Ghost of Albanian opposition party’s former leader appears before local elections
Albania’s Central Election Commission has announced that the former chairman of the Democratic Party Lulzim Basha is the one who has the right to submit the request of the party to take part in the upcoming local elections as he did not officially resign from the party register when he publicly resigned in March 2022.
The centre-right PD, a member of the European People’s Party (EPP), split into two groups in 2021 after the expulsion of Berisha by at-the-time chairman Lulzim Basha after the former was sanctioned by the US State Department and then the UK.
A tense standoff followed, with both Berisha and Basha trying to take leadership of the party, which led to a violent protest at the party headquarters on 8 January 2022.
Basha ultimately resigned after being badly defeated in local by-elections, and Berisha assumed the role of chairman, after which a court of first instance ruled that his takeover was legal, a decision that has now been overturned.
Tirana’s Court of Appeals overturned this week an earlier court decision that recognised Berisha as its legal leader, sending the case for reconsideration at a later date and causing uncertainty just two months before local elections.
But while Basha resigned publicly, it has come to light he did not submit an official resignation to the party registry, which is held in the Tirana District Court where all party details, including the name of the chairman, are recorded.
Instead, three days before he resigned in March 2021, he signed authorisation to delegate his competencies to deputies of the party, Enkelejd Alibeaj, Endrit Sefa, and Gazment Bardhi, for the 2023 elections.
The deputies then submitted documents to the CEC to register the PD as an electoral subject.
In the latest blow to the divided centre-right party, the CEC announced that it does not recognise the authorisation to delegate competencies and that Basha must submit all documents related to the upcoming elections himself.
“Basha has the right to request the registration of the Democratic Party as an electoral subject for the elections of May 14, 2023, based on the official documents. He appears as the chairman of the DP in terms of the law…From the assessment we made of this documentation, according to the law, the request should have been submitted by the chairman of the Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha,” Celibashi said.
In terms of the authorisation document, Celibashi said, “I assess that this documentation is not compliant with the provisions of the Electoral Code,” based on Article 64 of the Electoral Code.
The law states that a chairman can delegate responsibility only if they are absent or sick, not in the case of resigning. Therefore, the CEC cannot recognise the documents submitted by Bardhi, and as Basha’s resignation was not officially registered and he remains, on paper, at least, the chairman of the party, he must be the one to present them.
“The code clearly states that the statement of the party chairman is not a competence but a responsibility, and as a responsibility, it cannot be delegated. This is a completely personal responsibility. So, it is not a competence but a responsibility,” said Celibashi.
The CEC has given the PD 48 hours to submit the correct documents, or else they risk not being able to partake in the elections.
But Bardhi has said the documentation is complete and they will not be submitting any others as per the CEC’s request.
“PD has submitted the complete legal documentation for registration. Today’s political declarations of the CEC have nothing to do with the law but are the formalisation of an extralegal political will. There will be no completion of the documentation as long as it is submitted in full!” he wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Berisha’s faction of the party enjoys a marginal lead in terms of support from PD members, and following the court decision regarding not being allowed to run under the PD logo, it is likely they will submit candidates in a coalition with the Freedom Party headed by former president Ilir Meta, as in the 2021 General elections.
(Alice Taylor | Exit.al)