Edi Rama-is his a radical Opposition?

Albania, like a political metaphor of the former Soviet republics By HENRI ȉLI Edi Rama is master-minding a political action of radical features, signifying that we will now be introduced to another profile of the Opposition Leader, that of a

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The Battle of Durres, Caesar’s Close Shave

By Frank Ledwidge Unless you include the low level guerilla war fought just after the second world war, or indeed the Partisan/Ballist fight during the Second World War, Albania has never suffered a civil war of its own. Indeed the

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Progress And Problems

Lutfi Dervishi Albania’s electoral process will, at the very least, require another week before it be considered closed. The Central Electoral Commission is inspecting complaints from the main parties and according to the electoral code it is this institution that

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Election standards and selection of standards

By Blendi Kajsiu Nothing new from the West. This is perhaps an acurate summing up of the preliminary assessment which the International Community made of the electoral process. As per usual, the internationals said that Albania has made tangible progress,

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The apprehension of a virtual campaign

Blendi Kajsiu Apprehension is part and parcel of every electoral campaign. It eminates from the inability to foresee the results of these elections prior to their taking place. From this viewpoint, electoral apprehension is one of the fundamental features of

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The European Parliament, Albania’s integration and the 2009 elections

ARBEN MALAJ Assoc. Prof. Doctor of Economic Sciences The elections to the European Parliament were ushered in with a great deal of interest, and not only throughout Europe. Following the non-ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, these elections were to be

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No Debate, No Media, No Allies

By: Lutfi Dervishi Three undesirable developments for elections In one week’s time the campaign of the parliamentary elections will draw to a close; 24 hours later the Albanians will cast their votes confirming another four year term for Prime Minister

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ELECTIONS 2009 Looking inside the box

The upcoming elections are once more exposing a predominant pattern in Albanian post-communist politics. It seems disputes and a general conflictual spirit will override this electoral process too. The status quo can be discerned/read in a number of issues, such

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It’s Time For “Thessaloniki 2″

By: Dr. Jovan Teokarevic Professor, University of Belgrade Director, Belgrade Centre for European Integration (BeCEI) Six years after the Thessaloniki summit of the highest representatives of the European Union and Western Balkan states, it’s time for “Thessaloniki 2″. The main

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Elections, Crowds And The Image Of Victory

By: Adela Halo Albania’s electoral campaigns, leading up to the June 28th elections this year are utterly discouraging, not only due to their vague approach to the country’s pressing issues, but also due to the sham that their crowds are.

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                    [post_content] => Albania, like a political metaphor of the former Soviet republics 

By HENRI ȉLI 

Edi Rama is master-minding a political action of radical features, signifying that we will now be introduced to another profile of the Opposition Leader, that of a radical. Every leader has the opportunity to apply each profile: of a radical or a moderate, the secret being that it must be in conformity with the circumstances. However, it appears that apart from Rama's need to place the Socialist Party on the rails of radicalism to stifle and make life even more difficult for alternative thinking within the party, the conditions are not there for the radicalism of Albanian society. On the contrary, a process of normalization has gained strong inertia in this country, in conditions when we are moving towards European integration, and when, overall, our region is calming down and becoming more integration friendly. Rama works hard to convince the Socialist Party and Albanian society that the last elections were unacceptable, and that, "vote theft can no longer be tolerated," and all this creates the opportunity for Rama to remain at the head of the SP, because according to him he did not lose in free and fair elections. In Albania, elections are a process involving at least fifty thousand voters and there is no need for a speech, even if it is Edi Rama delivering it, to convince Albanian society that "the elections were manipulated and the opposition was denied victory."  Neither are five or seven political analysts sufficient to convince the Albanians that these elections were free and fair and acceptable, if the perception of the public itself does not lean in that direction anyway. Without the slightest complex and with full conviction, today it could be said that these elections were free and fair, in terms of Majority-Opposition parity, or more accurately parity between the DP and SP, full parity, equal financial conditions, equal conditions concerning access to the media, bipartisan DP-SP electoral procedures, from the vote on the Electoral Code and up to the 7-0 vote of the Electoral College on the final results. There are victims in these elections, but they are the smaller parties, with the SMI at the head, however their co-aggressor is 50 per cent Edi Rama and 50 per cent Sali Berisha. This is why, all that is needed for the next elections is a little correction and fine tuning here and there-both in the electoral code and up to the optical vote count. Edi Rama, in compliance with all of this, hopes to build in Albania, the political metaphor of the former Soviet republics, something he mentioned several times in his speech at the Extraordinary Congress of the SP, convened a week ago. The parallelism drawn between Albania and these countries is not valid because Albania is a country fully under Western and not Russian influence, a country in the process of European integration. The efforts to draw parallelisms between Berisha and Georgia's Shervanaze, or between Berisha and the Ukraine's Leonid Kuzman are way out of line, because the Shervanaze-s and the Kuzman-s of Albania were toppled by the DP and Berisha in the elections of 1992. There are partial parallelisms between Berisha and leaders of the East European countries, but they have nothing in common with parallels that may be drawn with the former Soviet republics.


Together with the non-recognition of the legitimacy of the elections, together with a return to the model of radical opposition, and together with the metaphor of the Soviet republics, efforts to promote Gramoz Ruci as the socialists' most honoured figure for 2009, as Rama very obviously did in his speech, the official line of the congress fell to a position of autism-in other words he was talking to himself and not to the Albanian society. With an open conflict in the party where Rama has lost the support of several leading figures, instead of seeking broader consensus with society, Rama, in fact is narrowing the base of consensus and support for himself in the party, where up until yesterday he was incontestable, but from 29 June onwards he is politically suspect. And this is only the beginning. 




                    [post_title] =>  Edi Rama-is his a radical Opposition? 
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                    [post_content] => By Frank Ledwidge

Unless you include the low level guerilla war fought just after the second world war, or indeed the Partisan/Ballist fight during the Second World War, Albania has never suffered a civil war of its own.  Indeed the wars fought on its territory have always ben started by others.  One rather significant Civil War, the original , was very nearly decided on what is now Albanian land.  At and around Durres in the hot summer of 48 BC Julius Caesar suffered the most dangerous defeat of his glorious career and it was only because his opponent, Pompey, failed to follow it up, that Caesar is not a footnote in history.  

