MON, 04 MAR 2002 01:42:57 GMT
Castling of Posts in Albanian Labyrinth
AIM Tirana, February 17, 2002
The resignation of Prime Minister Meta after sharpening of the
disagreement with Fatos Nano, President of the Socialist Party, left
behind a vacuum of government in the Albanian capital. Meta's departure
does not seem to have solved the long political crisis in Tirana, but
further deepened it. The clash between the opposed groups within the
Socialist Party in power has reached its climax and any formula of a
compromise will not be for long.
After a long period of passive and defensive stand, Meta launched an
offensive using the only and the last weapon he had - resignation.
Despite the sharp criticism addressed against Meta, it seems that Nano
had not expected the resignation of the Prime Minister.
After Meta's resignation, the race for the prime minister was won by
Pandeli Majko, the current minister of defence who was forced to leave
the post of the prime minister two years ago after the defeat in the
race for the head of the party with the president of the Socialist
Party, Nano. Majko, supported by Meta's group, won the race with
Ermelinda Meksi, minister for foreign cooperation, who was supported by
Nano's group, with a significant advantage.
Thirty-four-year-old Majko who headed the government for a year during
the crisis in Kosovo and became very popular in the country and abroad,
will probably have a much more difficult time ruling in peace than two
years ago during the war. Two rival groups within the Socialist Party
took turns in their blocking policies and the establishment of an
internal coalition was very difficult.
After much effort Majko presented his new cabinet which, although not a
masterpiece of compromise, one can certainly say without risking making
a big mistake, is a masterpiece of mediocrity. The Socialists seem to
have decided to play their final match with spare players.
A certain number of second players, unknown to the public, got key posts
in Majko's new cabinet.
A completely unknown name, Stefan Cipa, could be the new minister of
public order, the key post in Albania. Former prime minister Meta who
was one of the candidates for the post, withdrew after the issued
ultimatum by the rivalry group that refused Meta's participation in the
cabinet. Former minister of public order Ilir Gjoni does not appear in
the new cabinet, it seems, due to internal disagreements.
All the portfolios linked to the economy, finance, agriculture and
industries, will be controlled by Nano's group. Kastriot Islami, one of
the central figures in that group, will be in charge of Albanian
finances, when he replaces Anastas Angjeli who is accused of corruption
scandals by Nano. Ermelinda Meksi will probably keep her post at the
head of the Ministry of Foreign Cooperation.
In fact, while Prime Minister Majko is believed to be more Meta's than
Nano's, the new cabinet seems to be inclined more towards Nano. Among
Meta's supporters, Arta Dade managed to keep the post of foreign
minister, along with a few other ministers.
The list of the new cabinet which has three portfolios less than the
previous one does not include the names of minister of Euro-Atlantic
integration Paskal Milo, minister of justice Sokol Nako, minister of
education Ben Blushi, etc. What is striking is the departure of a
certain number of persons of the younger generation and their
replacement by persons from the old generation of Socialists.
The new cabinet will be a transitional cabinet which will not last for
long. It is possible, of course, that he might not get the votes of both
the factions, which may deepen the vacuum of power in this country.
Albanian Socialists in power cannot be considered as a single party any
more. Two rival groups headed by Meta and Nano are behaving and
operating as two separate parties. Sharp accusations are heard in their
debate, but not ideological differences, so that it all comes down to
struggle for power.
Albanian policy has entered an intricate labyrinth with a lot of unknown
turns and it is difficult to anticipate anything. The governing of the
country is practically blocked for months because of the long last
year’s pre-election campaign, and later on of the exhausting debate
within the ranks of the party in power.
Nano whose position had seemed to be very weak after the victory of Ilir
Meta in the race for prime minister in the end of August, managed to
recover by opening a debate about corruption in the government. However,
after Meta's departure from the government, Nano won a victory that
caused headache rather than content.
And while at the head of the Government the castling of names was
completed, it is expected that the divided Socialist Party will now
return to the political arena where Nano and Meta will clash. And while
Nano still has an advantage that was in the beginning called "the moral
tour" by the press that increased his popularity, Meta has the advantage
because he controls the majority in party structures where significant
decisions shall be made in the foreseeable future.
Meta also enjoyed significant international support not only of the USA,
but also of its European partners. After his resignation he received
messages from American Secretary of State Powell and British Prime
Minister Blaire who expressed regret because of his resignation. New
Prime Minister Majko also has the support from abroad, although in the
period when he was departing two years ago, the relations with a few
significant European partners, like Italy and Germany were not exactly
Berisha’s opposition demanded creation of a broadly founded government,
but it is not quite clear whether it would favour the formula of a
“grand coalition” or a technical government. The resignation of the
Government coincided with the return of the opposition into the
parliament after its long refusal to recognize the results of the
criticized elections of June last year. On the other hand, the campaign
of criticizing Nano has confirmed the criticism of the earlier
opposition putting it into a much more favourable position than before.
This makes the political scene in Albania even more interesting and less
And while Berisha and Nano were on the same wavelength in the campaign
of denouncing corruption that was aimed against Meta, Berisha and Meta
might unite in the efforts to prevent Nano from taking the post of the
president next July if the latter still hopes to win it.
The crisis of the government seems to be a filter that links the
previous election crisis with the next presidential crisis. Perhaps
Albania will not have a strong government before presidential elections
in the beginning of summer.
Nano seems to have had aspirations to be the president although the road
to the presidency is a true labyrinth. Even if it is not a “mission
impossible”, it certainly is an exceptionally difficult mission. Nano
will need the consensus of his party, or more precisely of the members
of parliament from his party, which seems to be utterly uncertain. What
the Socialists’ president calls the catharsis of the Socialists has not
brought what ancient Greeks called atharaxis – pacification. Relations
are strained among the Socialists and internal animosities have
increased. At the moment when Meta closed the door of the seat of the
government in order to give the keys to Majko, Nano’s hopes to enter the
office of the president have significantly deflated.
Running for the presidency perhaps would not have obstacles, but it
would certainly be dimmed because of the lack of consensus among the
opposition which declared itself in favour of a consensus president – in
other words, of his being neither a Socialist, nor a Democrat, but a
neutral figure from the circles of the civil society or university.
However, if the opposition was at first against Nano and later offered
the formula of a consensus president, various circles in the West
offered the formula of a consensus president from the very beginning
that leads to the elimination of the candidacy of Nano since he is a
candidate of a party.
In Western circles the election of a consensus president seems to be
considered to be the magical key that would resolve several crises. On
the other hand, in a way it would remove the stain from the last
elections and, since it is impossible to correct the mistakes, it would
offer the opposition a form of a compensation for them. It should be
added, though, that diplomats in Tirana avoided to comment on the issues
concerning the future president making it clear that they do not all
agree with the formulas offered so far.
Current president Meidani, who was until recently considered to be the
formula for a compromise at least among rival groups in the Socialist
Party, has very little chance for a second term in office. The whole
debate about the question of the future president is conducted as if the
current president does not exist.
The election of the future president is drawing to its close, but
perhaps the best solution for Albania, like for the majority of former
communist countries, is to introduce the election of the president by
direct voting, but preserving his limited jurisdiction. It would give
the president greater authority but it would certainly prevent
Usually when describing the conflicting nature of Albanian politics I
used the term “the political ring in Tirana”, and when describing the
theatrical character of politics I used the term “political scene of
Tirana”. Nowadays when Albanian politics is more complicated than ever,
it seems to me that the most appropriate term would be “the political
labyrinth of Tirana”. All things considered, the only way out of this
labyrinth will be new elections.