Although all parties agree on the need to change the constitution to lift the immunity of high state officials, they remain divided on when the vote should taker place.Albania’s Council of Legislation, a parliamentary body tasked with drafting amending the constitution, on Tuesday approved a draft reform agreed by both the ruling Democrats and the opposition Socialists.
Both parties agree on the need to lift the immunity of high state officials and, after a series of consultations over the past week with experts and interests groups, they have produced a draft.However, they remain divided on the date when this amendment should be voted into law.
Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s Democrats want a vote held in the last session of parliament, before the summer break on August 6, arguing that adoption of the reform would boost Albania’s bid for EU candidate status in the autumn.
But the Socialist have called for a delay, asking the ruling majority to consider a series of other amendments to the constitution regarding the election of high court judges and the general prosecutor. They want to approve the constitutional amendment package in a vote in September.
“We cannot make fools of ourselves, of the constitution and of parliament, by saying that we will vote on some amendments in August and come back in September to discuss some others,” Socialist MP Pandeli Majko said.
However the Democrats still insist on a vote to lift the immunity of judges, MPs, and ministers on August 6, arguing that the opposition proposals are undemocratic.
Speaking to Democratic Party MPs, Prime Minister Berisha derided the Socialist proposals, arguing that they would transform Albania into a country ruled by a political minority.
“This [amendment] would bring about a constitution of minority rule,” Berisha said. “Such practices are completely unacceptable,” he added.
With the deadline for the immunity vote looming, the international community has put its weight behind the project.
The EU, US and OSCE ambassadors in Tirana have all urged the Socialists to vote through the reform, although they admit that Albania’s justice system needs other changes.
“We believe that lifting immunity is but one step of several that need to be taken to effectively combat corruption,” US ambassador Alexander Arvizu said after a meeting with Socialist leader Edi Rama on Monday.
“The timing of steps to address these measures is something that the Albanian political system needs to decide, but, from our perspective, it is important that this be done,” he added.