 Caesar had landed up the coast in Apollonia, and his ally and friend Mark Antony at Lezhe.   Once Pompey had failed to prevent them uniting Caesar had built a great 25km wooden wall around Pompeys camp to try to confine his  larger army in his camp at Dyrrachuim (Durres).  Given that Pompeys fleet had destroyed Caesars just a few weeks earlier it might appear that it was Caesar who was in trouble.  Not so fast. Caesar had cut off the supply of fresh water by diverting the Shimmihl Stream.  Typically he took the offensive.  In those little hills just South of Durres before you get to Golem there was bitter fighting.  Caesar was rescued from total disaster in the decisive phase only by the arrival of Mark Antony with reinforcements.  It is a mark of the magnitude of his defeat that even Caesar - master of 'spin' that he was - admitted that his men fled in disarray; "Today the victory had been the enemy's had there been any one among
them to gain it"  he said in his memoirs.  But Pompey had not exploited his victory.  With Caesars army in full retreat he assumed the war was over and did not strike while his enemy was down.  Caesar, who would most certainly not have made that mistake, got away to Greece where he won the war emphatically at Pharsalus the following year. 

The long, draining series of Civil Wars dragged on for another ten years or so.  Caesar was murdered and Mark Antony united with Cleopatra against Caesars adopted son Octavius.  And here we have another Albanian connection, for Octavius spent much of his young life being educated at the famous academies of Apollonia. He did not remain Octavius.  After he had defeated the dissolute Mark Antony and his iconic Egyptian girlfriend, he took the title Augustus and became the first, and greatest, of all the Roman Emperors

So what?  At the time these world shaking events were happening Illyria had been an integrated and key part of the Roman World for many years, fully connected in the same way as Gaul (France) or Spain and far more so than what is now Britain or Germany.  As every educated Albanian knows Illyria went on to supply many significant Roman figures.  Arguably the land that is now Albania remained deep within the Western sphere until just after the death of Skanderbeg.  Only now is the country emerging from its exile. Never mind trivia about visas or EU 'benchmarks'.  Albania belongs in Europe.

Its been a long time, but it will be good to have Illyria back.    

                    [post_title] =>  The Battle of Durres, Caesar's Close Shave 
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                    [post_content] => Lutfi Dervishi

Albania's electoral process will, at the very least, require another week before it be considered closed. The Central Electoral Commission is inspecting complaints from the main parties and according to the electoral code it is this institution that has the last word on the elections. 
Western diplomats in Tirana have emphasized that the evaluation of the June 28 parliamentary election will greatly depend on how institutions handle complaints.
There is no dilemma about who will govern for the next four years and who will be mandated by the Republic's President to form the new government.
However, there is another debate that should have been closed on June 28, election day. Unfortunately, the debate started on June 28 and, from the looks of it, will accompany us till the next local elections set in 2011. The debate focuses on the elections themselves.
The head of the Central Election Commission (CEC) is not the only one who says that these elections were the best ones ever organized in Albania. Independent analysts agree with such a statement, too. Voters' electronic lists and vote counting with the use of recording cameras make the two pillars on which this progress stands. Even preliminary reports from the mission of foreign observers considered lists as an achievement and cameras  as a novelty.
However, the head of opposition, Mr. Edi Rama, holds a different opinion on the elections. He labels the Democratic Party led coalition with the Socialist Movement for Integration as "the most shameful coalition ever seen in Albania". Mr. Rama accuses the government of stealing the mandates and exercising pressure over the justice system.
Unhappy from a CEC decision, the head of the biggest opposition party declares democracy is in danger and conditions are being created not to recognize the new government as legitimate.
The truth, as usual, stands somewhere in the middle. The strong rhetoric of the opposition leader is related to his wavering position in the party, because he failed to win with the coalition he led. 
Elections showed progress, but also visible problems.
Election day was graded with maximal evaluations from both local actors and the international community. However, what happened before and most importantly after election day leaves little space for optimism. Problems with counting were highly visible. It is also a well known secret that the problems during counting were caused by the two main political parties. Counting in particular zones gave both parties the opportunity to use blocking tactics in attempts to win mandates on the table. In such a close race, such tactics heated up the political tension and put a question mark over the will of political parties to hold problem-free elections. 

Now, the loupe watching over the elections of a NATO member is much bigger and stands much closer. "Free and fair elections" is an inexistent phrase in the OSCE-ODHIR reports. 
Presently, standards are the topic of the day. But even when it comes to standards, we still don't have a check list where at the bottom we can calculate the percentage of the standards completion rate. These elections had problems in administration, counting, and the behavior of political parties during the process. No one expects an excellent grade regarding these elections, but there is almost a blind sort of faith that the next elections will be better than the ones on June 28. 
How?
The greatest fear before the elections was based on the assumption that there would be problems regarding the identity cards. That there would be voters "voting" while not living in Albania and that fake identity cards would be supplied. 
June 28 proved that such fears, edging on paranoia for some, were hardly likely to really happen for others, even though discussed as "problems" in public. Much discussion will focus on the counting process of the next elections. And that will be solved, no problems will be identified. But who guarantees that another problem will not emerge and that Albanian elections will not once more hold the label of "progress and problems"? a label we have appropriated since 2001. 

                    [post_title] =>  Progress And Problems 
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                    [post_content] => By Blendi Kajsiu 

