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Albania has made real progress towards replacing the highly centralized political system inherited from communist times with one that gives real authority and autonomy to Albania's local governments. The Government has sought to reduce the levels of corruption in Albania's public administration, specifically its public procurement, tax administration, and business registration systems. The prime minister heads the government, while the president has limited executive power.

The unicameral People's Assembly (Kuvendi Popullor) consists of 140 seats, 100 of which are determined by direct popular vote. The remaining seats are distributed by proportional representation. There are 12 multi-member constituencies corresponding to the country's 12 administrative regions. Within any constituency, parties must meet a threshold of 3%, and pre-election coalitions must meet a threshold of 5%. All members serve 4-year terms. The Speaker of Parliament has two deputies, who along with eight permanent parliamentary commissions assist in the process of legislating Albanian affairs.

Under the new 2008 Electoral Code code citizens vote for parties, rather than directly for candidates, which made for a different dynamic. The new Electoral Code effectively sidelined nearly all of Albania's smaller political parties and created a de facto two party system, or at least one in which the two major parties were the overwhelmingly hegemonic partners in multiparty coalitions. Provisions in the code would exclude small parties from seats on the local, regional, or central voting and counting commissions. After an nine-day hunger strike on the floor of Parliament, eleven disheveled and defiant MPs left the chamber on the evening of 18 November 2008, shortly before the remaining MPs overwhelmingly voted in favor of the new electoral code by the lopsided score of 113-1. The ringleader of the strike, Socialist Movement for Integration Chairman Ilir Meta, called the new electoral law a "consensual crime," and lambasted Prime Minister Berisha as well as opposition leader Edi Rama for "colluding" to pass an "antidemocratic" law.

Extensive amendments to the Electoral Code in July 2012 improved the electoral framework, which generally provides a sound basis for the conduct of democratic elections. The Central Election Commission in Albania is an independent institution charged with conducting the elections.It plays an important role as an institution in terms of being apolitical, free from interference from any political party or individual or an institution, and that includes the courts. It is created under its electoral codes and laws, should consist of seven members, but the CEC administered the 2013 elections with four members. The CEC oversees a set of electoral districts, 89 electoral centers. Each of those centers has observers that watch the conduct of the election and the counting of ballots in those locations. Albanias institutions are young, they are ones that have not been always fully tested, and have not always been able to conduct elections that meet the expectations not only of the citizens but the commitments that Albania has taken internationally.

The President is the head of state and elected by a three-fifths majority vote of all Assembly members. The President serves a term of 5 years with the right to one re-election. Although the position is largely ceremonial, the Constitution gives the President authority to appoint and dismiss some high-ranking civil servants in the executive and judicial branches, and this authority can have political implications. The President is also commander in chief of the armed forces, and chairs the National Security Commission. The current President's term expires on July 23, 2012.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and approved by a simple majority of all members of the Assembly. The Prime Minister serves as the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (cabinet), which consists of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and other ministers. Members of the Council of Ministers are nominated by the Prime Minister, decreed by the President, and approved by a parliamentary vote.

Albania's civil law system is similar to that of other European countries. The court structure consists of a Constitutional Court, a Supreme Court, and multiple appeal and district courts. The Constitutional Court is comprised of nine members appointed by the Assembly for one 9-year term. The Constitutional Court interprets the Constitution, determines the constitutionality of laws, and resolves disagreements between local and federal authorities. The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal and consists of 11 members appointed by the President with the consent of the Assembly for 9-year terms. The President chairs the High Council of Justice, which is responsible for appointing and dismissing other judges. The High Council of Justice is comprised of 15 members--the President of the Republic, the Chairman of the High Court, the Minister of Justice, three members elected by the Assembly, and nine judges of all levels elected by the National Judicial Conference.

The remaining courts are divided into three jurisdictions: criminal, civil, and military. There are no jury trials under the Albanian system of justice. A college of three judges, sometimes referred to as a "jury" by the Albanian press, renders court verdicts.



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