After being recognized as the winner in the Himara Municipality while behind bars on pre-trial detention for vote-buying, Fredi Beleri, the candidate of “Together We Win” (BF) party, has now received the validation of his mandate from the Vlora Court. However, this remains a procedural administrative step unrelated to the charges against him. What is eagerly awaited is the first meeting of the Himara Municipal Council, where Beleri must take the oath according to the law. The deadline for organizing the Council’s meeting is June 24th.
Vlora Court validated Fredi Beleri’s mandate as the mayor of Himara after the elections on May 14th. The decision was given in the court session chaired by judge Herila Cela on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.
This decision by the Court is part of the administrative process for granting mandates to mayors, as provided in the Electoral Code and the law on local self-government.
“The mandate of the mayor shall be verified by the court of the judicial district to which the respective municipality belongs, within 20 days from the date of announcing the election results.” – Law on local self-government, Article 60, paragraph 1.
The Central Election Commission approved the final results table of the elections in Himara on May 25th, indicating that the Vlora Court utilized the entire time frame allowed by law by announcing its decision on June 13th, nineteen days after approval by the Central Election Commission.
What does the court verify?
The Law on Local Self-Government answers this question in Article 60, paragraph 2.
“The declaration of the invalidity of the mayor’s mandate is made when it is found that the conditions set forth in Article 45 of the Constitution and the relevant provisions of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Albania are not met.” – Law on local self-governance, Article 60, paragraph 2.
In the Constitution, cases where a citizen is disqualified from being elected are imprisonment or a final court decision for committing a crime.
This is not the case for Fredi Beleri, who was allowed to run for mayor by the Central Election Commission after submitting a self-declaration form (which has not yet been made public by the CEC), at a time when the Electoral Code stipulates that anyone who meets constitutional criteria can register as a candidate for mayor or MP.
What happens now?
Beleri, who was arrested and jailed by the First Instance Court of Vlora and later by the Court of Appeal on charges of “active corruption in elections,” is currently under investigation by the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office since May 17th. This means that he will be behind bars for as long as the special anti-corruption prosecution investigation lasts. Meanwhile, his appeals against the arrest measure and the illegal declaration of wiretaps have been repeatedly rejected by the court, making it difficult for Beleri to exercise the duty of the mayor of Himara.
According to the Law on Local Self-Government, the validation of the mayor’s mandate must be done at the first meeting of the Municipal Council, where the election winner takes the oath. The first meeting of the Municipal Council must be held within 30 days from the announcement of the election results by the Central Election Commission. Therefore, the Himara Municipal Council has until June 24th to hold its first meeting.
“It is assumed that if the municipal council does not meet within 30 days from the date of announcing the election results by the Central Election Commission, the prefect will organize the ceremony of the mayor’s oath in the municipality’s premises and in the presence of the residents of the respective unit”. – Law on Local Self-Government, Article 60, paragraph 5.
It remains to be seen whether Fredi Beleri’s lawyer will request the police to escort Beleri to the Municipal Council meeting to receive the mandate or choose another strategy.