Nothing new from the West. This is perhaps an acurate summing up of the preliminary assessment which the International Community made of the electoral process. As per usual, the internationals said that Albania has made tangible progress, but still has a long way to go to reach standards. More or less, this was the essence of the preliminary findings statement of ODIHR. Naturally this report and the assessments made by the Internationals will be the subjects of many debates amongst the local players. There will be sides (in these debates), which, quite correctly will claim that the Internationals could not have been more negative in their assessments about the electoral process, particularly when it is believed broadly that, at least the first phase of the electoral process (voting) was the best ever held in these twenty years of transition. Another side, also just as as correctly, will claim that now Albania is a NATO member so the standards against which it is graded are higher. In a NATO member country, pressure exerted by the government on the state administration, using school pupils or civil servants in public electoral rallies to fill squares and halls; using public funds to finance the election campaigns are unacceptable phenomena. Even the current government finds it difficult to deny the existence of such phenomena, which otherwise, has every right to boast about the organisation of a very good electoral process. However, it is difficult to believe that such very ugly  phenomena have managed to change the essence of the will of the electorate in favour of the government, quite on the contrary. This is precisely where the fundamental issue lies regarding these standards the intenationals use to mark the recent Albanian general elections. The Internationals are still highly critical of the form, whilst the fundamental problem of elections in Albania now has to do with the content. The fundamental criticism has to do with the implementation of the Law, whilst the fundamental problem of our electoral zone is the Law itself, the implementation of which is the source and not the solution of the problem. Far more problematic than the nomination of commission members on time is the system and the Electoral Code themselves, which do not produce either representation or government, but which was created to exclusively consolidate the bipartisanship of the DP and SP, eliminating every other potential force. Far more worrying than the lack of ink or the  insufficient training of commission members, were the amendments to the Constitution which were carried out in the most non-democratic and non transparent manner possible at the service of the interests of the two main leaders Rama and Berisha. Suprisingly enough though, this profoundly anti-democratic legislation, which today produces a distorted political scene is regarded as a positive achievement by international observers; for the mere reason that it was achieved with consensus and without any fuss by both sides, who approved it with quite a frightening majority of votes. It is astounding how easily the internationals identify the large number of parties which participated in the elections with the real possibilities to be elected. According to them, the electorate were offered a broad range of viewpoints thanks to the overwhelming number of media outlets, electronic and written, which gave so much space to the political parties to broadcast their messages.
If there is something for which these elections will be remembered by, it is the very narrow range of approaches and views offered to the electorate and which were whittled down to the two opposing but symetrical stands of the SP and DP. It is difficult to find, over these past 20 years, an electoral campaign in which the electorate has had so few possibilities to chose from, not only because both the SP and DP offered two identical models of governing, but also the constitutional amd electoral changes strangled from the very outset all political alternatives. Therefore it is no suprise that these elections do not have a clear cut winner. The very political offer they produced divided the electorate symetrically. In the face of these problems of content, the formal concerns manifsted by the internationals seem as periphical as they are surreral in Alb anian conditions. All the hype over the issue of the ID cards is absurd when the Internationals themselves say that all that was needed to get this issue of the ID cards solved was the political will of the two main parties, in other words this was a political problem. The polarization between the DP and SP may have produced tension, but how can there ever be an electoral campaign without polarization and political tension? The curt and agressive language during the campaign may have rasped on the ears of certain Internationals, but this was the most positive campaign conducted in the past 20 years. It is also true that the bipartisan commissions often bloc the process or steal the votes of the smaller parties, however, in comparison with "the independent commissions," who counted votes for power, they are more a solution than a problem. And they will be so for as long as the political parties function as narrow clientele groups  in a political-economic system where the pie is divided into more and more slices and less and less is produced. Therefore in the conditions of today, the main problem in the elctoral process in Albania is not meeting formal criteria for free and fair elections. Irrespective of the criticism of the International Community, overall these election were the most free and fair we have every seen. The problem is that in an electoral process where both the Majority and the Opposition enjoyed free reign over the entire media and physical space of communicating with the electorate, they ran out of things to say and could only repeat themselves to the most annoying degree. The issue is that the more our elections reach official standards, the less alternatives they offer. But this is not an issue that could be understood or dealt with, with the standards of the internationals who merely look at the formal side of the process. We need other standards.


                    [post_title] =>  Election standards and selection of standards 
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                    [post_content] => Blendi Kajsiu

Apprehension is part and parcel of every electoral campaign. It eminates from the inability to foresee the results of these elections prior to their taking place. From this viewpoint, electoral apprehension is one of the fundamental features of democracy. Prior to all elections, there is a moment of tension-filled consternation which eminates from abandonment of or the question mark placed on the government in office. Irrespective of this, the current campaign appears to have elevated the levels of pre-election-day angst to unprecedented levels. This is also due to an unprecedented intensity of surveys dealing with election forecasts or predictions. What is strange though is that this anxiety is at its highest levels in media circles which produce forecasts of election results through the surveys and which should be the more informed circles as regards the electoral reality. What is the story behind this? 

The explanation of this paradox lies in the fact that we have never witnessed a virtual campaign before in this country. First of all, the two main parties have established total control over the image and news regarding the campaign, to the point where all filming  of campaign related activities is done by the two parties themselves and are then released to the television outlets. Second, the main media outlets in the country have been almost entirely transformed from agencies that cover a campaign to the actual manufacturers of the campaign; from observers to partners. The principle players in this campaign, apart from the respective party leaders are also the media -the media company owners and the hosts of the country's main political programs. For both the main parties, the cooperation and coordination of the campaign with their respectuive media outlets, "Top Channel" (Left) and "Klan,"(Right), has assumed a far greater importance than even the lists of candidates for MP.  In other words, the main television outlets in the country are not only positioned abreast the one or the other party, but they also actively participate in the production of the electoral campaign. This is why, the production of a virtual reality has almost completely wiped out the current reality, in as much as the two can be divided. 

The advertising, analysis and public promotion of the surveys is one of the basic methods which indicates how the media can actively participate in manufacturing a virtual campaign. The media outlets closer to the Left, with the surveys they have run, claim that the elections will be won by the Left. The media outlets close to the Right claim that the elections will be won by the Right. It is not accidental that the entire analysis of the surveys is reduced to who will win these elections. Behind the debate on surveys lies a debate on the winners of the elections. And this is an important debate because a cardinal component of the election campaign of each party is to convince the electorate that they will win. In this context, the surveys too are designed more to produce rather than to mirror the reality.

This is precisely teh source of the uncertainity and lack of clarity, of the apprehension of the campaign. The media outlets have become the manufacturers of the virtual electoral reality to such an extent that even they find it difficult to fully believe in the credibnility of the surveys or analyses that they put out there in the public arena. 

Even less so do they believe in the media coverage of the enthusiastic rallies fed to them by the parties themxselves. Teh problem is that when all media outlets are involvd in the campaign, not as observers and information outlets, but as players, as factors, then no outlet has anything to refer to to comprehend what is really going on in the election campaign. In the final account, the best the media outlets can do is to refer to a virtual reality they themselves created. Therefore, today, the media outlets are victims of the virtual reality which they produced and fron which they cannot detatch themselves. The irony of all this lies in the fact that the media outlets which are churning out explanations all day, every day, to the public, are, for their own part, entirely unclear about what is really happening with the electorate.This produces a vagueness and uncertainty, a distinct feeling of apprehension because of the enormous interests of the owners of the media companies which are also at stake. 


