Albanian MPs have voted to impeach their country’s leader, President Ilir Meta, for allegedly violating the constitution ahead of Albania’s April election.
MPs came to the decision in an extraordinary 104-7 vote on Wednesday.
The vote was held after a report by an investigative committee concluded last week that Meta had violated 16 articles of the constitution ahead of Albania’s general election on 25 April.
The report recommended the president be removed from office a year earlier than his term was expected to end.
What was Meta accused of?
Meta had been accused of violating the constitution by failing in his duty to guarantee national unity by backing the opposition in the country’s recent election.
In the wake of the election, nearly 50 lawmakers from the governing Socialist Party, which ended up winning 74 of parliament’s 140 seats, called for an investigative committee to decide whether Meta violated the constitution and should be impeached.
A two-thirds majority was required to impeach the president and with 74 seats, Socialists could not have had the 94 votes needed to meet that requirement.
What happens now?
Now that lawmakers have voted to remove Meta from office, it will be up to Albania’s Constitutional Court to give final approval within the next three months.
In order for Meta to be impeached, the constitutional court would require a majority of votes.
At least six members must be present at the plenary session and a majority – or at least five members – must vote in favour of impeachment.
Will Meta fight the decision?
It is unclear whether Meta will attempt to fight the decision, however, with the Albanian president having described the process he has faced as “illegal”.
He has never attended sessions held by the Inquiry Commission, which was tasked with investigating the claims against him, with the Albanian leader asserting that he did not recognise the group’s authority.
The president has argued that because the parliament elected in April had not yet convened when Socialists called for the investigation into his conduct, the outgoing assembly did not have the authority to pursue a probe during the transition period.
“Initiatives in such forms are unacceptable for democratic societies,” Meta wrote at the time.
Albania’s presidency is mainly ceremonial but a president does have some authority over the judiciary and armed forces.
Typically, it is considered an apolitical role, but Meta has been an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s leadership, including over its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.