SAT, 23 JUN 2001 12:01:34 GMT
PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS IN ALBANIA: A MISSION POSSIBLE ?!
AIM TIRANA, 21 June 2001
There is no public opinion poll to predict the outcome of the
Parliamentary elections to take place in Albania on June 24. But the
Albanians are going towards the voting booths in the most tranquil
election campaign during the last ten-years of post communist
decade. The way elections are organized and the acceptance or not,
of the final result, as a matter of fact, is more important than the
name of the winner.
Surprises like the elections in Bulgaria last week are not expected
in Albania. The Albanian political scene is totally dominated by the
ruling Socialist party, chaired by ex-Premier Fatos Nano and the
opposition Democratic Party led by ex-President Sali Berisha. The
small parties are not expected to play an important role, while a
third serious political force, which could administrate the votes of
the undecided people is missing.
But the Sunday's elections seems to put an end for the first time to
the 2/3 "hegemony", which was present in Albania during the last
decade. During all four Parliamentary elections, the winner had
under his control 2/3 of the seats in Parliament.
By heading for the tenth time at the voting booths during the ten
years of political pluralism (besides four Parliamentary elections,
three local elections and two referendums on the Constitution,
without counting here the referendum on choosing the form of regime
carried out four years ago on the same time with the General
elections) Albanians have broken all records. Based on this, the
rumor goes "if baseball is the national sport for the Americans,
elections. are for the Albanians"
The Sunday's elections shouldn't be a vote of protest or a vote
against, as it routinely has happened in Albania. The public is
tired and disappointed by politics and indifference prevails over
protest. This can lead to a lower turn out than usually, but not
less than 60 percent. It seems that the Albanians for the first time
will use their vote to choose between two main alternatives and not
to conduct a referendum against or in favor of a person. Four years
ago during the June 1997 elections, after the crisis of the pyramid
investments scheme, indeed elections consisted of a referendum in
favor or against the conservative President Sali Berisha.
Berisha has managed to reemerge politically and aims a return to
power. After losing the October 2000 local elections, Berisha is
applying what he calls the policy of "the new start", greatly
moderating his political vocabulary and appealing on the his party
dissidents to came back.
Despites the less-aggressive tones of his campaign, the ex President
has not made clear yet how he will handle the outcome of the
elections in case he losses them. In an interview given to BBC,
Berisha said that he would not accept any outcome, which would come
out from the rigged elections and accused the Government for
manipulating the voters' lists.
Berisha has created a broader coalition of right wing forces, where
Republicans and monarchists are included too. After the elections he
has left the cooperation door open also for the Democratic Alliance
Party, which is made up by his former opponents, and with the Human
Rights Party, which represents the interests of the Greek minority.
If Berisha wins, he has to face with the internal and external
skepticism regarding his democratic credentials.
On the other hand the socialists have based their campaign on
cutting ribbons for new telephone facilities and road segments in
the Albanian countryside, without forgetting the anit-Berisha carte.
The Premier Meta during a meeting in Shkodra town, one of the
strongholds of democrats, warned that "the time of carton state is
over and hands will be cut off to everybody who attempts to touch
the people's vote".
Meta managed to accomplish an important success a few days ago, when
the Gothenburg Summit decided to open up negotiations for the
Association and Stabilization Agreement between Albania and the
The socialists have unfolded their objectives alongside with their
allies. They aim to gain 60 percents of votes, which would enable
them to elect the President after his term expires in year 2002.
This seem to be a difficult objective to accomplish, especially if
we take into consideration the fact that they are going alone, after
they failed in their attempts to create an pre- election coalition
with their social democrats ally and the others.
But if socialists will continue to remain in power, they have to
face challenge of meeting the democratic standards and not with
Berisha factor, as it has happened so far. Berisha's alibi couldn't
function any longer and couldn't serve as a justification during a
second mandate. Independent analysts in Tirana have voiced their
concern that in the future mandate a kind of soft arrogance or
hidden arrogance can be strengthened at the socialist governance, a
phenomenon already evident.
The question right now in Tirana is that to what extend the result
of Sunday elections will influence in electing the President a year
later. According to the Albania's new Constitution, the election of
President requires 60 percent of votes. In case after three rounds
of elections, the President is not elected yet, then the country
will be headed for pre elections. Under the conditions this 60
percent thing is considered a high steak for both main parties, and
the compromise thing is still unknown in Albania, then the
likelihood for the Albanians to head for the polling stations for
the 11 times next year is not excluded.
Now even the names of the future Premiers are known. If the
socialists will remain in power, Ilir Meta will continue to head the
cabinet, which still will be a coalition within socialists, between
Nanao's group and Meta's group that does not like each other and
this is not a secret.
If the democrats return to power, the new Premier will be Ridvan
Bode, currently Secretary general of the Democratic Party. Bode has
headed for a brief period the Ministry of Finances, some months
ahead of pyramid investments scheme crisis. Berisha has not made
clear yet what role he will play if he wins the elections.
Whoever the winner will be, he will have the advantage that Albanian
now is a country making progress at an agreeable pace, with a more
consolidated stability. And whoever the winner will be he has to
face the challenges of fighting corruption, illegal traffics and
The elections in Albania haven't attracted greatly the international
attention and seem to be under the shadow, because of the Macedonian
crisis. It is evident that the crisis in Macedonia, like Kosovo too,
are not part of the electoral debate. Either the ruling socialists
or the democrats in opposition have maintained similar attitudes
towards the Macedonian crisis by adoption a moderate and carefully
thought of line. While an Alliance Democratic Party statement a few
weeks ago, which claimed the unification of Albanian with Kosovo was
criticized by all political forces and didn't have an echo during
the election campaign.
While the country seems to be less scared of disorders after the
elections or from "A day after" syndrome, the possibility of not
accepting the result of the elections by both sides in not excluded.
If it happens, it will be the worst alternative. Albania is among
few ex- communist countries, which has not surpassed the peaceful
power rotation test. The losers, despite being right or wrong, have
contested the previous electoral processes. Viewed from this angle,
the up coming elections are considered more to be a test than common
elections. A test for the Albanian democracy and stability.