Constitution of Albania

The current Constitution of Albania was adopted on 28 November 1998. It defines Albania as a parliamentary republic. According to the current Constitution, the Republic of Albania has a unicameral legislature composed of 140 deputies, who elect the head of state, the President of Albania, and the Council of Ministers that consists of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers.

The 1998 Constitution is divided into 18 parts which sanction a parliamentary democracy, people’s sovereignty and fundamental rights of the citizens as well as other important points. The Constitution is said to have fulfilled all the requirements for a modern European constitution.[1]

Due to political instability, Albania has had many constitutions during its short history as an independent country. Albania was initially constituted as a monarchy in 1913, briefly a republic in the 1920s, then it returned to a democratic monarchy in 1928. It later became a socialist republic until the restoration of capitalism and democracy in the 1990s.

The Kanun and the early constitutional laws

Albanians have an old tradition for law and regulations. Among the old laws is the Kanun (Canon), a sort of constitution respected by majority of Albanians throughout centuries. The Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini, which according to some writings was codified in the 15th century, is distinguished among several Kanuns. Kanun has provided some level of self-government for the Albanians under foreign rule and thereby democracy has been exercised. According to the Kanun, important decisions are made by Conventions of the Elderly.

During the National Renaissance of the 19th century, Albanians founded the League of Prizren and in the meantime a provisional government for the Albanian-populated districts of the Ottoman Empire. The New Kanun was adopted as a program and statute for the governing bodies. This is often regarded as the beginning of the modern Albanian politics and diplomacy.

In 1913, Albania was recognized as an independent country, yet the European powers decided for a constitutional monarchy headed by a European monarch William of Albania. The Constitution adopted for this period did not have much effect partially due to the rebellions against the foreign king and partially due to World War I.

The 1913 borders arranged by European powers left more than half of the Albanian-populated territories outside Albania’s borders. However, right after World War I, Albania was in danger of being re-partitioned between Balkan countries and Italy. In opposition to this, Albanian leaders held Congress of Lushnjë at which they decided to defend the sovereignty of their country and fight against any foreign invasions. An interim constitution (officially known as Statute) sanctioning the monarchy was also passed.

During the 1920s Albania experienced political instability and rapid succession of governments. In 1924 a revolutionary group took over by force, while six months later Ahmet Zogu crushed the revolution. In 1925 an Albanian Republic was declared under a constitution “based on the French model of the Third Republic” (IPLS). The Republic had a bicameral legislature (Chamber of Deputies and Senate) that elected a President, who was head of state and of government (Council of Ministers) for a seven-year term. The President was vested with fairly broad--almost dictatorial--powers, including the power to appoint one-third of the Senate and rule by decree.

Three years later, in 1928, Albania was proclaimed a kingdom, and President Zogu became King Zog I. The legislative organ consisted of one chamber, while the executive power belonged to the head of state, the King, and the cabinet composed of the Prime Minister and other ministers. In practice, however, Zog retained the same dictatorial powers he'd held as president, and the country was still essentially a military dictatorship.

With the Italian fascists invading Albania in 1939, this Constitution was abolished. Fascist collaborators in Albania offered the throne to Victor Emmanuel III, King of Italy, an act that heavily violated the Constitution of the Albanian Kingdom. The Quisling government established by the Italians passed a new Constitution in 1939.

Socialist period (1944-1991)

After the liberation of Albania from Nazi occupation, the communists established the Democratic Government of Albania. On 11 January 1946, the constitution of the People's Republic of Albania was promulgated, to which amendments were adopted in 1950. It was later replaced on 28 December 1976, by the Constitution of the People's Socialist Republic of Albania.

The 1976 Constitution defined Albania as a "Socialist People's Republic" (Art. 1) and a "state of the proletarian dictatorship" (Art. 2), and in a similar manner to its predecessor entrenched the rule of the Party of Labour of Albania as the leading force in the Albanian society and "the vanguard of the working class" (Art. 3). In socialist concepts, the Constitution guaranteed basic human rights and privileges to the citizen, such as tax exemption (1976 Constitution, Art. 31). State organs, the People's Assembly as the legislative organ, the Presidium of the People's Assembly as a de facto collegial head of state, and the Council of Ministers as the executive branch were described to function in a similar way as in a parliamentary democracy. However, the actions of these organs were subject to the guidance and decisions of the Labor Party, while its organization was not defined by the Constitution. The First Secretary of the Party was Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Chairmen of the Defense Council (Art. 89).

Return to capitalism

The 1976 Constitution remained in effect until September 5, 1991 when a temporary basic law was passed to legalize a pluralist system and re-establish a capitalist economy in Albania. Based on this document, which defined Albania as a parliamentary republic, the new Constitution was drafted in 1998. Many drafts, such as the one proposed in 1994, failed to be ratified.

The current Constitution was ratified by a popular referendum in 1998.

See also

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