Address to Parliament on Electoral Reform process

Remarks by Prime Minister Edi Rama in address to Parliament’s plenary session:

Wearing face masks has already become mandatory in indoor spaces and it is not needed at all in the outdoor spaces. I take advantage of this occasion to respond to all of those who criticize and ridicule me for not putting on a mask anytime I show up somewhere and tell them that for everyone to be safe in outdoor spaces it would just take maintaining a safe physical distance and refuse handshaking with others. Whereas when it comes to indoor premises, already imposed under an official decision by the Ministry of Health, using a mask is now mandatory and a very important thing to do and the Assembly has been giving and is giving its example.

Allow me to convey a very clear message to you all, starting with lawmaker Myslim Murrisi, often a victim of bad electoral administration and to the last MP of the parliamentary opposition.

I would like to start by saying you can’t have everything, you can’t ask for everything and we all should make our concessions. I am telling you today that it is impossible for us to join our vote with you if you refuse to join your vote with us.

To us, the June 5 agreement is affected in none of its provisions. I am saying this by reiterating again the fact here that I don’t like the June 5 agreement, as it has a big problem, that we did not know how to address the main recommendation of the OSCE/ODIHR, the one renewed almost in every election report, the depoliticization of the electoral administration.

You know pretty well that we have consistently insisted and we have even stated that we will depoliticize the election administration, no matter whether the Democratic Party wants it or not, but what distinguishes a democratic system and the pluralist co-existence from a system where a single party decides alone is that you should backtrack, make compromises and accept what you actually dislike just for the sake of a much bigger interest.

Mrs. Hajdari has signed the deal in the Political Council, has voiced her arguments and I believe that as a eyewitness – since Damian is not trustworthy for Myslim and for others here – she knows quite well that reaching an agreement was hampered because of the failure between parties to agree precisely on this issue. At the end, when the ball was sent to Lulzim Basha’s court, it became a condition that could have undermined the deal as Lulzim Basha insisted that things didn’t change at any cost, even though, by saying let the things the way they are, he has said that everything he had been fighting for has been just a game. It is impossible to understand the reason why he left the Parliament if everything was alright and no change was needed. Lulzim Basha claims we accepted this deal because we were brought to heel. Yet, my feet size is 46 and my left one doesn’t fit in that shoe.

The truth is that we are granting a big concession, no because we had no other choice, but because this was the best way to involve and include the Democratic Party and the extra-parliamentary opposition in the political process. This is a motive I believe everyone understands that SP and I personally have never adopted a authoritarian approach, because this is the case to do exactly completely the opposite, if we were to say: “Who are you?! You are not part of the Parliament. You represent nobody, but yourselves and hence we don’t recognize you.”

We would have been completely correct from the institutional point of view, but we wouldn’t be correct from the democratic point of view, because DP is a political reality, although it is not part of the parliamentary reality of today.

So, dear colleagues in the parliamentary opposition you have enough time to reflect and figure out that the June 5 agreement and the agreement to accept the legitimacy of your initiative, which enjoys the support of the majority of Albanian citizens, are closely interlinked. And we have accepted it not because we want to please you, but because initiative is a right one.

In this process, thanks to your persistent reiteration, also from this very podium and all other ways you have managed to communicate for more than a year, the truth is that you have succeeded in raising the public’s awareness about this. I don’t mind it at all to congratulate first Mrs. Hajdari, then lawmakers Myslim Murrizi, Ralf Gjoni and anyone else who have insisted and have raised their voice on this: Well done!

I am convinced this is the right thing to do. I am convinced that Socialist Party should heed the citizens’ voice and realize that it should do what a large group of people want it to do, even though it wouldn’t have wished to do, and that it should govern as the party that represents not only a majority of them, but everyone in general. And when it comes to the open-lists issue, I see there is a much bigger party than SP, DP and every other party, that is the people, be them either Socialists, or Democrats. A overwhelming majority of Albanians want an open-list electoral system and they want their voice be heard in this process, by not merely electing a political party, but also the lawmakers they like and want to represent them in Parliament.

So, we fully agree on this issue.

The thing we don’t agree upon is the June 5 agreement, although I heart lawmaker Murrizi being quite aggressive towards this agreement. I am sorry he is actually right, but I would also feel sorry if, despite his experience, he wouldn’t realize we are exercising the art of possibility and not that of impossibility. This is politics, the art of possibility.

It is impossible for us to tear the June 5 agreement, because it is a necessary deal to send a very clear message to the entire political spectrum and the Albanian public opinion that everyone is part of this process.

You of course inherit a habit from the Democratic Party you come from and this habit is that you want to have everything and you are used that if you yell as much as possible, if you issue threats, if you impose conditions, then you would definitely gain something more than what you are entitled to. I understand this is an old habit of the minority. You have always been a minority and this is why you have developed such a habit of complaining a lot constantly. But this is impossible. It would be better that rather sooner than later we should find a consensus and vote on the June 5 agreement.

Of course, we are not deciding to approve an open-list system because you are forcing us to do so. We are opening the candidate lists, because we are convinced this is the right thing to do and at this point you have provided your contribution. I can’t deny it. Quite the contrary! It is always in the honour of a big political party, it is always in the honour of a government to listen and be ready to even change its opinion to make the truth and the right things prevail over stubbornness and the static position, insisting that since we have said something once, then we cannot change it. Absolute not! And in this case we jointly share and give a lesson to each other, as well as a lesson of democracy to everyone.

