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Round 3

New developments! On Saturday Parliament held a third ballot for the post of President and we had a new candidate. Neritan Ceka is leader of the Democratic Alliance, a small party which is part of the opposition coalition.

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.

Comments

nick said…
Ceka would certainly be a good choice for president. I think he's from Elbasan (a city in middle albania) and would appeal to the north and south. But i'm afraid that he got those votes just so the right could seduce the left to come to parlianment. Once the left is there, the votes will switch back to Topi. Or maybe not, who knows!

A general election at this time would prove disastreous simply for the fact that no party can win a clear cut majority and they will come to the same point after a few months. The only difference could be that if the SP wins they could vote for a DP member for President (Topi) since this time they have the ministries.

Berisha's continual war on the media and his refusal to cooperate for a non-DP member for president has a pretty clear meaning: reform the judiciary, silence the opposition, rule for as long as you possibly can. He has said in the past that if he ever looses another election he will retire and will no longer be a part of DP. If there is an election and he looses, perhaps it will be a good omen even if the left has a minority gov't simply because it will cause DP members to put up a fresh face there and it will certainly be a much better one. Since Nano is practically ousted with Berisha's departure Albania could say goodbye to tribal politics forever.

The downside of it is that the numerous changes in gov't will not be beneficial to the country's economy. Come to think of it, that wouldnt be good for anybody!
Gjerg Erebara said…
Yep! Mr. Ceka could become a good president for Albania. He is a professor of archeology and could guarantee for us a good presidency for some years.
In 1991, Mr. Ceka had taken part to anti-communism protests and saved the country from civil war when he stopped protesters by attacking the prohibited quarter "Bllok", so the houses of the ruling caste. In that case, Mr. Ceka had demonstrated its abilities to understand and to make the right chose in such important events.
nick said…
Sure did. Whats amazing to me is the fact that He was one of the founding members of DP and was a true democrat. And if you look closely to all of the founding members of that party, Berisha is the only one remaining, with the most important figures either ousted (Ceka) or dead (Hajdari, Pashko).
Anonymous said…
I like Ceka too. My dad went to highschool with him and our families have been on holidays together many times. When we are at the table he has a commanding presence in a soft way and everybody listens to what he says. He has continued the work of his father in the study of the Illyrians so rest assured that he is not filo Greek(Nano) or Serb like Berisha.
He used to be minister of internal affairs.
our man said…
Can someone explain to me the Berisha - Serb thing? I've come across it a few times but I don't understand it.
Ll.T. said…
Omit,

There's a couple of things like:

1) Berisha's wife is reputed to be of Serbian origin.
2) In addition Berisha broke the international embargo against Yugoslavia back in the '90s (by allowing oil to pass through Albania en route to Serbia for the war/ethnic cleansing effort).

The first point is a dumb one that gets raised by dumb people, the second one is quite a bit more concerning.
our man said…
Thanks for enlightening me Ll.
antireklama said…
Usually, for every person which attract in some degree public attention, hearsay are abundant in Albania.
There are some events in which Mr. Berisha has been a protagonist, like 1997, or 1998. Someone could think that Serbia had won a lot from troubles in Albania and for sure, Mr. Berisha has been the main reason for such troubles. However, only one serious think, that I have heard about this and could be accepted as serious fact, is Mr. Berisha's involvement in braking embargo against former Yugoslavia.
However, for every politician in this country circulates hearsay of being agents of other states. OMIT, if you are interested, I can make a list of such hearsays.

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Welcome

Welcome to Our Man in Tirana. I moved to Tirana, capital of Albania, in October 2005 and left in October 2007. This blog is a mix of photographs, reports, links, impressions and, undoubtedly, prejudices relating to the city and the country.

Since I am no longer in Tirana I am no longer updating this blog. However, there are over 300 posts covering this two year period and I hope that they are still of some interest.

So if you are curious about Albania or if you are planning to visit I hope this blog will be of value.