In Albania, the partial elections, early local elections, on March 6, for the replacement of the mayors in the six municipalities, whose mandate has ended, are awaited with particular interest by political actors and citizens.
The Democratic Party (PD), the most important in the opposition, after the boycott of the Local Party in 2019, which gave victory to the Socialist Party (SP) in 60 municipalities out of 61 in total, will participate in these elections. He has the chance to aim if he does not win in six communes, at least in some of them.
These elections have the potential to be a litmus test that should show which of the two opposition groups within the DP enjoys the greatest support from the electorate and opposition citizens: the group led by the current president Lulzim Basha or the one led by former Prime Minister, DP leader historian Sali Berisha, declared “non grata” by the US State Department (DASH), “for acts of corruption that undermine democracy in Albania”.
The CEC did not recognize the Berisha groupement
The start of the electoral process on Saturday (22.01) for the March 6 partial premises did not meet the expectations of the group of Berisha supporters to register as a separate political entity within the Central Election Commission (CEC) . The CEC has not recognized this group as such. In a press conference, the state election commissioner, Ilirian Celiashi, said that “the political entity/party must submit to the CEC the proof of registration with the Judicial District Court of Tirana, where there are data such as the name of the political entity, governing bodies and those who are competent to maintain relations with third parties, including the CEC. “
Berisha’s supporters group has no such confirmation. The Judicial District Court of Tirana has not yet issued its decision on the registration of the new status of the restored PD, which includes the dismissal of President Basha and the entire leadership of the official PD, brought before this court by The “PD Recovery Commission” Exit from the National Assembly of December 11, 2021, Democrats, supporters of Berisha.
The pro-Berisha group cannot have legal representatives in the CEC
Following the non-recognition as a political entity and the non-registration with the CEC, the State Election Commissioner, Ilirian Celibashi, decided not to recognize the lawyer Ivi Kaso, appointed by the “ Commission for the Re-establishment of the PD” as the legal representative of the DP in the CEC, after his dismissal. from the post of Secretary for Electoral Affairs of the PD because he took part in the violent demonstration of January 8 against the headquarters of this party, to take over the leadership. In their place, Celibashi legitimized the names of the lawyers elected by Basha as the legal representative of the DP.
Celibashi: Electoral law, the importance of 1% of the electoral list
To the question of DW: if there are legal spaces under these conditions for the group of democrats, the supporters of Berisha and the pro-electoral electorate to participate in the partial local elections of March 6, the head of the CEC, Celibashi responds: “The Electoral Law provides spaces for groups, which cannot be registered as separate political entities, to participate in elections, in this case for mayors, with candidates nominated by the voters themselves. same. According to the electoral law, the voters who propose the candidate for mayor must represent one percent of the number of voters registered on the electoral list of the respective municipality, so that the candidate can enter the race”.
Challenges of both groups in the DP
Now, the DP split seems like a matter of time. One of the consequences of the split is expected to be the reduction of the opposition capacities of the largest opposition party in the country, which will also appear in the electoral process for the partial local elections on March 6. To minimize this consequence for their own interests, the two camps hold simultaneous meetings with the Democrats in the districts, where they give speeches with mutual and increasingly serious accusations.
Both sides are clearly aiming to win the challenge of ensuring that as many people as possible come out of the Democratic electorate: Basha’s grouping with the promise of ending impunity for high-ranking corrupt politicians , the promise of Berisha with the promise to overcome by “peaceful revolution” what he calls the “regime of Prime Minister Rama”.
“Every challenge brings an opportunity. This is a great opportunity to break with the past and embrace the future with all the promise it brings. We have supported from the beginning a justice that does not protect but punishes politicians corruption and organized crime.We have presented in parliament the initiative of decriminalization of politics, vetting of politicians, which will force high level politicians to go to the site of justice, reform of the electoral system and the territorial system that aim to return power to the citizens, because it is concentrated in the hands of a few people,” says Lulzim Basha for DW.
Aleksandër Çipa, an independent analyst in Tirana, president of the Union of Journalists of Albania, sees Basha’s action as the first personal action to win the support of PD members who reject the so-called “peaceful revolution” of the former Prime Minister Berisha.
Basha is on the path of resistance to remain at the head of a dividing party. He accomplishes all the actions and steps to inherit the official mortgage of the political seat. In this confrontation, there may be an increase on the side of Berisha supporters, but never enough to carry out the so-called “peaceful revolution”, Aleksandër Çipa told DW.
Genc Pollo, a former deputy and minister in the PD government, a supporter of Sali Berisha’s group, thinks Basha’s group lacks the essential components to make as many democrats as possible. “DP is membership, ideas and political traditions as well as the driving spirit. I see these three essential elements in the National Assembly PD of last December 11. Basha can have the buildings, the seal and the finances of the PD but absolutely not the three essential components. “Even the damage that he can do to the democrats and to democracy, I think, will remain limited,” Genc Pollo told DW.
He points out that the challenge of the Berisha support group is to “awaken society from lethargy to massively oppose the regime of Rama.
“But just as the members of the Democratic Party came out of their hibernation in the second half of last year, the whole of Albanian society can come out of its hibernation,” said Genc Pollo.
Basha: Justice indiscriminately punishes corrupt politicians
Current Democratic Party Chairman Basha supported former Prime Minister Berisha, the historic leader of the Democratic Party for 16 years, from 2005 until September 2021, when he expelled Berisha from the Democratic Party parliamentary group, 4 months after the “non grata” announcement by DASH, which led to their transformation into each other’s opponents.
Basha was Minister of Public Works, Transport and Telecommunications in the first Berisha government, 2005-2009, Minister of Interior in the second Berisha government, 2009-2013 and then for 8 years his successor at the head of the DP.
Does Basha have any thoughts on his current position as Berisha’s opponent?
“The essential thinking is separation from the past, without any complexes, the promise of a better future for all democrats and Albanians,” Basha told DW.
If Basha sees separation from the past as linked to punishing corrupt politicians, does he expect former Prime Minister Berisha to be brought to justice?
“It’s not up to me to become a judge and a prosecutor. I expect justice to work like in any normal country. It’s not about names. For a very long time, a handful of people with a great political or economic power continue to Impunity is the foundation on which Albania’s endless transition is based One of the factors in closing the transition is to end impunity It is up to the judiciary , to independent institutions, to bring corrupt politicians to justice in the same way as personal interests above those of Democrats,” Basha told DW.