Prime Minister Edi Rama addresses parliament on President’s refusal to decree Minister of Interior

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at parliament’s session: 

 

This Assembly has elected seven presidents of the Republic. Many of us in this hall have voted for Ilir Meta as the President of the Republic. On that day, we had the overwhelming parliamentary majority we do enjoy today too, but I was fully convinced that Ilir Meta was the best candidate for the job under the then circumstances when the Albanian Parliament had to elect the seventh President of the Republic.

For the sake of truth, since he took over as the country’s president, following that unfortunate delirious campaign under the Socialist Movement for Integration flag, he has almost fully justified our vote. He has respected the Constitution, weighed his words and has adopted a balanced attitude.

However, since Saturday evening, we face a problem with the President of the Republic, or better say, we have come together in this session because of a problem the President of the Republic has caused us in our job as the governing majority.

Our job is to draft and adopt legislation as long as we enjoy the trust of the sovereignty and to govern the country as long as we enjoy the trust of at least 71 lawmakers, who represent and exercise the people’s will during the period between two election rounds.

We have the constitutional duty to do this job, no matter whether we do or don’t enjoy the confidence of anyone else, including the President of the Republic. Everyone has the right not to believe us, to criticize us, raise up voice against us, if he will, but no one else than the sovereign people, neither has nor can he assume the right to hinder us in exercising of our constitutional mandate. This also applies to the President of the Republic.

The Constitution has clearly defined the 12 competencies of the President of the Republic. None of them includes the President’s competency to reject the Prime Minister as long as the latter enjoys the confidence of the parliamentary majority. The President cannot also reject appointment of cabinet members as long as they enjoy the Prime Minister’s trust. It is for sure that should such a competence, even a hidden one amid the clearly written lines on the President’s constitutional competencies, Ilir Meta’s predecessor would certainly have revealed it, and, although openly and universally known as a zealous gunner of the Democratic Party and although furiously attacked the then Interior Minister proposed by me, the sixth President of the Republic signed the decree appointing the Interior Minister because the Constitution of Albania stipulates it.

Because the Constitution clearly states in a special article that every President, who takes oath with their hand on the Constitution, they can exercise no other power but the competencies that are clearly defined by it and other bylaws in compliance with the Constitution. And Precisely why the Constitution does not recognize, either expressly or implicitly, any power of the President of the Republic to reject the Prime Minister’s proposals for the cabinet members, President Ilir Meta has worded a rejection letter without making any constitutional or legal reference.

The following is the text of the letter I have received on Saturday evening:

“Subject: Response to the proposal on appointment of Mr. Sandër Lleshaj as Minister of Interior.

Mr. Prime Minister, in response to your letter 494 dated 27.10.2018, subject: “Proposal for appointment of a minister,” through which Mr. Zoti Sandër Lleshi is proposed to the President of the Republic to be appointed as Minister of Interior, I would like to notify you as following:

“The President of the Republic, also in the capacity of the Head of the National Security Council, based on the Constitution, has not created the right full conviction to trust Mr. Sandër Lleshi as a candidate for interior minister.”

Based on the Constitution! But no explanations are provided on which article of the Constitution is based this rejection.

“Given that, the President of the Republic cannot positively respond to your proposal for the appointment of Mr. Sandër Lleshi to the position of the Minister of Interior of the Republic of Albania.”

This is the letter. So, the President of the Republic has not created full conviction to trust Mr. Sandër Lleshi as a candidate for interior minister.

The great misunderstanding on the President’s side is in the fact that I did not propose him a candidate for a minister. No, indeed I forwarded to the President of the Republic the decree on naming a cabinet member and not for a candidate and, according to our Constitution, the President has no power to reject, but it is his duty to endorse it.

The President of our parliamentary Republic, apart from the 12 competencies the Constitution and the bylaws in accordance to it clearly recognize, has also other duties, just like any other institution that are Constitution’s subjects. One of these Constitutional duties is that of decreeing the government and each cabinet member in compliance with the Prime Minister’s request within a seven-day deadline. There is a provision that leave no room for interpretation.

But I sincerely don’t understand why the President of the Republic feels it is necessary to reiterate, even by issuing an official statement, that he won’t allow any challenging attempt against his authority, because I have seen no such attempts.

While personally, not only I have made any attempt to challenge the authority of the President of the Republic, but I haven’t ever crossed my mind to take such a useless act for the people, for the government, for myself.

Of course I have told all these to the President of the Republic. As always, we had a positive and very constructive exchange two days ago, despite our disagreement on the today’s topic.

Although, as I already said, and as Ilir Meta’s predecessor has said when begrudgingly and under the most overwhelming compulsion the institution of the President of the Republic of Albania has ever faced, he signed the decree appointing the former Minister of Interior, acknowledging that a nominee should simply to meet the criteria to become a MP. However, I had no objection of whatsoever why, like never before in the history of the republic, security clearance certificates were asked to be provided in the case of General Sandër Lleshi in addresses never previously visited by the postman of President’s Office. I would even publicly appreciate the President of the Republic for the extremely scrupulous investigation into the distant and near past of the Minister of Interior he refused to decree, despite the already verified clearance and his moral integrity, as one could even ask: “Could precisely this clearance be the thing that really worries Ilir Meta?”

But this is not what I do think. I think this can’t be true. No way! For the moment, this merely seems an innocent misunderstanding of the Constitution while seeking to create a full confidence over the Minister of Interior at a time when the opposition’s desperate state rightfully worries the President of the Republic.

The fact that the President took time, exploiting even the last minutes of the seven-day deadline, and the fact that the opposition’s “movie studio” has produced no video or audio tapes, or even a harsh statement against General Sandër Lleshi are a good start for him as a Minister of Interior.