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                    [post_date] => 2009-07-17 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2009-07-17 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => ARBEN MALAJ
Assoc. Prof. Doctor of Economic Sciences

The elections to the European Parliament were ushered in with a great deal of interest, and not only throughout Europe. Following the non-ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, these elections were to be a real test to see what expectations there are in relation to the future of the European Union. The challenge the EU faces is whether it is to be a locomotive charging along its tracks towards becoming an imposing and effective global power, or a vehicle with an impaired motor, that splutters along in fits and starts. The European Parliament is the exclusive institution of the EU directly elected by its citizens. The debate over its restricted powers is at the center of the democratic deficit of the EU institutions. The principle objective is to raise the awareness of European citizens in the importance and efficiency of an EU that has scored yet another failure, in the circumstances of low-turn out to vote.

Ever since 1979, the first year when direct elections to the European Parliament were held turn out for elections has progressively declined, from about 63 to 43 per cent. What is even more disturbing is that the decline in turn-out to vote for the European Parliament is now a definite downward trend. When it is a question of turn-out for elections to the national parliaments of different EU member countries fluctuation is also noted, but, at least there are cases where turn-out is better. Not so in the case of the European Parliament, here, turn-out knows only decline, and the latest elections were no exception, something that would constitute a surge of reaction among the Euro-skeptics and create  greater access to the extremist parties, right and left.

After these parliamentary elections, United Europe will come face to face with countless challenges and greater hardships than before. This is a fact which should be a source of concern for
those countries which expect to become members of the EU.
The European Parliament is also organized according to its political spectrum, however, in essence, it operates as an above- party institution. The legislation which the European Parliament passes must be implemented by the 27 member countries, irrespective of the fact which parties govern those countries, to the left or right of the political spectrum.
In short, the victory of right wing forces in the European Parliament cannot be politically utilized in Albania, and even more so, any influence they may exert on our elections in 2009. Albanian public support to the country's integration into the EU stands at about 83 per cent. This is higher than any other political Majority.
Not only the Albanian Government and/or Parliament, but even any other political or social player which, realistically speaking, supports the country's EU integration, can afford to misuse the EU parliamentary elections in competition or in internal political squabbles, and even less so in debates on parliamentary elections. Every country's membership to the EU is conditioned by a unanimous support shown by all the member countries, which means that any party majority in the European Parliament, Left or Right, is insufficient. 
The history of EU enlargement is the history of the visions of European leaderships and not the history of individual love hate relationships between European leaders and those of the accession countries. 
When the EU admitted three of its poorer countries, Greece, Spain and Portugal, what it offered was the European perspective and hopes to these peoples in the face of the re-instatement of dictatorships which these three countries had experienced.
When the EU adopted the decisions to open its doors to Romania and Bulgaria, even though there were major concerns and hesitations over corruption levels, he aim was to move forward with the mission of the EU to offer hope and the European perspective.
The future of our country within the EU is not conditioned by the fact of who wins EU parliamentary elections. The future of our country in the European Union is not conditioned by the fact that in the majority of its member states either right or left wing parties are in office, but by the quality of the governing of the country.
Our European future is either impeded or accelerated by the quality of our political leaders. This future is conditioned by the standards of democracy, which are based on a check and balance system between three powers; legislative, judicial and executive.
Albania's European integration will progress swiftly if the June elections respect the standards of a functional European democracy.
Our real integration will be European standards of the independence of the judiciary, the recognition and respect of ownership, the fight against corruption and state capture.
The day when these standards truly function will be the day when, de facto will be a part of United Europe. The leaders of modern Europe, in the decisions they adopt, are guided more by modern and strategic visions, rather than on impressions from a scheduled meeting with the incumbent Prime Minister of the next country in line aspiring to join the EU. 


                    [post_title] =>  The European Parliament, Albania's integration and the 2009 elections 
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                    [ID] => 107150
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2009-07-10 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2009-07-10 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => By: Lutfi Dervishi

