Albania will hold parliamentary elections

© AP Photo / Visar KryeziuАлбанский flag. Archival photoAlbania will hold parliamentary elections© AP Photo / Visar Kryeziu

Parliamentary elections, which was on the verge of collapse due to conflict between government and opposition, will take place on Sunday, June 25, in Albania, still one of the poorest countries of Europe c prosperous drug business.

Earlier, the opposition Democratic party (DP) Lulzim Bashi for four months staged street protests and boycotted the work of Parliament, accusing the ruling Socialist party (SP) Prime Minister EDI Rama in the upcoming election fraud, economic problems and so-called «kanalizacii» of the country.

Mediators in the conflict settlement made by the EU and the United States, with the result that the opposition had the opportunity to observe the elections, but the national will was postponed from 18 to 25 June.

Elections will be held for the ninth time after administration in Albania multiparty system in 1991, the fall of the regime of Enver Hoxha. They will be the first after obtaining the status of EU candidate in 2014. The citizens elect 140 deputies of the unicameral Parliament in 12 administrative districts, while the threshold for representation in the legislature is 3% for parties and 5% for coalitions.

According to the Central election Commission (CEC) of Albania, will participate in the elections 18 political associations, electoral right is granted to the 3.4 million people who will be able to vote by 5.3 thousands of sites.

Earlier it was reported that around 330 observers from the Organization for security and cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will monitor the elections in Albania. Only the CEC registered 53.5 thousand local and foreign observers.

The main participants

The biggest rivals are the ruling coalition of the socialist party Frame (ruling since 2013) and the coalition around the democratic party Bashi (in power from 2005-2013), the first in the current convocation is owned by 64 of the mandate, the second — 49. The third political force in Albania is a Socialist movement for integration (SDI) with 20 mandates, which is now headed by Petrit Vasili, his previous leader, Ilir Meta was elected in April by the President but shall take office on July 24.

The chances of getting into the new Parliament have several parties and movements, such as the Party for justice, integration and unity and Libra. However, analysts note that a key becomes a struggle between the Democrats and the socialists, the outcome of which may decide, SDI entered into a coalition with one of the parties after the elections.

The opposition

The differences of the political forces included in the acute phase of 18 February, when bash gathered in the centre of Tirana, more than 10 thousand people and called on opposition supporters to stay in the square in front of the government and to continue protest till the resignation of the Cabinet Frame. After that, the democratic party announced a boycott of Parliament.

«The current government has plunged the country into poverty and chaos, and now that I’ve robbed your pockets and at home, will steal votes in the elections… we are here Today to demand free and democratic elections, the separation of crime from politics, the required dignity, the work and interests of citizens to put on the first plan,» called the cause of the protests, leader of the opposition.

The head of the government amid continuing demonstrations in March sent in the resignation of the Ministers of interior, health, social protection and local self-government. All the remaining positions in the government functionaries are members of the ruling Socialist party of Albania. Instead of Ministerial portfolios they received under his leadership of territorial districts for the preparation of the parliamentary elections in June.

The leader of the opposition called it a «vile caricature of rebirth» and «Union policies and crime», his supporters continued the protests. Basha also said about the possibility of a boycott by Democrats of the parliamentary elections.

Activists blocked DP 24 April at the hour of national transport of Albania. The next day held a visit in Tirana, the head of the European Parliament Committee on foreign Affairs David McAllister, who participated in the negotiations on overcoming the protracted political crisis.

Then the Tyrant in mid-may visited the U.S. assistant Secretary of state for European Affairs and Eurasian Affairs Hoyt Brian Yee. American guest participated in the lengthy negotiations between the leaders of the ruling party and the opposition on new elections, after which the Frame and bash for the first time shook hands and made a joint statement.

The parties agreed on a package of measures to overcome the crisis. Among these concessions of the authorities of the opposition the chair of the Central election Commission of Albania, high-level positions in the interior Ministry, as well as increased penalties for possible bribery of voters, which should contribute to the unbiased expression of will.

Dissatisfaction with the government

The international Institute IFIMES from Ljubljana cites the results of opinion polls of Albania, according to which elapsed since the last election four years the socialists led by former mayor of Tirana, lecturer and artist EDI Rama has lost some of its supporters.

One of the reasons for the popularity of SP experts IFIMES called the behavior of the Prime Minister, nationalist statements which caused painful reaction of the international community and neighboring countries. Observers noted in his speeches the theme of creating a «greater Albania» at the expense of the territories of the States of the region and speculations about the possibility of unification with the breakaway Republic of Kosovo in case of refusal of acceptance in the EU.

The radicalization of the rhetoric of the Frame researchers from IFIMES associated with the attempt to hide the failure of the Prime Minister’s own programs. Promised four years ago the Albanian voters economic recovery, renewal of public institutions, democratization and integration into the EU have been and remain the key outstanding points of the program of the socialists.

The most serious claim to power under the leadership of EDI Rama, according to research, is the so-called «kanalizacia of Albania», that is, the forced retraction of the population in a lucrative drug trafficking because of the inability to find a legal decent paying job. The analysts point to the alleged Association of the country from drug trafficking and organized crime and remind us that Rama did not keep this on the eve of the last elections promises to create 300 thousand new jobs.

In early March of this year, Rama announced the national plan to combat the production and sale of narcotic cannabis. By the time the party discovered by the police and is ready to be sent abroad and use of marijuana consist of more than ten tons.

Law enforcement agencies of Albania with the support of special forces since February, held a series of mass operations to identify the drug plantations. More than 3 thousand police officers across the country were ransacked greenhouses, abandoned facilities and other places.

In 2016, private party discovered in Albania prepared marijuana up to 20 tons, and the number of destroyed plants had reached 2.5 million. Several tons of a narcotic was found on the border crossing points with Greece and Italy.

The prospects of the opposition

The leader of the opposition bash has focused its programme on the fight against corruption, drug-related crime and the European perspective of the country. The government’s opponents hope that in the case of recognition of parliamentary elections fair and democratic «the EU will approve the opening of accession negotiations with Albania».Albania will hold parliamentary elections© 2017 AFP / Pool/Virginia Mukarati and Albania asked NATO to change a peacekeeping policy in Kosovo

According to observers, the main tasks of the new government of Albania should be the improvement of the legal system and attracting foreign investors. The current pandering to the nationalism of voters and inefficient fight against drug trafficking do not accelerate the European integration of the country.

Meanwhile, indicative of the situation in Albanian politics was the mass poisoning of hundreds of participants in Tirana at the end of may the campaign rally of the opposition. Citizens, including the leader of the Democratic party, appealed to the Moscow clinic for medical care with the same symptoms of poisoning.

Victims have told doctors about a «white dust», which appeared in the air during a performance of bash. The direct prosecution of political opponents in the incident was not followed.