That’s why I haven’t lost confidence, because the President of the Republic has yet to say the final word on this matter, although the deadline has already expired. Just like I was confident that another clean figure Elidon Bendo, for a year locked in the President’s drawer, was decreed as the head of the Intelligent Service, in spite of today’s “reliable sources” and old talk and defamations issued on daily basis by the trash media over supposed Presidential warnings.

Eldion Bendo was decreed today as the Director of the State Intelligence Service, not because “better late than never”, as a saying has it, but because, really, every positive reflection is to be welcomed, moreover when the institution of the President of the Republic reflects. I welcome the Presidential decree and I cordially congratulate the new Director of the Service to successfully pursue the already launched work and speed up the efforts to profoundly reform that key institution of our national security.

The today’s morning news confirmed the good feeling about the meeting I had with the President at his office, from where I left with the positive feeling of mutual need for understanding and a constructive solution, although we were clearly not in tune and we are not yet clarified on the reason of the irrationality behind the refusal to decree the Minister of Interior.

Same positive feeling I had when reading the yesterday’s statement by the President, despite its painful closure with the expression of the conviction that “the days Albanian state was led by a First Secretary are over once and for all.” If at another time and place, I wouldn’t refrain myself from providing a reply I had in mind on the spur of the moment in reaction to such an unusual conclusion of a Presidential statement. I couldn’t help but make a comment over the President’s strained references to himself as the General Commander of the Armed Forces and Head of the National Security Council, either in the refusal letter, or in the statement over our very positive meeting.

But this time and this place force us to focus on finding a way out of the unprecedented situation that followed the unprecedented refusal by the President of the Republic to decree a cabinet member.

This is a fragile moment, as a very important institutional balance of the country has been questioned. I wholeheartedly wish all this has not been done with a purpose beyond the decree on General Sandër Lleshi.

This is what I very sincerely told the President too. But I hope I won’t be forced to share with the Albanian citizens the reason why I am making this wish today.

I know quite well, everyone actually knows, that Albania has gone through even worse than that. Albania has seen Prime Ministers who publicly mocked presidents, publicly calling the president

“a bastard”. Albania has seen Presidents who didn’t call National Security Council meetings, because no one showed up in these meetings.

Albania has gone through a lot more compared to the latest tempest in the teapot of trust and distrust and a Minister of Interior, who like no other predecessor is a holder of the highest NATO security clearance Certificate called cosmic top secret! But we have never been like those we ousted from power five years ago and neither like those who forced us to push them out of governing coalition a year ago. We are also not like the ones who turn cracks into fractures, although there a lot of things we are to be criticized for.

The crack in this case is neither personal, nor political.

The most recent crack is a constitutional and we are here to represent the people’s will between the two election rounds we will do our best to heal it. I am hopeful the President of the Republic will also show readiness and patience to prevent this crack from breaking, which wouldn’t certainly be the end of the world, but it is definitely in our and the country’s best interest to avoid it. It is avoidable.

It’s clear that should the Constitutional Court wouldn’t have currently been under the reconstruction process as part of the deep, yet so much unwanted justice reform for many, but not for the President, then we wouldn’t have faced such a both artificial and serious difficulty. But the fact that the Constitutional Court is non-functional, the fact that day-night efforts are being made to block judicial reform, this is not an insurmountable absence for us.

We should just show readiness, patience and understanding, as well as determination to reach the goal, which is the basis of existence, and the is the protection of the Constitution, and we have it.

With all these three, the temporary inexistence of the Constitutional Court is surmountable should the President of the Republic doesn’t miss either one of these three, the desire for understanding – this flaw will disappear shortly.

However, we will work on this process and will keep on communicating with the President in the coming days.

I would really apologize to the President if what I am about to say turns out to be a media defamation, but since I was informed and confirmed again this morning and a journalist, speaking at such a media club last night, speculated that the President’s cabinet chief, via SMS text, has thrown down the presidential gauntlet, claiming the he was ready to address our parliamentary group at a behind-closed-door meeting and tell us the real reason behind his rejection to decree the Minister of Interior – God forbid it that reason is not what I believe it is and I heard during meeting with him. I am ready to acknowledge that I suffer from hearing loss before accepting that the President has told me that reason. We welcome Mr. President to come and tell it at an open or a behind-closed-door meeting with our parliamentary group only, or together with other half of our political family here, right here in the Parliament, so that he tells us whatever he has been refrained from saying.

But I hope it is not the reason he has told me. God forbid it! Because, I would stand everything, but in no way I would stand a ridiculous President for my country.

Dear colleagues,

I am glad we all here agree at this moment, when the desire for understanding sounds to many like weakness, the patience to find a solution sounds to many impossible, the determination to reach a goal may sound like complacency, as long as the unacceptable President stands in front of us as a fact. But believe me, this is not the case.

Time has taught me to refrain from saying the last word first. Let’s vote today on Fatmir Xhafaj’s dismissal, whom I would like to appreciate for his contribution. Then we will appoint the Minister of Interior, who was refused by the President and who will of course lead the Ministry of Interior serving as deputy minister and give time to President of the Republic to mull over this issue and work to create full confidence and take the next step.

I want to conclude my speech by thanking you and countless people who have sent me endless messages and have made countless comments on social networks, expressing strong support for the General, who, from now on, will be at the helm of Albania’s interior affairs.

I am very confident that not only he will disappoint no one in his work, but he will also give a strong and necessary impetus to the internal affairs.

The seven inadequate days the President took to create his conviction, were more than enough for me to further consolidate my conviction that General Sandër Lleshi, in charge of interior affairs, is the right person who comes in the right time and is at the right place as a representative of the right majority for Albania’s today and tomorrow.

Thank you!