Three undesirable developments for elections

In one week's time the campaign of the parliamentary elections will draw to a close; 24 hours later the Albanians will cast their votes confirming another four year term for Prime Minister Berisha or their will to try out Tirana's Mayor Edi Rama.
The campaign drawing to a close is unprecedented in Albania, for at last three elements:
First, this campaign lacks confrontation, an exchange of opinions. After six parliamentary elections run on a majoritarian electoral system (1991, 1992, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2005), these elections of 2009 will be conducted on the basis of a regional proportional system. Distinct from previous elections, there was no confrontation between candidates in the zone, no candidates' posters, no debate and subsequently, no conflict. This reduction of political tension on the ground during this campaign could be regarded as positive. On the other hand, however, what became more than obvious in the drafting of the candidates' lists for deputies, was the power that the party leaders had, a power that risks transforming these political parties into parties dominated by sultans. All arrows targeted the leaders of the main parties, and at first glance, these elections, thanks to the system and the consultation with foreign experts, have assumed the appearance of presidential polls. But there is not even any confrontation between the two main leaders, a confrontation that the Leader of the party in office sought persistently during teh campaign. His chief opponent, Rama, chose not to put his name at the top of the list of candidates for MP, so that, according to him, he (Rama) respected the mandate that the citizens of Tirana had already given him up until 2011 to be Mayor of the capital. There has been no change in the stand of PM Berisha during the whole time and endurance of this transitional period, his campaign has been capillary, district by district, city by city, town by town and village by village, backed up by visible public investments, a very powerful campaign of televised  advertisments and perpetually seeking a confrontation with his main opponent Rama. At least over the past three years, Rama has claimed he has inmplemented a different model of opposition, a model that moves away from  confrontation with the opponent and has striven to create a spirit for "change" in rhetoric and form, according to the model of the US President Barack Obama. In these elections there has been an absence of confrontation in slogans.The Democrats in office, came out with the slogan "Albania is changing." The socialists, "A new policy for change," emphasizing the word "change." The impact of these two slogans will be seen on 28 June, but, if not for the elections, "new policy for change," has helped the Opposition leader in "eliminating" Fatos Nano from the next parliament, the historical leader of the SP, (Mr. Nano resigned from the chairmanship of the SP straight after losing the 2005 parliamentary elections. His public request to become a member of the upcoming Parliament proved to be weaker than his testimony and wish to continue very prolonged holidays). 
Second, these elections are unprecedented again in terms of the way the media has covered the campaign. All of a sudden television reporters and camera crews had nothing to cover. The parties took care that their campaign rallies were transmitted to the public via the lenses of their own cameras. Employing their own camera crews and equipment, the township and village squares sometimes appear on the small screen the size of Tien an Mien in Beijing. The political parties managed to transform all the television stations of the country into centers of "rental news reels" and the only coverage the public sees on television screens is what is dished up by the two main parties. In the reports covering rallies, there is never any mention of numbers of participants; what the main issues laid down by the leaders were; what reply to one leader give to previous allegations made by the other leader; what do the experts have to say about the promises made; or any kind of confrontation with promises made in the past. What you get on the screen is an artificial picture, where thanks to the technology used, in every rally in townships with populations of ten thousand or so, you get the impression that the parties are pulling in hundreds of thousands of supporters.
 In an effort not to upset party leaderships, television studio debates also suffered. The only platforms where voters can understand the stands of the parties on important issues, television debates have gradually dwindled, due to the decisions adopted  by the parties themselves not to provide participants for these debates. The two big parties, using pressue and boycott of television programs, managed to exclude representatives of the smaller parties from the debate on major issues; they managed to dim to the maximum, the vital element of debate itself.  There are no debateson key issues of the economy, employment, poverty, projects of development, the influence exerted by the global crisis on the country, and the participants in the debates that do take place resemble more "a cat walking  on hot coals" more than anything else. 
By always giving politics, the politicians and the institutions the lion's share of time in daily news coverage, at the end of this election campaign the television stations have tasted the bitterness of a medicine that they themselves produced over entire months and years. When a politician is absent, it seems as though nothing is happening, as if there can be no debate between experts, technicians, interest groups, citizens, etc. What we saw was far more form and far less substance. In the Battle of the Screens those who lost are the television stations.
Third, the 2009 parliamentary campaign is the only one to date in which both bigger parties seek votes according to the proverb, "every man for himself." In every previous election there has been a facade of cooperation with the allied parties, there have also been "extremities" where, for the sake of tactical votes, the leaders of both bigger parties have appealed for the electorate to vote for their smaller allies. Not any more.
Both party leaders, particularly over these past two months have not failed to forget to call on the electorate to vote for the number their parties come under on the list- the target was to eliminate the smaller parties, an aim which began with the changing of the Constitution in April 2008, through a unprecedented broad scale consensus between the DP and SP. The media rendered an outstanding service to this objective which in almost "every debate" excluded the bigger parties. We may see in the results of these elections, the removal from the next Parliament of the hsitorical leaders of the smaller parties; highly disciplined parliamentary groups and leaders of the two main parties who are more powerful than ever. 
But before reaching this point, what is required are free and fair elections, the closing of the chapter of contested elections. Good elections advance Albania's relations with the EU by at least one year; poor elections could perhaps distance Albania from the EU by a decade. This is what happened in the elections of 1996. At the end of the year 1995 Albania was ready to sign the SAA with the EU. Due to the elections of 1996,this process was delayed at least 10 years. 
Although the democratic maturity of the political class is recognised and everyone hopes that these elections will mark visible progress, the ammunition of contesting the elcetions results is ready-at least for the Opposition. The Opposition has been complaining about the ID cards for months. As the reasons fade to contest the election results, the issue of the lists, the issue of voting centers, and what is more important-the isssue of the date of the elections and vote count administration ma also be debated. The past does not encourage one to place a bet on the outcome of the elections. It remains that the future will be decided on 28 June. This is the one day when the power is in teh hands of the voter  and the politicians are powerless.
                    [post_title] =>  No Debate, No Media, No Allies 
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                    [post_date] => 2009-06-26 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => The upcoming elections are once more exposing a predominant pattern in Albanian post-communist politics. It seems disputes and a general conflictual spirit will override this electoral process too. The status quo can be discerned/read in a number of issues, such as the candidates and their quality, their selection procedures, the role of the international community in resolving disputes etc.

Government & opposition fully agree: they do not trust each other 

The upcoming elections are once more exposing a predominant pattern in Albanian post-communist politics. It seems disputes and a general conflictual spirit will override this electoral process too. Government and opposition continue to clash on the issues of identity cards and a deep spirit of distrust rules over majority-opposition relations with on the process of distribution of identity cards to citizens. According to the Electoral Code, only citizens equipped with identity cards or passports that are valid for travel abroad can vote in these elections. The opposition sustains that at least 300 thousand citizens will be deprived of the right to vote as they do not have either of the valid documents. On the other side, the government provides different data. A month before the conduct of elections, all sorts of ideas arte being thrown on the table, including postponing the elections, or amend the Electoral Code to enable the use of the notorious birth certificates to vote. Above all, the opposition holds that the government is discriminately distributing identity cards by ignoring opposition supporters.

The identity card dispute, which remains the fundamental and critical problem for the integrity of the upcoming elections, has revived a repetitive pattern in Albanian politics - complaints to the international community. A public letter addressed to the Ministry of Interior demanding explanations for the citizens that do not have a passport or an identity card has also been addressed to OSCE/ODIHR 'for their information'.

The disputes, the suspicions displayed by the opposition and especially its accusations of a manipulated process of distribution of identity cards are not detrimental only to the upcoming electoral process. Apart from serving the June 28th elections, equipping citizens with identity cards is also an element of state-building in Albania. The disputability of the integrity of the distribution process can have irreparable ramifications for the future of other reforms.


Government makes secrets public

The Ministry of Interior has publicly proclaimed the size of a 'public secret'. Acocrding to the Ministry, 160 thousand to 260 thousand Albanians are abroad and not in possession of a passport. In simple terms, quarter of a million Albanians live and work in illegality in member states of the European Union.
Elections seem to have overshadowed everything though. Albania has recently filed its application for EU candidate status and is demanding the liberalization of the visa regime with EU member states. And it is in precisely this context that one party puts in doubt the process of distributing identity cards, while the other declares with an air of competence that 260 thousand Albanians illegally inhabit EU countries, simply to reduce the number of those that might not be able to receive an identity card. The government states that this conclusion was reached after some fieldwork - what fieldwork?!
The only safe assertion is that the struggle for power the short-term and short-sighted interests of the majority and opposition are putting state and societal interests at jeopardy. 


