reiterate I have no problem with either communists or nationalists as people and this is what you have learned from Enver Hoxha, who taught you how to attack opponents, because it was Enver Hoxha who told you not to “deal with the message, but with the messenger,” “don’t consider thinking, but attack the thinking head.” Fortunately, nothing is in your hand today, otherwise you would have become wicker than Enver Hoxha. This is where we differ from each other, because this where the division between democrats in the sense of being a true democrats and the antidemocratic thinking lies. The democrats and socialists are true democrats. The socialists are antifascists and anticommunists and they are not the way you think about them. They don’t deal with individuals, but their ideologies. This is the great division and where we differ, while you are like the former DP leader Sali (Berisha) and all of those who are outside parliament today, who are a bad copy of the dark past and who are using politics as a tool to attack people, to level accusations and discredit people, while politics means a confrontation of opinions, ideas, and alternatives, something you do not fit to, because you are in this parliament thanks to that coalition of many wagons. Have you ever seen the long trains with many wagons, with a goods wagon at the end full of shovels? You are the representative of a party and you are the very shaft of a shovel. The shovel is the National Front number two and you pretend to enter this parliament again. There will be no place for you and other shovel shafts. Only the representatives of the people will enter next parliament and not the shovel shafts. So, with the today’s vote the wagons full of shovels will be disconnected from the train of pluralism. This is what this parliament will be deciding today and this has nothing to with me personally. This has to do with the indispensability for Albania to have a system that is at least within the framework of the world’s map from Vancouver to, from Canada to Russia, which includes all the OSCE/ODIHR Participating States and where there is no such a system like the one that allowed you and many others like you to enter this parliament. We are going to eliminate such a system, so that caricatures like you and many others like you no longer ride on the back of this Parliament, not as individuals, but as political caricatures, who come here and tell us about thieves and criminals, communists and communism now in 2020.

You are a sort of a community of caricatures along with some of those outside this parliament.

This parliament should no longer continue being the kind of “Hosten” magazine for 30 years.

The system of building coalitions will be the same as in every other country with a regional proportional electoral system, where no phantom trains with shovel shafts exists to collect votes here and there and everywhere to overturn then the ethics of representation norms, because you assume no responsibility of whatsoever. I have nothing against you personally. Just imagine being a National Front member in 2020. Mit’hat Frashëri himself wouldn’t be a nationalist now in 2020.

Further on, I want to say that constitutional changes we are approving, – and let our international friends and partners hear this and let those who turned June 5 into a kind of a November 28 – do not affect the June 5 agreement that we approved last week here in parliament. But, what we do today puts the Albanian electoral system in the framework of the world of 1 billion inhabitants of the OSCE / ODIHR region, because our electoral system was not part of this world. I asked the independent experts when I attended the Political Council meeting. They are independent today, but they used to depend on the Democratic Party yesterday. The today’s dependents too. The only place I was told that such a system exists is a La Sapienza. I don’t know what kind of book it is, but perhaps this book includes also a chapter how the coalition systems should be organized. But no country in the OSCE/ODIHR world has such a system. And to set the records straight, we are not denying Luli and Mona the right to come together. We have no political interest of whatsoever to interfere with that “couple”. We want them to be together, so that “Uncle Xhike” joins them too, the digital old man of Lalzi Bay joins them too so that a band of the four is created to better show and tell Albanians who these four really are. However, they can unite in a normal system. They said we want a system like the one currently in place in Latvia. Ok, let it be like the Latvian system. Then they proposed us to consider the system applied in the Netherlands. We agreed. Then they sought a system similar to the ones applied in Belgium, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia. We will approve the system they want. Later they wanted something similar to Syriza, which is exactly the same like the one we are proposing, a coalition bringing together many political parties running under one single ticket and a joint list, so that people can find out who they would be voting for, but not asking people to vote for a train full of shovels and shafts.

The proposal to amend the Article 64, to make it clear – I’ve already told Myslim, but he pretends as if he doesn’t understand it –actually doesn’t mean that we are changing the nature of the electoral system, because changing the nature of the electoral system would imply moving from a regional proportional system into a national proportional one, or changing the configuration.

In other words, changing the nature of the electoral system would imply either changing the size of the electoral zones and a third element, which is the upper election administration or the Central Election Commission that we will actually change, not today, but under the June 5 agreement. So, the decision to alter the Central Election Commission was made there. This is worth for those who claim that no changes can be made when there remains less than a year before the next general elections. Ok, what about the June 5 agreement then? Is this date earlier than a year before the next elections? Or June and July are not the same. No, it is the same thing. The system will be affected under the June 5 agreement and not by today’s amendments. We are not changing the system’s correcting mechanisms. It is something else that has been well explained by the Venice Commission.

