Democratic Party leader Basha, says judicial vetting should be extended to the political class to stop criminals and the ‘scum of society’ from entering parliament and local councils.

After boycotting Albania’s parliament for around two years, one of the first initiatives of the opposition when it returned in September, after losing the April 25 elections, was vetting politicians.

Opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha has called for the same vetting procedure to be applied to politicians as to justice officials.

Under the EU-backed Justice Reform process, following constitutional changes, each judge and prosecutor must be vetted by independent structures, while new justice institutions are also being formed.

Democratic chief Basha said in a video shared on his social media profiles on 21 October that vetting politicians would be in the national interest.

“It is in the interest of all ordinary Albanians, both Socialists and Democrats, that politics be cleansed of the sludge of transition, of people who over 30 years … have used politics to get rich illegally and, whats worse, have brought the scum of society, from organized crime, into politics,” he said.

“They have destroyed the competition in the market that is the foundation of economic development and employment, empowering a handful of people simply because they share with them favours, privileges, power and money, at the expense of hundreds of thousands of honest entrepreneurs,” Basha added.

Afrim Krasniqi, a political expert who runs the Institute for Political Studies, a think tank, told BIRN that vetting politicians would be “a natural process after the justice vetting”.

“None of the former MPs or former mayors who lost their mandates due to the law [banning criminals from politics] has been expelled from their political parties; on the contrary, most were active in the last election campaign,” he told BIRN

“Also, the concept of preliminary vetting, verification of both criminal records and negative records in court proceedings under investigation, or [their] involvement in scandals and corruption scandals, has not yet been implemented by any of the political parties. Even politicians on the American blacklist continue to be part of political parties, in leadership positions or in the national assembly or councils,” he added.

Basha repeated the call for politicians’ vetting on Tuesday, saying that “it would clean politics from the sludge of the transition, vices and bargains”.

Edlira Gjoni, a communications expert in Tirana, told BIRN that she backed the new initiative.

“I support the DP idea for the vetting of politicians in Albania, as although it looks like we have all the laws necessary in place, it’s obvious they have not been implemented for some reason or for another,” Gjoni told BIRN.

“Whether I believe in the sincerity and good intent of this law, I’m not too sure. But since the DP is saying it would agree for them to be vetted first, this adds some credibility to their cause,” she added.

Prime Minister and Socialist leader Edi Rama said on Wednesday that “he was ready to discuss it with the opposition”.

The opposition has proposed a law on vetting politicians since 2018, but so far the draft law has been rejected by the ruling Socialists.

The draft law was sent also to the Venice Commission, which made some amendments. The opposition says it has corrected its proposal according to the advice of the Venice Commission.

“In 2018, there was a proposal which was considered unconvincing,” Rama recalled. “We know nothing about the new proposal [but] If there are convincing arguments, we will do our best,” he said.