A good portion of Topi's support switched to Ceka: Topi had 50 votes, Ceka 32. Nano, having peaked at 5 votes, dropped back to 3 and has now been eliminated since only the two top candidates go forward to the final two rounds. While the SP boycotted the ballot once more, for the first time the total number of votes cast passed the crucial figure of 84 - the number of votes required to elect a President.
Clearly Berisha is struggling to hold his coalition together. His Democratic Party, which has 56 seats, obviously backed Topi, but his coalition partners backed Ceka. I watched Nard Ndoka, leader of the Christian Democrats and Minister for Health, publicly endorse Ceka. Newspapers have reported that Fatmir Mediu, leader of the Republican Party and Minister for Defence, has been on the verge of resigning from the government.
The key question now is what the Socialists and their partners will do. “I don’t feel any responsibility toward the crisis because we made very attempt to achieve a consensus with the majority,” said Edi Rama, before the most recent vote.
The SP believed that they had reached a deal on a consensus candidate - General Arjan Zaimi. The deal fell apart because of Berisha's attempt to resurrect his plan to get rid of Chief Prosecutor Theodhori Sollaku by shortening his term of office. Able to blame Berisha for the failure to achieve a deal, the SP could take the moral high ground while boycotting the voting process.
Now, however, things are a little different. The opposition's support, added to that already declared for Ceka, would give him the Presidency. If the SP, faced with the possibility of electing a President from their own opposition coalition, chose instead to continue their boycott and force an election it would look very opportunistic.
If the SP want an election, they are in the minority. A recent poll on the political impasse found that 61% think early elections are a bad idea. The poll also found a large majority in favour of a directly elected President: 60% as opposed to 35% who favour the current arrangement. Bamir Topi, the Democratic Party's nomination, was the most popular choice with the support of 40% of those polled, though this was before Ceka's candidacy. When asked how they would vote if there was an election the two coalitions were tied on 44%.
I decided to have another look at the Albanian Constitution to see what would happen if Parliament fails to elect a President. Article 87 para. 7 states that, if Parliament fails to elect a President, Parliament is dissolved and a general election must be held within 60 days. Once that Parliament convenes it has to elect a President under the same rules that currently apply. If the opinion poll accurately reflects the level of support for the two groupings then it is unlikely that either group could gain enough votes to elect its preferred candidate.
If that is the case then Article 87 para. 8 states that yet another general election is held within 60 days, but once this Parliament convenes para. 9 allows for the election of a President by a straight majority vote.
Allowing the maximum period for the dissolving of Parliament, the elections, the convening of Parliament and the voting process Albania could potentially be without a functioning government for up to 7 months. (I will leave it for you to decide whether that would be a g0od thing or a bad thing.)
Is a directly elected President a viable way out of this situation? It would require a change in the Constitution, but as far as I can see, this can be done by a vote of two-thirds of the Parliament and does not necessarily require a referendum (Article 177 paras. 1-5).
In theory, it seems that Parliament could amend the Constitution to allow for a directly elected President and could hold this election at the same time as the general election. Even if Parliament was obliged to hold a referendum (Article 177 para. 5) this referendum could be held at the same time as the general election.
If approved, there might be some need for a little legal and Constitutional improvisation to keep Parliament in being while the election for President was arranged, but there doesn't seem to be any absolute reason why that would not be possible.
While it might be technically possible to make this change to the Constitution relatively quickly there are bigger issues. The least of these is whether the politicians would be willing to back the change - would they see it as opportunity or threat. More importantly, Albanians need to ask if the current problems are a sufficiently good reason for changing the constitution, and if this is a sensible time to do it.
The biggest issue of all is whether a directly elected President is in the interests of Albania. Unless the Constitution requires that the President be unaffiliated with any political party, the President will end up being another party political representative, which would seem to be a recipe for an even more divisive political system - the last thing Albania needs.
A directly elected President might also be tempted to adopt a more assertive role on the basis of his popular mandate. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. The problem is that there is no way of knowing which.
I hung on to my OSCE Election Monitoring kit after the last elections. I might be needing it again. Meanwhile the power is off and there's no water.