18/06/2007 - D-7
The Conference of the Assembly of the Republic of Albania, the only Chamber in Parliament announced that the first round of voting in the presidential election would take place on 20th June.
The Presidential Position in Albania
The President of the Republic of Albania is elected by secret ballot for five years by the 140 members of the Assembly of the Republic. His mandate is renewable only once. The powers of the Head of State are mainly honorary. The latter ensures that the Constitution is respected and he commands the armed forces.
The Albanian Constitution stipulates that there are up to five rounds of voting for the election of the President of the Republic. To be elected a candidate has to win at least three fifths of the members of the Assembly of the Republic's votes, i.e. 84 votes. If no candidate emerges after the first round a second round is then organised according to the same rules (a minimum of three fifths of the vote is necessary to be elected) and in which new candidates can come forward. If MPs still fail to appoint the President after the second round of voting the Conference of the Assembly must then, establish a date for the third round which always takes place according to the same rules within the next seven days. If this fails a fourth and then possibly a fifth round brings only two candidates against one another – those who came out ahead in the third round.
If after five rounds of voting no candidate has been elected the Assembly of the Republic is dissolved and early elections are organised within 60 days. The new parliament then elects the new President of the Republic with an absolute majority of its members.
In the present Assembly the biggest party, the Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Sali Berisha has 78 seats i.e. less than the three fifths necessary for the election of the president. The party must therefore come to an agreement with the other parties or even reach consensus on the name of a candidate for the supreme office in order to hope to rise beyond political differences and elect a Head of State.
Outgoing President Alfred Spiro Moisiu was elected on 24th June 2002 (97 votes in favour 19 against and 14 abstentions) by the Socialist Party (PSSH), the party in the majority in Parliament at the time along with the opposition parties.
The Campaign for the Presidential Election
The Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Sali Berisha has chosen its candidate – Bamir Topi, leader of the parliamentary group of the Democratic Party – without taking the opposition's opinion into account, which had however wanted to be consulted on the choice of candidate for the supreme office. Bamir Topir's candidature was announced on 7th March last. "Bamir Topi is our candidate for the Presidency of the Republic. If Parliament does not elect him we shall organise early general elections," said Prime Minister Berisha at the time, convinced that Bamir Topi would win the support of the opposition since he is the country's most popular politician.
On a visit to Brussels on 25th May last Prime Minister Sali Berisha maintained that the government was determined to elect a head of State on whom all the political parties would agree. "The two main demands made by the EU are the respect of the State of Law and the election of a candidate of consensus as President of the Republic," he declared at the time. The European Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn insisted on this recalling that all Albanian political parties had to work towards achieving this consensus.
The Socialist Party leader (PSSH), the main opposition party and present mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama requested that his party and its allies be allowed to take part in the choice of candidate. But the opposition forces wanted the next President of the Republic to come from their ranks! For the time being they have refused to approve the candidature of Fatos Nano, former leader of the Socialist Party, former Prime Minister (1997-1998, 1998-2002 and 2002-2005) and eternal rival of Sali Berisha. The latter maintains that he has the support of 33 MPs (the Socialist Party has 42 seats in the Assembly of the Republic).
On 11th June last the leader of the Social Democrat Party (PSDS), Skender Gjinushi along with the leader of the Democratic Alliance (PADS), Neritan Ceka, two parties in the opposition announced that their MPs (7 for the PSDS and 3 for the PADS) would refuse to take part in the first round of the presidential election. The two leaders criticised the two main parties for having chosen their candidate without consulting them. "Given the economic crisis suffered by the country the solution lies in the organisation of new parliamentary elections or in radical changes within the government. We are asking for those changes, but politicians would like to maintain the status quo and justify themselves by talking of the need for stability or consensus. But they only think of protecting their number of MPs and the interests of the candidates to the Presidency," declared the two men in a press release.
In effect the boycott of the presidential election by the opposition forces might lead to the organisation of new general elections, an option which, according to the international community might only damage the reforms which are being applied in the country.
Alfred Spiro Moisiu's term in office comes to an end on 24th July next.