Albania’s Central Election Commission (CEC) has removed two MPs and one mayor after they were found to have concealed past criminal convictions abroad.
Seven members of the commission voted unanimously to sack Mayor of Kavaja Elvis Rroshi, and lawmaker Shkelqim Selami, of the Socialist Movement for Integration. A majority of the ruling panel voted to kick out opposition MP Dashamir Tahiri, from the Democratic Party.
All three men denied the charges against them. Their lawyers said they would appeal the decisions.
Around a year ago, the Albanian Parliament voted that any official found to have committed a crime either at home or abroad at any point during their lifetime should be removed from office.
Following the passing of the law, all elected officials were compelled to fill out a form detailing any past criminal convictions. The authorities have since carried out searches of domestic and overseas criminal records to identify any anomalies, during which details of the crimes allegedly committed by the three men were identified.
Rroshi was removed from office for reportedly failing to declare a conviction for gang rape in Italy, and fake ID and drug offences he was found guilty of in Switzerland.
Selami was sacked for concealing the fact he had been detained for a week in Italy on human trafficking charges in 1994, while Tahiri was kicked out of Parliament for not revealing that Italian police had caught him driving with a false driving licence, which resulted in him being jailed for nine months.
Both the EU and the US have been pressuring the Albanian authorities to implement the law as a warning to any organised crime figures who might be considering standing in the country’s upcoming elections, which are scheduled to take place in June next year.
The US Embassy in Tirana commented: “Today’s decision is a victory for the Albanian people and a warning for criminals considering whether to become candidates in the 18 June Parliamentary elections.
“Elected or appointed officials filing false declarations should be punished to the full extent of the law. Persons with criminal records should have no place representing the Albanian people.”
Prosecutors in Albania have said they are currently investigating another 20 senior elected officials who may have failed to declare their past criminal convictions.
Clamping down on corruption has become a major priority for Albania, which wants to clean up its political system before beginning talks on possible EU membership.
Albania has consistently been ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in Europe by Transparency International and – like some of its Balkan neighbours – regularly ranks alongside some of Africa’s most corrupt nations in transparency league tables.