WED, 23 MAY 2001 16:14:11 GMT
A New Electoral Start in Albania
AIM Tirana, 22 MAY 2001
Albania will launch the electoral campaign this week with all the
parties starting their rallies, meetings, posters... hoping it will
remain only with these. Albania will hold its fifth general
parliamentary elections on June 24.
The electoral process until now has shown Albania is in a new turn,
without violence and aggressive behaviour by the local politicians, who,
hopefully, have gained some experience how to hold a peaceful and calm
procedure. They surely know a violent situation in Albania would not
help any government to
take the country ahead, at a time when Europe is very reluctant to give
a go-ahead to closer ties, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement,
that was so easily accorded to Macedonia, already in first steps of a
In fact the real game has already started. It was the ruling Socialists
of Fatos Nano who said that 35 of their candidates would run as
independent ones. Opposition Democrats of Sali Berisha said all of their
candidates, but the main party leaders, would do the same.
The game starts at the election law based on which with the so-called
independent candidates the big parties aim at getting more seats from
the proportional list.
The law is not OK but the political parties are not fair too. What else
are they doing? How are they going to be introduced and present
themselves this time?
While the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
office in the country was trying hard to relieve the tense Albanians
from their previous electoral dangerous intensity, they could hardly do
anything for this issue.
Much work and mediation was needed to convince both main political
parties agree on reviewing once again the voters' list. Democrats
repeatedly said there was an incorrect number presented in last October
local elections. Socialists agreed to do that. But, of course, nothing
would go so smoothly in the ever-squabbling Albanian politics.
Participation of the parties' representatives at the checking
commissions became a problem, and, very probably, the basis to claim the
The ruling Socialists broke the coalition with the four other minor
allies, convinced that this time they could win enough seats and run the
country alone in the future. It would not be that easy but, on the other
side, returning Albania to the one-party rule again would not be good.
The research done by different sources show that the Socialists are very
likely to be the winners again. But inside the party the basis of this
conviction is the government. It seems that one of the strong issues of
their electoral campaign will be the public order. Compared to 1997
unrest, the following unstable Albania in 1998 and the havoc in 1999
with the Kosovo war, the country is now quite calm.
Police interventions and attacks on illegal drug traffic and organized
crime, reducing the immigrants flow out of the country and relatively
less corruption among police ranks have given their results and returned
a somewhat relative calmness among the population and the foreign
investors and donors.
The governing of the Prime Minister Ilir Meta has played a strong point
in this aspect. Unlike his predecessors he has shown a strong hand and
the will to run Albania differently. Of course, corruption is still a
great weakness and, in general, the application of the laws.
They have been the reasons why the European Union is still reluctant to
sign the Association Agreement with the western Balkan country.
Though Meta has been lucky to govern at a time when the infrastructure
road projects were to be completed, one should not forget that he has
made time and again efforts to push foreign companies applying such
projects respect the contracts. Consequently Albania has now a different
Following a successful sale of the mobile telephone company AMC, the
government is well spending the money to repair many streets in the main
cities, something that, surely, is being done to gain electoral votes.
But Meta has earned many points in following a very moderate and
western-like, or western-pleasing foreign policy referring to Kosovo and
now with Macedonia, with a great ethnic Albanian population.
Meta has good relations with neighbouring Italy and Greece, two EU
countries, and pushed a lot the relations with other neighbours like
Montenegro, Macedonia and recently Serbia.
Meta has very good background in the relations with the United States
and he has already established warm ties with the new George W. Bush's
new government. It seems that Meta has learnt a lot from Berisha's
Berisha, on his side, is also playing quite well. He has clearly
understood he should change his tactics and not lose again. This time he
created a broad center-right coalition. Union for Victory (the only
coalition running this time), collecting besides his previous allies
like the Nationalists and the Monarchists, Republicans too.
That is aimed at giving better results. This time they say they will
give a "positive tendency" to the campaign. There is still much to be
seen on what they are to introduce to the people.
True Albanians can hardly forget the 1997 unrest and thousands of
murdered people and lost life savings. But they also have been bored by
the continuous corruption and scandals from the ruling Socialists'
officials. Much will depend now on both parties, or groupings, how they
are going to present themselves.
It should be noted that the coalition efforts could also serve to
Berisha to give some foreign allies, who recently seem to have forgotten
him at all.
This time Albanians will vote differently. Their life is somewhat
different, better though still there is no manufacturing and production
in the Southeastern European country (everyone tries to avoid calling it
the "Balkans" that could be easily followed by the expression "powder
keg"). Albania officially is not considered any more as "Europe's
Albanians are also tired and bored of the continuous promises and little
results from the politicians. Following these one may say that the
election turnout could be lower. No. Albanians love to vote and to hope
for a different future.
For the international community the greatest achievement in the upcoming
elections would probably be if the losers would accept the results.