Candidates: loyalty is a must 

Careful observation of the candidate lists presented by the two main political blocks in particular clearly indicates that we will have a reshuffled parliament this time. A considerable number of members of parliament from both main political camps have been left out from the lists and new names have barged in. At first sight, this is a normal process. On the other hand, alongside the rejuvenation of parliamentary groups, the two main parties seem to be rejuvenating their leaderships too. It is hard to believe that the escort of young members will strengthen internal party democracy or enhance the quality of the future parliament. The new names in the DP and SP candidate lists are predominantly substituting critical voices, to whatever degree, within these parties. Besnik Mustafaj, one of the founders of the Democratic Party and former minister of Foreign Affairs resigned from the contest for the DP leadership in Tirana due to a manipulated electoral process. Pre硚ogaj, another well-known name of the Democratic Party, has also resigned from the DP and joined the ranks of a newly established party. If one looks inside the box of the Socialist Party, despite the lack of clamorous withdrawals, it is easy to discern that the head of party has picked his own entourage, for the party and for the list of candidates. The parliament to emerge out of these elections will be composed of new members, of different members, of more women, of many professions. What they all have in common however is an unspoken though dominant criterion: loyalty to the leader.


Too many chiefs ō

Thirty six political parties will run in the June 28th elections. The Albanian Assembly has never hosted more than four or five parties in the last twenty years. The history of parties in Albania is a history of ghosts. Most do not even have any members or supporters. Just a leader. Everybody wants to be a leader in this country. Out of the splits of the Social-Democratic Party of 1992, one of the four parties that have made it to parliament one way or another up until now, five other parties have sprung. Or rather, four party heads. The Republican Party, also one of the four that have composed parliament during the same period, has never managed on her own votes only. It has simply been donated a seat in parliament by one of the big parties. The hope is that after these elections, there won't be many ghost parties left.


The non civility of Civil Society 

The lists presented by political parties, especially those of the governing coalition and the opposition, are not short of candidates that come from the so-called civil society. Many of the candidates from civil society might be composing the next parliament. A considerable number of the candidates introduced as members of civil society have been put in almost safe positions in the parties' lists. Likewise, the main parties have been attentive to gender equality by implementing one of the criteria of the Electoral Code which requires 30 percent of candidates to be women. However, the hope that a higher representation of civil society and women will mean more civility, consensus and less of a conflictual spirit is rather dim. During the last two weeks, the wide public had the opportunity to witness in the debates between the new candidates from civil society as well as from women the same aggressive spirit, the same conflictual spirit. The President of the Republic Bamir Topi took the opportunity of a public meeting to remind the lady candidates to not resemble men in politics. In the same fashion, the debates from contending candidates from civil society were dominated by aggressiveness, lack of tolerance and extreme policisation. Such a display of non-civility of 'civil candidates' can be explained by the fact that the parties have picked ordinary wageworkers in civil society organizations, people of no public repute, people who have not given shape to any ideas so that the public could have an idea of them. Candidates from civil society inadvertently and uncannily expose the state of the so-called civil society, its lack of capacity, leadership and innovative ideas.


Still the rich and the strong man

The list of candidates display no shortage of rich, very rich candidates. Positioned in safe spots in the party lists, in fact. During the last decade, a phenomenon stuck out in Albanian politics: the entry in parliament of the rich. Predominantly, the rich man comes in package with the strongman. In simple terms, these candidates are rich men and strongmen, and many are very rich because they are strong. According to a survey of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, 78 percent of Albanian think that after criminals, it is rich men that stand above the law in this country. Parties are prone to picking rich and strongmen in order to guarantee seats in parliament, but perhaps because they owe them something too. In the meantime, it remains very clear that once in parliament, this kind of candidates have a personal agenda to pursue that has hardly anything, even remotely in common, with that of the common citizen.





                    [post_title] =>  ELECTIONS 2009 Looking inside the box 
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                    [post_date] => 2009-06-26 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By: Dr. Jovan Teokarevic
Professor, University of Belgrade
Director, Belgrade Centre for European Integration (BeCEI)

