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Politics

Albanian Parliament Impeaches President for Vote Comments

TIRANA, Albania — 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 comes from Albania's Constitutional Court within three months.

A report of 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.

Meta, whose post is largely ceremonial and apolitical, accused Prime Minister Edi Rama of concentrating all legislative, administrative and judicial powers in his hands.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story follows below.

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The Albanian parliament on Wednesday started an extraordinary session to vote on the impeachment of the country's president after a parliamentary investigation concluded that he should be removed from office for violating the constitution. 

A 98-page report by parliament's investigative committee said President Ilir Meta violated 16 articles of the constitution before Albania's April 25 general election and should be removed from office a year earlier than his term ends.

Meta has denounced the investigation and impeachment attempt, arguing they are illegal.

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-term.

A two-thirds majority, or 93 votes, is required to impeach Meta, and the Socialists don't have the numbers in parliament to meet that threshold. But if others join and lawmakers vote to remove him from office, the final approval would need to come from Albania's Constitutional Court within three months.

"President of the Republic's acts, behavior and approach … run counter to his constitutional role and position," said the report. It said 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 Prime Minister Edi 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.

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