The Albanian Parliament on Wednesday impeached President Ilir Meta for violating the constitution and discharged him from the post.
In an extraordinary session, the parliament voted 104-7 to discharge the president. Three abstained. The final approval lies with Albania’s Constitutional Court within three months.
A report following a parliamentary investigation concluded that Meta had violated the constitution with his biased approach against the ruling Socialists during the April 25 parliamentary electoral campaign. The report said Meta violated 16 articles and also incited violence.
“Ilir Meta has betrayed the mission of the president of … Albania,” Prime Minister Edi Rama said in his speech before the vote. “Ilir Meta has humiliated the constitution.”
Meta has denounced the investigation and impeachment attempt, arguing they are illegal.
His spokesman, Tedi Blushi, described the decision as “unconstitutional and ridiculous,” by what he referred to as “the parliamentary rubbish dump.”
Blushi wrote on his Facebook page that Meta “is motivated more than ever to protect Albania’s sovereignty and integrity.”
Meta’s term normally ends in July 2022.
During the parliamentary debate Meta continued his daily agenda, awarding a medal to a folk music ensemble in his office’s courtyard.
In late April, 49 governing Socialist lawmakers asked for the investigative committee. They accuse Meta, a former Socialist prime minister who left the party many years ago, of inciting instability and violence in the Balkan nation and siding with the political opposition ahead of the election. They say Meta should be impeached for failing in his constitutional duty to guarantee national unity.
The governing Socialist Party ended up winning a landslide of 74 of parliament’s 140 seats in the April 25 election, winning their third four-year term.
“(The) President of the Republic’s acts, behavior and approach … run counter to his constitutional role and position,” said the report. It added that Meta should be “removed from the post of the President of the Republic for grave violation (of the constitution).”
Albania’s presidency is largely ceremonial but carries some authority over the judiciary and the armed forces. The role is also generally understood to be apolitical, but Meta has regularly clashed with Rama’s Socialist government.
Since assuming the office of president in 2017 with the support of the ruling Socialists, Meta has opposed their agenda, blocking the nominations of ministers and vetoing legislation.
Meta has accused Rama of running a “kleptocratic regime” and concentrating all legislative, administrative and judiciary powers in his hands.
Meta argues that the outgoing assembly is in a post-election transition period and therefore is ineligible to conduct such investigation activities. The parliament elected in April is not formally seated until September.
Unprecedented in Albania, the impeachment of a head of state is rare in Europe too.
In 2004 Lithuania’s parliament and its highest court impeached President Rolandas Paskas and removed him from the post. In 1993 Russia’s then-President Boris Yeltsin was discharged but retained the post after an armed standoff.
In the cases of two other heads of state, the process was launched but did not conclude: Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country, while Czech President Vaclav Klaus’s term had expired when he was impeached.