What I am saying today is all included in the Venice Commission’s opinion and these are all things I didn’t know previously, but I have learned about them in the process, because I don’t know everything. You thing it suffices taking the floor here and say whatever you know, though you know nothing, and you show the fact that you know nothing anytime you address parliament here. To conclude, I would comment on the electoral threshold, because it was said here and it was said by Myslim, if I am not mistaken, when providing explanations to that lady there, who made some questions and said “I want some answers, but the answers I would like to hear and the answers you provided.“ Again, it is the matter of the wagon I mentioned earlier. I don’t know which wagon you come from, however I guess you too come from that very goods wagon. No a percentage of the electoral threshold has been included in the constitution through the today’s amendments.

When the initiative for the constitutional amendments was presented, it included a 5 % electoral threshold. When the initiative was presented, it required that the pre-electoral coalitions were banned by Constitution. These two proposals were turned down, but why? They were turned down because we couldn’t join our vote with those who tabled this initiative. Were turned down because the dictator was scared of them, according to you? The dictator you see in your fantasies. They were rejected because it was the Socialist Party that demanded their removal and the Socialist Party did exactly so because it has nothing to do what you keep saying. Neither the Socialist Party, nor I have anything to do with what you are saying. We have nothing to do with the alleged dictatorship you accuse us of. But since you were unable to fire a single bullet during the war, you are now seeking to wage an imaginary war of fighting with shovel shafts, you are seeking to absolutely wage a war against an imaginary dictatorship and I am not going to comment what you have actually done when the true dictatorship was in place here. I am not going over it at all, because I don’t care and I don’t deal with former security files. Myslim does, but I don’t. However, I fear that if these files were to open – I am not talking about you personally, because I don’t know you at all. You know me, because you accusing me. Remember, I don’t communicate with you personally and I have nothing against you personally.

The constitutional changes do not hinder political parties to open the candidate lists 100%.

The constitutional amendments will be valid not only today, but also in the future, unless other parties would seek to change them again if they of course have a two/thirds majority in parliament. I would go back to the Socialist Party again. If this were to be our trick, then how come that we will open the candidate lists more than anyone else? Aren’t we seeking to open the lists? How would you then explain the fact that we will open the candidate lists more than anyone else, since we are actually the country’s biggest political party? We have been and we remain the biggest party. How would you then explain the fact that we are opening the candidate lists?

And I am not going to pretend as if I were a nationalist and claim “we are not afraid of the open lists system.” No, it is quite the opposite.

So, during the process, if a broader accord is found we can decide that the candidate lists are 100% open, but we have to sit and discuss and table our arguments if we want to do so. I have already explained why we started with determining a ceiling regarding the open-lists system. This is all about the women’s representation and the fact that we entered a completely new election administration system may suggest that this is something we have to consider implementing it through two or three stages, but all these issues need to go through a discussion and it is not a problem for us to discuss them. We are ready to discuss them. We have been attending the meetings of the Political Council to discuss this issue over past two weeks, but the other party refuses to show up and instead they read slogans.

Thank you very much for your patience!

Thank you very much for resisting from beginning to the end!

It has not been an easy process at all. Again, many thanks to our international partners and friends and of course many thanks to all of those in the parliamentary opposition, who have been strong advocates of this entire process and be confident that all of those who voted here today they have done the right thing. While those who refused to vote, they have actually hindered best implementation of the principle of the regional proportional system in the context of this country.

By refusing to vote they have prevented voters from empowerment and strengthening their influence on the candidates’ selection process and the reasonable limitation of the power of the parties’ leadership in handpicking the MP candidates.

They have hindered the reduction of the direct effect of the leadership and closed lists relation in determining quality of the internal debate.

They have hampered better representation of the communities in parliament and reduction of influence of the political groups on communities when it comes to election of individuals.

By their vote they have denied communities the right to know more about the quality of the candidacies, the candidates’ physical appearance and the background they come from.

They have hampered strengthening of platforms and quality of the battle of ideas during the election campaign.

They have sabotaged a fair representation of us all and the gender equality in particular.

But, indeed, you failed to do any of these. You neither banned, nor sabotaged them,  neither you, nor the others outside parliament, because with the vote counting a little later the result will certainly show that the train with the phantom wagons is no longer there and that the open lists and the opportunity for the people to elect also the lawmakers is a real one. This is all.