AIM: start

THU, 13 DEC 2001 23:45:54 GMT

A Truce that Heralds New Crises

AIM Tirana, December 9, 2001

None of the previous meetings or Congresses in ten-year-long history of the currently ruling Socialist Party in Albania lasted as long as the meeting of the Main Governing Board held on December 3, 4 and 5 when the Party President, Fatos Nano, and Prime Minister Ilir Meta crossed swords. The marathon session of the SP Main Governing Board marked the end of a fierce seven weeks long campaign of accusations and open attacks launched by the President of the Socialist Party against the Government of the Socialist Prime Minister. This campaign shook both the party and the public and not so much because of the truthfulness or harshness of accusations, as much because of the fact that this was the first time that a president of a political party in Albania attacked Prime Minister and Government from his own party ranks. Once before, back in 1999, Fatos Nano launched a similar campaign against the Socialist Prime Minister, Pandelli Majko, but at that time it was carried out as part of their electoral campaigns, when both of them competed for the position of the Party President and when it was not a large-scale campaign against the entire Government as this one is.

There are two interesting elements in the campaign organised at the meeting of the Main Governing Board (which was convened without the President's consent, but in line with a decision of the Party Presidency which supports the Prime Minister) by the President of Socialists against the Socialist Prime Minister and Ministers. The first element is the fact that his anti-Government campaign started about a month after the Albanian Parliament voted Prime Minister Meta's Government. President Nano was the one who demanded mandates for Prime Minister Meta, Vice President of the Republic and also submitted to Parliament the Prime Minister's nomination. The second element is the fact that a week before the meeting of its Main Governing Board, the Socialist Party of Albania had been admitted to membership of the Socialist International at its session in Santo Domingo, which is an event that under different circumstances the Socialist Party would have turned into a major holiday, but which the internal political crisis pushed into the background, practically into obscurity. There are not many people in the political circles in Tirana who support the alleged moral motives behind SP President's campaign organised its ranks, which he has purportedly launched because of corruption. The support expressed by the opposition leader, Sali Berisha, President of the Democratic Party, to his former political rival Fatos Nano in his new campaign, did not have much effect because the Democratic Party had addressed the same, even harder, accusations against Nano back in 1997-98 when he was Prime Minister.

Leaving aside a multitude of accusations two opposed sides heaped on each other in the Main Governing Board, it should be said that it soon became clear that the entire crisis was actually the measuring of swords of two Socialist leaders. Both had demands: Nano wanted the Prime Minister to be relieved of office because he was the main obstacle to his ambition to become President of the Republic; Meta wanted to prevent Nano from becoming a President because he saw him as an obstacle to his rule. Their testing of strengths as a test of power showed that both have more or less the same potential. Nano forced the Government to demand the resignation of three Ministers - for Finance, Privatisation and Public Economy - the same ones whose dismissal he demanded from the Prime Minister, whereas on December 5, the majority of members of the Party Presidency once again gave their vote of confidence to the Prime Minister.

The first live broadcast of the session of the Main Governing Board turned it into a veritable television spectacle in which the TV viewers saw for the first time political figures of the same colours exchange harshest accusations, starting from corruption affairs to links with organised crime and favouring of foreign companies. Until now, viewers in Albania were used to hearing opposition parties make such accusations against the Government, both when the Democratic Party was in power, as well as under the Socialist Party's Government.

However, those who thought that live broadcast of the hardest political confrontation in the history of the largest political party would serve to intensify the anti-corruption feelings were soon disappointed because while these two groups exchanged mutual accusations of corruption, at the same time, they appealed to each other with equal pathos to preserve the family and socialist solidarity. Those who hoped that this would mean that the Socialist Party would democratise its public relations by openly showing unpleasant scenes of insults and recriminations between Socialist politicians, soon understood the counter-productive effects of revealing the real level of numerous political personalities that appeared on the screen.

The greatest political conflict ever within the Socialist Party did not bring any resolution of the crisis, because the positions and interests of major Socialist leaders remained far apart. And since this represents a political crisis within the party in power, whether we want it or not, it turned from a party conflict into a Socialist Government crisis. As such, it represents a new aspect of the current political crisis in Albania, which caused the first deep crisis of confidence among ordinary people.

The most interesting thing in this entire affair (which turned into a Government crisis because of the resignation of four Ministers, including the one in charge of agriculture whose dismissal the Socialist President did not demand) is that it was caused by one man, i.e. President of the Socialist Party Fatos Nano. He alone started and provoked a veritable political storm. From one point of view, it demonstrated what the President's efforts at regaining the lost control over the party might cause, but from the other showed that such efforts were taken at the cost of causing internal political and moral upheavals.

The fact that certain politicians in Albania (such as the President of the Democratic Party or President of the Socialist Party) are capable of provoking a crisis speaks more about the structural weaknesses of political parties and how easily the young Albanian democracy can be harmed by any political leader, than it shows their strength.

Quite understandably, ordinary people cannot place their trust in a democracy that one man alone can push into a crisis at any moment. It seems that in Albania democracy has not yet matured to the level at which it would be protected against consequences of subjective political struggle for power, both between the opposition and the authorities, as well as that within the authorities.

The current political crisis within the party that is running the country has been suspended by a kind of truce, because it seems that although unable to assert itself or totally eliminate its opponent, neither side was willing to accept any realistic or full agreement on the resolution of the crisis.

That means that the political crisis in the ruling party will continue in the future with new clashes which both the Party President, as well as the Prime Minister have publicly announced and which will cost even more in respect of political development and the stability of the country.

Arjan LEKA