ALBANIA AND 2009 PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS:
After the list of candidates for deputies to the new Assembly of the Republic of Albania was published, the election race for the parliamentary elections scheduled for 28 June 2009 started. Political parties launched intensive campaigns by presenting their candidates. This does not exclude the possibility of various tensions, which is quite different from the situation at the last elections which took place four years ago.
There will be 45 political parties competing at the parliamentary elections, of which 36 parties are united in four large coalitions. The largest of these four coalitions is ”Alliance for Changes? uniting as many as 17 parties and run by the Democratic Party (PD) led by Prime Minister Sali Berisha. The ”Unification for Changes? is the second coalition run by the Socialist Party (PS) and headed by Tirana’s Mayor Edi Rama, covering another four parties (G99, Social Democratic Party (PSD), Party for Social Democracy (PDS) and Party of the Greek Minority (PBDNJ)). The third coalition is called ”Socialist Alliance for Integration? run by the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) of the former Prime Minister Ilir Meta, and comprising also Petro Koci’s PSV91, the Green Party of Albania, the Movement for Human Rights and Liberties, the Immigration Party and the party called “new tolerance”. The fourth coalition called ”Poli i Lirisë? (Freedom Pole) is led by the Christian Democratic Party and unites also the Conservative Party, the Movement for National Development, the Party for Democratic Union, the “Way to Freedom” Party and the Party for Democratic Reforms.
EDI RAMA WANTS TO BE PRIME MINISTER BUT NOT HEAD OF THE PS CANDIDATE LIST
In their election campaign the leaders of political parties are mostly using some general political slogans, lacking the original political messages. According to the latest surveys the Democratic Party (PD) led by the incumbent Prime Minister Sali Berisha ranks highest, with its margin increasing at the expense of Edi Rama’s Socialist Party (PS). The surveys carried out a few weeks ago showed PS as the highest ranking party, but it is now losing support in favour of the ruling PD.
The results of surveys carried out in Albania do not always reflect the attitude of the electorate on the election day. Nevertheless, they are used as the basis for determining the election strategies and for leading discussions and analyses on the results.
According to the IFIMES International Institute the reasons for the decrease in the support of the Socialist Party (PS) in favour of the PD are:
In addition to the above main reasons for the development of situation in Albania there are many other causes for the present state of affairs.
Usually it is the ruling party that experiences fatigue at the end of its term of office, but in Albania the situation is opposite. Still, there is little margin between the ruling PD and the opposition PS, and this is not expected to change significantly by the end of the elections. Thus, the parties united in the ”Socialist Alliance for Integration? will hold not only the victory of the left wing but also the key to composing the majority in the government.
HISTORICAL LEFT WING LEADER FATOS NANO IS NOT ON THE PS CANDIDATE LIST
The publishing of party lists containing the names of candidates has stirred up the attention of the wider and professional public regarding their quality. Two largest parties (PD and PS) have adopted the same approach to composing their lists.
The Democratic Party decided to present a larger number of intellectuals and avoided including strong political personas on the list. The Socialist Party is trying to convince the public of its tendency to support progressive intellectualism, but the reality is that it tends to support people with business connections and dubious past, which points to manipulation in composing the candidate lists.
Neither of the major parties (PD and PS) have paid much attention to political elitism, avoiding putting on their lists the leading political personas with rich political biographies who have been politically active during the past 18 years of political pluralism. Thus the stubbornness and arrogance of PS leaders even led to the exclusion of the historical left wing leader Fatos Nano and his followers. The same logic was followed by PD leader Sali Berisha, whose list does not include the former foreign minister Besnik Mustafa, nor Prec Zogaj, Gezim Karapicit, Bujar Leskaj, Alexander Biberaj – who are all important people within PD – as well as many others known to be the followers and supporters of president Bamir Topi.
According to one of the surveys carried out, 57% of voters will not be influenced by the composition of the candidate list since they will vote the parties as such, while 43% of voters will decide on who to vote on the basis of the composition of the candidate list. Based on these figures it may be expected that the composition of the candidate lists will influence significantly the voters’ decision on who to vote on the election day. Regardless of all the persistence shown by Edi Rama and Sali Berisha in persuading their voters of the good quality of their respective candidate lists although they do not include people with the strongest political background, it is the elections that will have the final say.
THE MAJORITY GOES TO THE LEFT
The political vocabulary and communication used during the campaign will significantly affect the election results. The election favourites are the above stated four coalitions, of which two represent left political coalitions: the ”Socialist Alliance for Integration? run by former prime minister (1999-2002) Ilir Meta and comprising also the Socialist party PSV91 led by former minister of the interior Petro Koci, and the ”Unification for Changes? run by the PS leader Edi Rama. The two right political coalitions are ”Alliance for Changes? run by the incumbent prime minister Sali Berisha, and ”Freedom Pole? led by former prime minister (1992-1997) Aleksander Meksi. The two large coalitions – Unification for Changes (PS) and Alliance for Changes (PD) – have targeted their campaign rhetoric against each other while the smaller two coalitions have used the election campaign to present their programmes, paying attention to the interests of Albanian citizens. Despite the general trend according to which the voters chose among the two largest parties, the so called minor parties are gaining increasing support of the public because of the language they use in political communication with the voters, presenting concrete actions which lead to changes.
Although the electoral system favours major parties, surprise is still possible at the election day. Thus the left block has better chances as a whole for winning the election. There are two parties with a clear political profile: LSI and PSV91.
Unlike other parties PSV91 has shown that it has a clear election basis and that it is not a “laboratory” party like some other small parties. PSV91’s socialists protect the historical memory of the party with which they had split (PS) while they are determined to preserve the created value and at the same time to be coherent with the future by building the profile and identity of a true left party with a clear political programme. During a short period of time this party has spread throughout Albania, which is a guarantee that PSV91 will come out as a surprise at the upcoming elections. Together with LSI it will not only maximise the efficiency of votes for the left wing but also decide on who will comprise the next parliamentary majority.
Regardless of the fact that the Democratic Party will (individually) be the strongest at the June elections, the next parliamentary majority will be left-oriented, since PD will not be able to compose the government together with the “Freedom Pole” whose votes will not suffice to form the government with PD. Most probably the talks on the composition of the new government will be held by PS, LSI and PSV91, whereby the three parties will have to sit at the table and overcome the disagreements, which do not seem to be that small at the moment.Ljubljana, 08 June 2009