Venice Commission: Even if the President may have overstepped bounds in postponing local elections, impeachment may not be justified, and a bill on property rights lacks clarity and precision

headline Venice 11 October 2019
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Venice Commission: Even if the President may have overstepped bounds in postponing local elections, impeachment may not be justified, and a bill on property rights lacks clarity and precision

Against the background of a current impeachment procedure against Albanian President Ilir Meta, for having postponed local elections beyond the electoral mandate of local authorities, Council of Europe constitutional experts of the Venice Commission conclude that while the President may have acted beyond his constitutional powers, there are indications that his acts may not have been of a nature justifying impeachment.

In the opinion adopted today, which had been requested by Albanian Assembly Speaker Gramoz Ruci, the Venice Commission notes that even in case of a state of emergency, such as war or natural catastrophe, Parliament would need to adopt ad hoc legislation to postpone the elections.

In response to the political crisis in the country and an electoral boycott by several major political parties, the President first cancelled and then postponed local elections. Even if the Assembly were to find that the President overstepped his bounds, the Venice Commission questions whether this was of such a character as necessary to substantiate a “serious violation”.

The experts underscore the President’s calls for dialogue and the expectation that postponing the election could have contributed to a compromise between the parties. They stress the lack of a direct challenge of the President’s Decrees before a court.

Furthermore, local elections do not have the same constitutional status as parliamentary elections. The experts say that even if the Assembly were to establish the seriousness of the violations, this need not necessarily lead to impeachment, considering the power of the Plenary Session of the Assembly to consider other constitutional goals, such as maintaining checks and balances and stability in the country. If the Assembly were to decide in favour of impeachment, it would be finally up to the Constitutional Court, which is currently not functioning, to confirm whether the President’s decisions amount to “serious” violations that would justify his impeachment.


Draft law on property rights lacks clarity

In a second opinion on Albania, also requested by the Speaker of the Albanian parliament and adopted today, the Venice Commission calls for re-examining a draft law on immovable property rights, a topic regulated through various controversial laws since decades. While acknowledging the legislator’s intention to solve this long-standing issue, the experts find that the proposed draft law (on the finalisation of transitional ownership processes) “lacks clarity and precision”, such as the absence of basic procedural steps and clearly defined deadlines for title holders. The experts are concerned about excessive regulatory power attributed to the Council of Ministers under the draft law. Combined, these elements could make the draft law incompatible with the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Albanian Constitution.

The authorities are invited to re-examine the draft law by considering the recommendations made in the opinion and, if need be, existing or planned legislation related to it. The Venice Commission also suggests that Albania could request support through the existing co-operation with the Council of Europe in re-drafting the bill and its subsequent implementation.

Both draft opinions were leaked to Albanian media before they were adopted, but only the adopted opinions – the full texts to be published on the Venice Commission website on Monday next week – reflect the official position of the Venice Commission.


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