The Final Briefing: The President, A Man who is Governed by his Ideas

The Final Briefing: The President, A Man who is Governed by his Ideas 
Tirana Times -

By Albert Rakipi

For the second time, the Assembly failed to elect the President of the Republic and there are only three weeks, another three rounds left in which to do so. After two weeks of talks the two main parties, the DP, currently in office and the SP currently in the Opposition, were still firmly cemented in the same positions on the issue of the election of the President. The Government continues to back the candidature of Bamir Topi, but without yet officially presenting this candidate in the Assembly. The Socialist Party has still to find a candidate and it will not find anyone until such time as the Majority withdraws its candidate. Both sides speak of consensus. However, neither side has attempted any fundamental move away from respective positions. The criteria, on which a consensus is actually trying to be reached, at least so far, appear to distance and not draw the Government and the Opposition any closer to clinching an agreement. 

Why a Consensus? 

Over the past fifteen years the political Establishment in Albania has found that the most difficult thing to achieve is consensus. Only the major crises and the strong pressure of the International Community have made it possible for the Government and the Opposition in Albania to conclude agreements. The Agreement to elect President Moisiu in 2002 was also a result of the pressure exerted by the International Community. There was no deep going political crisis, however, the victory of the Socialist Party in the 2001 parliamentary elections, “was broadened,” distorting the electoral process. The legitimacy of the socialist Majority in the Assembly was threatened and the compromise to accept this inflated victory of the SP was that the President be elected in consensus with the Opposition, which at that time was the Democratic Party. 

President by Vote of the People- A Killing of the Consensus 

The inability of the Government and the Opposition to work directly towards an agreement, in fact has made the chorus of voices swell to elect the President by Vote of the People. Following discord within the Opposition, Ilir Meta, SMI Chairman has backed the idea of a popular vote to elect the President. Leaders of other parties, on both sides, are now supporting this idea. It appears that not even PM Berisha excludes this variant. However, the only benefit this option could offer is the avoidance of early elections. Meanwhile, the election of the President by popular vote would mark a spectacular defeat of the entire political elite in Albania to reach a consensus. Second, this would call for an amendment of the Constitution, and according to the experts in this field, the advent to office of a President voted in directly by the people would also call for amendments to the authority of the President. And last but not least, the election of the President by popular vote otherwise means a killing of a consensus in a democratic manner. In fact there would be a contest between the two main parties and this would test the support quotas of each party. It would be the two respective parties which would select their candidates, in other words the DP and SP, and any third candidate, no matter how representative, would lose heavily under the pressure of the two main parties. The President who would be elected would not in the slightest be consensual, but would merely belong to a given political side, in short, the opposite of what the parties are currently seeking. 

A Man who is Governed by his Ideas 

Who would the candidate be, for whom, the Government and the Opposition could work towards an agreement? In 2002, the Government and the Opposition of that time worked straight towards reaching a consensus in the election of the President, in circumstances when the parliamentary Majority did not have the legitimacy to elect the Head of State with its own votes. Although very hypothetical, a question may still be posed: If in 2001 the left wing parliamentary Majority had have been fully legitimate, would it have accepted to share the President with the Opposition? This is a hypothetical situation and so the answer is just as hypothetical: Yes and No. Irrespective of these circumstances, it turned out, after all is said and done, to be quite useful that the President was elected with a broad parliamentary support. Just think if the current Majority did not lack the two or three votes it needs to have the 84 votes to elect the President? Would the Majority of today be prepared to go towards an agreement with the Opposition? From the legal and constitutional points of view, the answer is clear. The President is elected by the Parliament with 84 votes. However because of the circumstances of 2002, a precedent was created to elect a President with the support of the Opposition too, or at least with the support of the parties that are not in office and which may not be in the Opposition either. There is no doubt that the election of a President with a broad support in Parliament is useful, especially in the case of a weak democracy such as Albania’s. But, the parties should be compelled towards reaching this consensus, not because they are two or three votes shy of 84 votes. Although very difficult, it is nonetheless not impossible for a political force or coalition, in the future, to secure the 84 votes required. In this case, would a consensus be encouraged and even more, would the side that has 84 votes be ready to seek the support of the Opposition for President? In other words a consensus should not emanate merely due to a number of seats in parliament. 

A substantial consensus does not necessarily mean that the President belongs to the Socialist Party and its allies alone just because they are in the Opposition. The product that emerges from that kind of a consensus is not sound and does not encourage political consensus between the Government and the Opposition regarding important issues of the country’s development, which go beyond the mandate of a government. It would also be erroneous as well as unhelpful to seek a consensus for the sake of a consensus. This would mean that the sides agree on a candidate who never in his wildest dreams had thought he would wake up the next morning elected Head of our small, but, in the final account, our Republic. No, to a consensus for the sake of it, no, to a consensus because the Majority lacks two or three votes, and yes, to a substantial consensus which means finding a person governed by his or her ideas. First, and the most important thing is to find a man who has clearly demonstrated that he is a person governed by his ideas. A person who has demonstrated to everyone that he is guided by his own ideas is first of all a full guarantee that this person will base himself on the Law and on the Constitution whilst discharging his duties as Head of State. But a man led by his ideas is also a full and substantial guarantee for the Opposition. Today the SP is in the Opposition together with the other parties, tomorrow it will be the Democratic Party. Our country is a developing democracy, still very delicate, but the road towards beefing it up runs via this consensus. In every European country with a consolidated democracy, it is not at all difficult to find individuals, politicians who have demonstrated that they govern, first of all led by their own ideas; politicians, who, irrespective of the fact that they may belong to a given political force, but who have displayed integrity and enjoy support of political opponents. Could consensus be reached via these criteria: a man who has shown clearly that he is governed by his ideas and not by blackmail and threats to boycott Parliament? Is Bamir Topi a politician who has demonstrated that he is guided by his ideas? The same question could be posed for Alfred Moisiu, Fatos Nano, Sabri Godo, Servet Pëllumbi, Pëllumb Xhufi, Paskal Milo, Neritan Ceka? (Just to mention the more serious candidates whose names have been made public so far). 

For a substantial and functioning consensus, it is not important which party the candidate for President comes from. For example, it is of little significance that Besnik Mustafaj comes from a party that is currently in office. What is fundamental is the fact that he has very clearly demonstrated that he is one of those individuals who is governed by his ideas. Sabri Godo, for example too, one of the wisest politicians of these last fifteen years, he comes from the Right, and one of the few, if not the only one, who had actually demonstrated that power is not eternal in democracy. However, it would be short sightedness to uphold that Sabri Godo cannot contest just because he comes from the Right. 

Just as senseless is the insistence of the Opposition not to accept proposals from the Right. If the DP was to propose Servet Pëllumbi for example, a politician who radiates consensus, or other serious candidates from the Left, would the Socialist party and its allies reject them? 

Almost too beautiful to be true, yet it should be not that impossible for the left coalition to propose a name of the right and vice versa. 

Could the Government and the Opposition possibly be governed by the principle we mentioned above and not by the principle of party affiliation? If we proceed from the principle of finding a person who demonstrates that he is guided by his own ideas, then we have moved on to other very vital qualities of someone who is to represent the State, nation and society. In other words we have reached an individual who has ideas and visions, a person of knowledge, who frequents libraries, and even the Opera when possible, an individual who can speak to other Heads of State about history and culture and other such subjects. These are qualities that are not foreseen in Constitutions, but which are nonetheless, implied.