In his letter of resignation on Tuesday, Denar Biba, who was deputy head of the CEC, denounced parliament’s dismissal of another commissioner on Monday as unconstitutional and a breach of the separation of powers between the legislature and independent institutions.
“The ruling majority used its votes in parliament to sack a member of the CEC, which is a grave act against the constitution, the separation of powers and the rule of law,” Biba said in a statement.
“In situation like this, when the institutional protection entrusted to us by the law to secure free and fair elections has been violated, I am resigning as deputy head of the CEC and as a commissioner,” he added.
Another member of the commission, Albana Shtylla, resigned on Wednesday. Shtylla told reporters "that the integrity and independence of the CEC had been breached".
Both Shtylla and Biba had been proposed to the CEC by the opposition Socialist Party.
The CEC is a seven-member collegial body tasked with overseeing elections in Albania. Although, its members are proposed by political parties, with a formula that grants the ruling coalition the right to propose four of the seven members, the CEC is considered an independent institution.
The ruling Democrats on Monday sacked Ilirjan Muho, a member of the commission who had been proposed by the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI.
A former junior government partner the LSI left the government two weeks ago to join the Socialist-led opposition ahead of the June 23 parliamentary elections.
The opposition condemned the vote, arguing that there was no legal basis to dismiss Muho and that his sacking put the independence of the CEC at risk.
The EU and the US also condemned Muho’s dismissal and warned that the move could damage Albania’s relationship with its key allies.
In an interview for the daily Shqip on Wednesday, the former US ambassador in Tirana, John Withers, called the vote an institutional "coup d’état" by Prime Minister Sali Berisha.
The resignation of the two commissioners could leave the CEC in institutional deadlock if they are not replaced by parliament in a timely manner.
“At this moment, the CEC is not functional and according to the electoral code the vacancies need to be filled within 48 hours,” Premto Gogo, head of KRIIK Albania, an NGO that is part of the Coalition of Local Elections Observers, told Balkan Insight.
According to the electoral code in the next two days the Socialist-led opposition needs to nominate two new candidates for the CEC, then to be approved in parliament.
Gogo said that if the opposition refuses to nominate two new commissioners, the electoral process will be in a new crisis.
“The ruling majority could ...replace them with members of civil society, but this would be in breach of the electoral code,” he said.
“The electoral code is really good where there is good will among political parties, but becomes problematic when consensus among them erodes,” Gogo concluded.