Parliament of Albania strips former PM of immunity

Parliament of Albania strips former PM of immunity

The Albanian Parliament, with 75 votes “for” from the ruling majority at the plenary session, temporarily deprived the former president and prime minister of Albania and leader of the opposition Democratic Party, Sali Berisha, of his parliamentary mandate. The decision by the legislature paves the path for the special prosecutor’s office and court tasked with fighting organized crime and corruption to rule on his detention or house arrest. Due to his senior age (79 years), this will obviously be house arrest, since the law does not allow people over the age of 70 to be held behind bars until the court finds them guilty. Despite repeated calls from the speaker, Lindita Nikola, to use his right to speak, Berisha refused. The meeting, at which several decisions were approved, took place in an already traditionally chaotic atmosphere involving the blocking of the forum, lighting of smoke grenades, obscene calls from the opposition MPs, Berisha’s supporters. The meeting took place amid heightened security measures. About a thousand police officers and National Guardsmen were deployed in and around the building of the Albanian legislature. Deputies from the ruling majority entered the parliament two hours before the start of the session after receiving tips about the opposition’s intention to block the entrance to the legislative body.

Before the start of the session, Sali Berisha spoke passionately about the accusations, declaring from the assembly hall on video: “It’s either today or never, today is the day of the battle. After the unconstitutional decision, this is a terrible act, a real crime, this crime will never be able to defeat the opposition, in Albania there is a strong opposition that stands firmly against this government that has established its dictatorship, against this gang associated with the Soros mafia. Today, the opposition is more determined than ever to overthrow these criminals who have destroyed more Albanians than any conqueror in history. These ministers, prime ministers, like leeches, drink the blood of the poorest population strata every day, every week. The judgment of a great nation awaits them. There is no force in the world with good will to stop the Albanians.”

A large number of members of the opposition party and supporters of Berisha gathered outside the parliament. The opposition refused to participate in the vote, and Berisha invited everyone to join the “irreversible fight” against socialists and what he called an authoritarian regime.

It should be recalled that that Sali Berisha was president of the country in 1992-1997, and held the position of prime minister in 2005-2013. In 2013, after the defeat of his political force in the elections, he resigned as head of the Democratic Party and went into political retirement. But in 2022, he returned to politics again to lead the main opposition party, which had not been able to gain power for 10 years. He strengthened internal party operations and actively and harshly criticized the ruling government and the Socialist Party, accusing them of idleness and corruption. And although Albania is far from being an exemplary nation in terms of stable anti-corruption bodies and great achievements in overcoming the system of bribes to politicians and public figures, everyone notes that the situation in the field has greatly improved during the prime ministership of Edi Rama, that is, over the past 10 years. It cannot be compared with the tough 1990s, when corruption was obvious in almost all spheres of political, economic, and social life.

Thus, the ruling Socialist Party, which has 74 seats in parliament out of a total of 140, voted to strip him of his immunity, which allows prosecutors to file an arrest motion with the court. The opposition refused to participate in the vote, and party supporters gathered outside the parliament, called by Berisha to join the fight against the socialist regime. Members of the Albanian opposition could not prevent the holding of the session. Deputies of the opposition Democratic Party raised their chairs to the pulpit in the center of the session hall, tryinig to set them on fire, also lighting torches. Security prevented the lawmakers from setting the place ablaze, and Berisha fundamentally refused to take the floor.

Albania’s anti-corruption prosecutor’s office demanded that the formerly high-profile politician be stripped of parliamentary immunity because he failed to comply with a court order to report every two weeks on his whereabouts and not to travel abroad pending a corruption probe launched against him. In October, the prosecutor’s office also stated that Berisha is suspected of “corruption” in privatization of the sports center in favor of his son-in-law, Jamarbër Malltezi. It is obvious that the ruling party decided to teach Sali Berisha, who had long been in power during the general corruption peak, a lesson that he has no moral right to criticize the ruling party and government when he himself had not exactly been the role model of integrity.