Six years after the Thessaloniki summit of the highest representatives of the European Union and Western Balkan states, it's time for "Thessaloniki 2". The main message of "Thessaloniki 1" was twofold: Western Balkan states have a real perspective of EU membership, and "Europe's map will be complete only when states from our region join the EU". In the meantime those states have made considerable progress in political and economic reforms, and have come closer to the EU membership, but all this has been dangerously slowed down now. To avoid open crisis, the key ideas from the June 2003 summit should be renewed and enriched taking into account the accomplished level of the Europeanization of the region, as well as other important changes there, on the "old continent" and in the world.  
Among politicians and citizens of Western Balkan states a consensus has been growing lately, saying that the road to the EU membership, promised in Thessaloniki, is becoming longer and less certain, which is why, in addition to a retrospective look, we now need even more a thorough and strategic look into the future, made together with the European Union. 
This could serve as the shortest description of the goal the new EU-Western Balkan summit of heads of states and governments would have. Both parties would benefit not primarily from the meeting itself, but from a multitude of intellectual, political and diplomatic activities that would lead to it. The high-level summit itself should not be omitted, though, since only the European Council strengthened by leaders from the region, could reach decisions with important, long-lasting and mutually binding commitments. 
Ŕhessaloniki 2" is, in fact, planned by the previous summit's conclusions, as one format within which representatives of the two sides could meet in future. The other one, named the ŅU-Western Balkan Forum", included foreign and interior ministers, and other ministers, if needed. Their meetings have fortunately become routine during the last few years, but the high-level summit has never been repeated. 
In addition to regular yearly progress reports, the EU has in the last six years adopted several important documents about the Western Balkans, that have been used as the basis for discussion at the ŅU-WB Forum", but also for correction, adjustment and innovation of the EU policies towards the region. Besides, countless meetings between the two sides have been organized in multilateral or bilateral formats. One should stress, as the EU never misses to do, that the Union has never given up its promise from Thessaloniki. On the contrary, it has enriched its cooperation and aid to Western Balkans with many new programmes and initiatives, that have been used by our countries, and without which our progress would have been much more difficult, not only when it comes to European integration. 
States from the region have in the meantime been engaged in this ambitious Europeanisation business, and have achieved many results, which is why the situation is now much more stable and prosperous than six years ago. Governments have turned to work, citizens show exceptionally high Euroenthusiasm, and there's a constructive competition in European integration among states, that includes cooperation as well.  
Following a set of bilateral arrangements, a new multilateral free trade arrangement CEFTA is up and running, despite understandable Ţirth pains"; Regional Cooperation Council, that has taken over from the Stability Pact for South East Europe, is getting more active; and the whole region is becoming more and more part of the European family of nations through various programmes, from transport to energy community, education and research, police cooperationŠ
States from the region have been rewarded for their reform efforts with higher places on the EU ŭembership ladder", that also included bigger financial aid. At the time of Ŕhessaloniki 1", only the Croatian application for membership was on the table. In the meantime, this country has become not only official candidate for membership (followed by Macedonia), but has finished the biggest part of accession negotiations, too. All other states are still considered potential candidates, but have signed Stabilisation and Association Agreements (Macedonian and Albanian ones have been also ratified). During the last several months Montenegro and Albania have officially applied for EU membership. 
In view of many observers and participants, due to good results, we should all be very satisfied, particularly if we compare the current state of affairs with hopelessness we've been all faced with a decade ago. That's why many people are inclined to suggest that the work should be carried on according to the same formula since it obviously bears fruit. Business should be šs usual", in other words, because the coordinates have been drawn in, and all it takes is to keep the chosen course. 
We are, however, still missing serious recapitulation of the work done and results achieved, as well as of policies and perspectives, and the best thing would be to accompany all that by the high-level dialogue. That's why the idea on Ŕhessaloniki 2" is nowadays supported not only in the Balkans, and not only by experts and civil society organisations. Some are more inclined to speak about the same thing in terms of the Śagreb Process", while others, like the Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, would like to have the USA actively involved and present in the meeting. 
In any case, there are more than enough reasons for this initiative. One should start with the recent warning of the Serbian President Boris Tadic, who said, speaking practically for the whole region: ůne gets the impression that the European Union is not ready at this moment to accept the Western Balkan countries at the pace we would all like to have". People in the region are afraid of the strengthening of the ťnlargement fatigue" within the European Union, which paradoxically coincides with the fifth anniversary of the last wave of enlargement, that has proven to be enormously advantageous both to new and old EU member states. At least three intertwined factors led to ťnlargement fatigue", and none of them existed at the time of Ŕhessaloniki 1" in such clear and frightening form. 
The first factor is internal economic crisis in the EU member states, that began because of poor adjustment to globalisation, and is currently aggravated by the global financial meltdown and economic recession. All countries have unfortunately turned to economic nationalism, and the resistance towards further enlargement has become an expected consequence, that can be so easily misused in domestic political rows. 
The second factor is the European Union's institutional crisis, that is not from yesterday, but has become obvious during the institutional adjustment of the Union -   from the failure of the European Constitution in 2005, to the current efforts to successfully finish the ratification of the Lisbon treaty until the end of 2009. It's not only Ŵheir" business but ůur" as well, for without the planned institutional reforms, further enlargement is simply impossible, except for Croatia, in which case some palliative one-time measures might be used. 
The third factor that led to the ťnlargement fatigue" was a real, albeit informal, tightening of accession criteria for Western Balkan countries. On one side, an explicit reminder of all Copenhagen criteria became part of one Lisbon treaty article, and on the other, the long-forgotten šbsorption capacity" criterion (later renamed into ũntegration capacity") was stressed in other documents. As a result, the implicit EU message to the aspirants has considerably changed. While Central European countries were told before 2004: řou'll get in when you get ready for us", Western Balkan countries are being told now: řou'll get in not only when you get ready for us, but also when we get ready for you." 
There are many signs of slowing down the European integration of Western Balkan countries. Macedonia has been waiting for three and a half years already as an official candidate for the EU membership to begin its accession negotiations. This could very easily be the perspective of other countries from the region when they finally become candidates. Because of incomplete cooperation of Serbia with the Hague Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the EU hasn't for a whole year activated the Interim Trade Agreement with Serbia, that should open the way for the implementation and ratification of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement. The current delay in Bosnia and Herzegovina's European integration, everybody agrees, comes from the fact that the country is further away from the consensus on its own future than it used to be couple of years ago. 
A big and equally unpleasant surprise is the ongoing Slovenian blockade of Croatian accession negotiations. According to the plans of only a year ago, they should have been completed by the end of 2009, which should have made possible the signing and the ratification of the accession agreement during the next twelve months or so. In other words, everybody expected Croatia to get the EU membership card at the end of 2010, or at the beginning of 2011. At this moment, even the year 2014 is being contemplated, which only few years ago, according to many expectations, was the final date for the accession of all Western Balkan countries into the European Union.
Due to serious eyebrow raising in Brussels every time an application for membership is being mentioned by other countries of the region, it is obvious that a lot of time will pass between this application, positive avis, granting of the official candidate status and the real beginning of accession negotiations - we are talking years, rather than months here. How long will then those negotiations for membership last is anyone's guess, but they can hardly be shorter than the ones new EU members from Central Europe had. All in all, once Croatia gets in, other states from the region - and not all of them, most probably - could count on the EU membership only in the second part of the next decade. 
Everybody will have obstacles on that road: economic underdevelopment, coupled with too little rule of law and too much corruption and organised crime will count for all, while the lack of administrative capacities - for most of them. Bosnia will be additionally troubled by its divisions, and Serbia and Kosovo by status issues and mutual relations. 
In the meantime, an extremely worrying wave of spoiling relations has hit the whole region. Kosovo's Declaration of independence in February 2008 was an important reason, but also a pretext for this. In addition to bilateral relations, regional cooperation has been severely endangered - and it had only begun to develop prior to that, due to military conflicts in the 1990s. 
Several Western Balkan countries have serious bilateral problems with the EU member states: Croatia with Slovenia over the border issue, Serbia with the Netherlands over the satisfactory level of cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, Macedonia with Greece over the country's name. These conflicts are slowing down not only individual countries on their road towards the EU, but the region as a whole. Although Croatia and Albania joined NATO in April 2009, there are doubts whether NATO will continue to enlarge throughout the region, due to the Greek blockade of Macedonia's membership, and Serbia's decision to turn neutral. Delaying or completely halting NATO enlargement could seriously undermine the enlargement of the EU. 
The specific engagement of the EU and NATO in Bosnia and Kosovo in future is a matter of controversy, and the same is true for the status of the region as a whole: it ceased to be priority, especially in the US politics, and could yet become one of the main victims of the current economic crisis. 
If there are enough reasons for Ŕhessaloniki 2", as was shown here, let's turn to the goals the summit should achieve. First of all, it is important to reaffirm and consolidate the European perspective of Western Balkans in new conditions, with a realistic and stimulating plan for future actions. Secondly, a new mechanism should be worked out, capable of connecting even more directly, the reforms done with the visible and clear advancement in European integration, understandable to all citizens (like the current visa issue). 
Thirdly, the existing European partnership between the EU and Western Balkans should be strengthened by a higher level of mutual commitments. They should not be limited to, but should certainly include the offer of the candidate status and the beginning of accession negotiations to all the states in the region. Western Balkan countries would not be freed from meeting the Copenhagen criteria in this way. But, a whole decade after the launch of the Stabilisation and Association Process, and after a big joint work of the EU and the region's states, it is, however, natural to expect that all countries have candidate status, and are also able to begin accession negotiations - not more, but not less than this, either. 
Of special significance for the summit would be to devise a strategy for a radical improvement of bilateral and multilateral relations in Western Balkans, for which purpose a parallel or preliminary high-level regional summit should be perhaps organized, as suggested by the Igman Initiative - an NGO active in Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. 
Finally, in order to avoid apathy on an obviously long future path to the EU membership, and to stimulate both the European identity and accountability for this process on the part of societies and governments from the region, one could also think of the inclusion of all these acceding countries in a bigger number of community programmes. This kind of Ŷirtual membership" could be then used to get to the real one, in an easier and faster way.  
If Ŕhessaloniki 2" is to be organized with success, an internal consensus about it should be first of all reached in the region, through a wide debate of governments, business and non-governmental organizations, among experts and wide public opinion. The same consensus is necessary between the region and the EU, and within the EU as well, since this is a genuinely joint project, that should end with a joint strategic view of the future.  
The question ŷhen" to organize the summit is equally important as the ŷhy" and the Ũow". Obviously, the current year is out of the question, because for the summit to begin to look realistically, at least two things should meet: the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty should be completed, and economic crisis must cease to be the only possible topic of discussion.  
Some people will perhaps see the suggestion for the high-level summit as too ambitious, ill-timed, or even counter-productive. Like others with the same or similar initiatives, I am convinced that there are enough reasons and a true possibility to repeat the success of Ŕhessaloniki 1". Like its predecessor six years ago, in an equally important moment, Ŕhessaloniki 2" could stimulate and accelerate Western Balkan European integration - still the most important and unfinished European business. 

