By Eduard Zaloshnja
In a parliamentary republic such as ours, we could say that the president of republic almost has no political power. He could reject and send a bill back to parliament for revision, but the latter could well decide to revote the bill without making any amendments whatsoever. In other words, the government is the one to decide on all policies with the backing of parliament, without the need for the president’s approval.
However, when it comes to choosing government members, the president has a key role. Without his decree, no minister can leave or join the government. Of course, the president needs to argue his decision not to reject them based on the country’s Constitution and case laws.
The president of Albania, Ilir Meta used this power for the first time in minister Lleshaj’s case. At first, he decided not to decree the minister that was proposed by PM Rama, arguing that the military title that Lleshaj held did not allow him to hold political offices. The latter needed to give up his military title for the president to sign his nomination as minister. The clash that took place between Meta and Rama was just the first sign of the current clash, at a time when Rama is trying to change half of his cabinet members.
Rama submitted 17 requests for a government reshuffle on Friday-8 of them had to do with the removal of 8 ministers and the deputy PM, 8 of them for their replacement and the last request had to do with the reintroduction of the post of the minister for the relations with parliament. The following day, Meta signed the removal of all ministers that Rama proposed, with the exception of Ditmir Bushati, without offering any reasons for this.
On the same day, Meta also signed the nomination of only 4 of Rama’s new ministers. All four of them are MPs, therefore (complying with the Constitution), Meta immediately signed the appointment of the new deputy Prime Minister, Erjon Brace, the minister for Enterprise, Eduard Shalsi, the minister of Agriculture, Bledi Cuci and minister for Relations with Parliament, Elisa Spiropali. Meanwhile, the president did not sign for the candidates who are not MPs. Different media outlets have reported that Meta wants to collect further information from law enforcement agencies and make a decision within seven days.
We don’t know what Meta will do within this period of seven days, but the short battle that he led when he refused to sign the nomination of minister Lleshaj and the removal of minister Bushati as minister of Foreign Affairs, is reason to believe that there will be a much bigger clash between Meta and Rama than the one we saw.
Let us start with Bushati. There are all sorts of theories on the media and social networks about Meta’s decisions not to sign Bushati’s removal from the government cabinet, however, I’m inclined to see every politicians’ actions from an electoral point of view.
For many years, Bushati has led the electoral campaigns in Shkodra, a municipality where the Socialist Party has never been able to win. Despite his work load at the ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bushati has regularly visited Shkodra to follow the political situation there and forge new connections which are necessary for the election campaign. By refusing to sign the decision to discharge him, Meta is aggravating relations between Rama and Bushati (regardless of the real reason not to sign his removal). If Bushati is upset by this removal and he feels “protected” by Meta, he cannot be that effective in the election campaign ahead.
Rama dreams of winning the municipality of Shkodra, which has historically been the right wing’s stronghold. A victory of his candidate there would be a terrible blow for the opposition’s moral. This is why he constantly attacks the mayor of Shkodra, in contrast to other mayors who belong to the opposition and whom he rarely attacks. Rama’s cooling relations with Bushati, the key politician for the improvement of the electoral result in Shkodra, would reduce the SP’s chances to achieve a surprising result in Shkoder.
The ministers who have not yet been decreed by Meta do not have a significant individual importance (in contrast to Bushati’s case), however, every delay that may occur could give rise to all sorts of assumptions about the biography of these people and this could damage the electoral effect that Rama was hoping to obtain through this move.
Reflecting on the electoral cost that the gossips on his ministers could have, Rama proposed to remove them and invite new people to join his government, despite the fact that their names are almost unknown. Of course, these people will not have an electoral importance (because not many people know them), but at least they will not have any electoral costs either.
Meta’s decision somehow belittles the electoral effect that Rama was hoping to obtain with his move.
Meta may end up signing all these proposals, but the delays he’s causing may have some electoral effect on the SP. Nevertheless, Meta is the only one who knows if there are any ulterior reasons for his decision to delay his signature.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy