By Fatjona Mejdini
Albania’s parliament on Thursday passed a much awaited law banning convicted criminals from public office with strong cross-party support.
The law bans people convicted of serious offences, such as murder and rape, from appointment or election to state office.
Hours of debates in the plenary session ended in a compromise that changed the constitution.
There was little opposition, as 131 of 140 MPs present in the parliament backed the law, which aims to clean up politics and the administration.
In addition to permanently barring people with serious convictions from office, the law imposes a minimum period before those convicted of lesser offences can assume office.
An official found guilty of corruption is banned from holding public office for 20 years, while those convicted of offences resulting in jail terms of two years or under, will be barred for 10 years.
All MPs, local politicians, government officials, civil servants and members of the military and police forces will also be subject to criminal background checks.
In a rare move, President Bujar Nishani sent parliament a decree that made it possible for both the constitutional changes and the law to take effect from the moment that the MPs voted.
The US ambassador in Tirana welcomed the passage of the law as a courageous decision. “This law is the toughest law in Europe against criminals in politics. While it is the result of the hard work by both the majority and the opposition, ultimately it is a victory for the Albanian people who want clean government and an end to corruption,” the ambassador said.
The EU delegation considered the adoption of the package a sign that “constructive cross-party dialogue is the best way to pursue reforms needed for the country.”
The EU called on the political parties to engage in constructive dialogue on all of Albania’s further delicate reform challenges, above all justice reform.
“Progress in the reform agenda is crucial to further the entrenchment of the rule of law and to move the country forward on its path towards European integration,” the statement read.