Of course it is not easy at all. You already saw the reaction from a personality in the German Bundestag. It basically was a disproportionate and unjust reaction vis-à-vis this Parliament, yet it is an indicator however showing we should consider what we can afford to consider and which is keeping the June 5 agreement untouched. It is as easy as that.

Of course, I am not and will never agree on this.

Mrs. Hajdari is in her right not to trust me, especially when I have repeatedly said and I reiterate: We are not the homeland of Jesus Christ, but the land of the doubting St. Thomas – meaning we don’t believe something without having incontrovertible proof – yet we will abide by what we have jointly and consensually decided at the Law Committee. We will open the candidate lists. But “how much” and how” is something we still need to discuss. We have enough time. Most importantly is the fact that the new Constitution, or the constitutional amendment would stipulate that none of the parties submit open lists for at least two thirds of the candidates. It was right there we have also reached consensus to make sure that the women representation quota remains unchanged. It is a significant achievement of Albania, but not only of Albania in the eyes of others, but also an achievement of Albania in relation to itself. Albania has grown up over the years, the decades and centuries as a man-dominated society, but women have been actually Albania’s salvation, although this fact has mostly gone unnoticed. This Parliament too, no matter what they say, is much better than the previous one and the previous parliament was better the one preceding it, precisely because the number of women MPs in this very hall has increased. We can’t jeopardise this achievement.

Removing the gender equality quota in the name of competitive equality would be equally as saying that two teams are offered equal opportunities, although they haven’t an equal number of people and not only that but one of the teams has its feet tied up. The two teams should have their feet untied so that they can run equally. In this respect, women in Albania have yet to free and untie their feet so that can run like men. We know pretty well what happens in many other elements, which are discreditable to men in Albania and entire society. I haven’t come across stories about men being violated by women in Albania. I have heard that women are violated by men. The only violated men are those speaking on behalf of equality, but without gender equality quota. They actually hide the fact that they are violated by women, because I heard someone saying “there are a lot of men being violated by women.” He is one of those violated by women, but we declines to acknowledge because he is a man and finds another way to hint at it. I am not talking about Korab, because I know he is a man in all aspects. You Korab should make up your mind and vote in the June 5 agreement. I know you don’t care about what Germany thinks, because you represent an area where Germany, California, Australia are simply street names. The names of states and personalities are just street names and you think of yourself as being the centre of the world.

However, I am saying that Germany is not a street name, but the locomotive that pulls and leads everyone on the path towards emancipation, democratization, strengthening of communities and people all over Europe. We are just simply doing what Germany is actually doing. What I see and hear from our German friends and partners is that we are allegedly banning the pre-electoral coalitions. This is merely the latest complaint by Lulzim (DP leader).

We will not ban coalition. You know it quite well, but we will simply make the coalitions like they are in Germany and in every other country in Europe. I would be really grateful if they were to name a democratic state – and surely they wouldn’t find one in Europe and anywhere else – with coalitions like the ones here in Albania.

[ndërhyrje e deputetit Kujtim Gjuzi] Your Highness, the coalitions in Italy are exactly like the ones I, you we all will vote for. Coalitions are united in a single program and joint candidates list. And since you are referring to Italy and since you are a monarchist converted into a rightist republican and now that I recall your Christian Democrat story, you once were a partner of Roko Butilione and Nard Ndoka came to talk about you – Roko Butilione once used to be part of the coalition with  Silvio Berlusconi, Umberto Bossi and Gianfranco Fini in the so-called the Casa della Libertà. E Casa della Libertà was a coalition with joint list of candidates.

CDU/CSU is a coalition, but CDU/CSU name a candidate for the post of the Chancellor and have a team that races in the election and they have not 3,000 candidates like it is the case in Albania, where votes of a candidate are counted in favor of someone else. This has to end.

You should worry more that when this Parliament makes a decision you are like the orphaned children or illegitimate children. I have personally stated yesterday and I would reiterate it today, the non-parliamentary opposition and the presidential opposition do not honor themselves and they do not honor their supporters by insulting Parliament and considering the parliament members as two categories, a legitimate category and an illegitimate one. This is something very heinous and indecent thing to do, because none of you here, none of us is illegitimate. You are lawmakers who were on the party lists of the opposition.

In this regard, I would like to express you all my solidarity and I would like to reiterate that I don’t respect Lulzim Basha more than I do respect Rudina Hajdari. I don’t respect Ilir Meta more than I do respect Myslym Murrizi. I don’t respect those outside the parliament more than I respect each and every one of you here in this very hall.

From this podium, I would like to tell our international friends in Albania – starting with the honourable representative of the United States, who very generously and patiently became available to an extremely difficult process and open her house door, since Parliament was an unacceptable building to Lulzim Basha, the honourable representative of the European Union;  the honourable UK representative, who personally facilitated communication in this last episode; just like I thank everyone, including Mr. Wadephul, with whom we have a continued, open, direct, equal communication and who is a determined Europeanist, a personality, a closer friend to Lulzim Basha than me and tell them that the Parliament of Albania is a sovereign Parliament and the decisions in this Parliament will be made according to the will of the representatives of the Albanian people in this hall. The decision will be exactly in respect to the June 5 agreement, on one hand, and in respect of the will of more than 80% of Albanian citizens, on the other hand, who want to have the right to elect their preferred MP and not only their preferred political party. This is a fact with which our international friends should get used to it.

I am convinced that the mist of disinformation alleging that we are seeking to ban the pre-electoral coalitions will clear sooner rather than later, but they won’t be able to hinder the Assembly of Albania to vote this historic change before the summer recess, as this change serves Albania and the Albanian people who should not only vote, but also elect.

Thank you!