Albania’s Parliament voted Wednesday to impeach President Ilir Meta, after the ruling Socialist Party accused him of meddling in the April 25 national election and violating the country’s constitution.
The issue goes now to the Constitutional Court, which will have the final say.
One hundred and four lawmakers voted in favor, seven against and three abstained in the Socialist-dominated legislature. Ninety-four votes, or two-thirds, were needed for the impeachment.
Some 30 years since the Balkan nation's communist era came to an end, it is the first time that Albania’s Parliament has voted to impeach the president. Lawmakers followed an accelerated procedure to impeach after an ad hoc investigative commission worked for three weeks to conclude that Meta had committed impeachable offenses.
According to the commission’s findings, the head of state committed major constitutional violations, with at least nine offenses such as meddling with the election and damaging relations with Albania’s strategic partners along with the country’s reputation.
“Ilir Meta has destroyed the institution of the guarantor of national unity," Prime Minister Edi Rama said in Parliament. "Ilir Meta has violated the vital separation of powers in our parliamentarian democracy.”
In Albanian law, the president does not belong to a political party and symbolizes the unity of the country.
Reacting on social media, presidential spokesperson Tedi Blushi called the vote an “anti-constitutional and ridiculous” parliamentary decision.
The governing Socialist Party controls the Parliament since the main opposition parties in an unprecedented move vacated their seats in 2017. The Socialist Party will be in power for the next four years after winning the general election in April.
The new Parliament takes over in September.
Meta, who called the move to oust him “illegitimate,” did not appear in front of the Investigative Commission or Parliament to defend himself.
He hosted an arts event at the presidential headquarters as the vote was carried out.
The final decision to remove the president from office now stands with the country’s Constitutional Court, which does not have a deadline to consider the case.
“The court will have to review the procedure that led to the Parliament decision, including the alleged violations, to decide whether they justify ousting him,” Aurela Anastasi, professor of constitutional law at Tirana University’s Law School, told VOA.
The judicial body faces its own challenges, with two of its nine seats currently vacant.
Ilirian Agolli contributed to this report, which originated in VOA's Albanian Service.