"Tirana Times is glad to bring to its readers the position of the renowned University of Belgrade scholar Dr. Jovan Teokarevic on the EU integration process of the region and EU's role specifically. Considering this subject of utmost resonance to the region's and Albania's development, we invite all readers, especially scholars and academics to communicate their views to us and thus initiate region-wide dialogue and debate of our common target - EU integration."
                    [post_title] =>  It's Time For "Thessaloniki 2" 
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                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2009-06-19 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By: Adela Halo

Albania's electoral campaigns, leading up to the June 28th elections this year are utterly discouraging, not only due to their vague approach to the country's pressing issues, but also due to the sham that their crowds are. 
The issue of the use of children in political rallies has once more come to the fore. Both leaders of Albania's main parties, Sali Berisha and Edi Rama, have included children in their tours around the country. The problems with the instrumentalisation of children for political aims need no elaboration, especially when it all occurs during class time.
What yet remains to be thoroughly discussed is the instrumentalisation of adults. Many employees were brought to Tirana from other cities a few days ago in buses to fill the capital's square. The message had been clear. You either get into the bus, ride and become a face in a faceless crowd, or you lose your job. Plain and simple.
A friend remarked that in a way this is a positive sign. It means that parties are unable to get support unless they force it, reflecting the quality of their proposals for Albanians. Yet, the effects and pressures created by forcing, blackmailing people to political rallies are disturbing. As the safety and privacy of your vote is sharply eroded, as the safety of your non-political job is debated, as the lack of basic, very basic freedoms is exposed, democracy is ultimately experienced as a real sham. 
The upcoming elections have long been framed as a test for basic standards of democracy in Albania. The vicious contest that continues to unfold, however, has made all democratic benchmarks, starting from the right to vote, to those of children and adults, quite simply negligible. What must never be neglected, is the size of the crowd, projecting the image of a false victory. And we have yet to see the end of this frenzy. 
When Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence in February 17th, 2008, Belgrade was set on fire, metaphorically and literally. Certain embassies were attacked, and waves of nationalistic protesters crowded the roads we heard, as Vojislav Kostunica reassured the nation that Serbia would never recognise a 'false state'. False, it turned out, was the actual degree of Belgrade's protest against independence. Later reports revealed that the streets had been crowded with people brought in from other areas of Serbia especially for that effect.
The 9/11 attacks were immediately followed by images and reports of celebrating crowds of Palestinians - images that certainly nourished abhorrence in the traumatised United States, and not only. Later on, detailed investigations and release of the full footage told a different story. First, there had been no actual crowd one could speak of. The cameras had been skilfully used to amplify the number of people and forge the crowd effect. And second, people in that imaginary crowd had actually been a bunch of children who had been given candy and asked to play happy.
Whoever said that size does not matter was very wrong indeed. When it comes to crowds and political rallies, the size of the crowd is quintessential. In Belgrade they knew that, and those that produced the images from Palestine knew it too. The visual effect of masses is indisputable - it is the indisputable proof of support and commitment to a cause. 
It is certainly encouraging and inspiring to see people form masses against the war in Vietnam, against the war in Iraq, against apartheid, against genocide, against the violation of human rights, for human dignity. But it is precisely the latter one that we completely lose sight of in the cases above, and more to the point in Albania, in our political rallies in the midst of election fever.
                    [post_title] =>  Elections, Crowds And The Image Of Victory 
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            [post_date] => 2009-09-04 02:00:00
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            [post_content] => Albania, like a political metaphor of the former Soviet republics 

By HENRI ȉLI 

Edi Rama is master-minding a political action of radical features, signifying that we will now be introduced to another profile of the Opposition Leader, that of a radical. Every leader has the opportunity to apply each profile: of a radical or a moderate, the secret being that it must be in conformity with the circumstances. However, it appears that apart from Rama's need to place the Socialist Party on the rails of radicalism to stifle and make life even more difficult for alternative thinking within the party, the conditions are not there for the radicalism of Albanian society. On the contrary, a process of normalization has gained strong inertia in this country, in conditions when we are moving towards European integration, and when, overall, our region is calming down and becoming more integration friendly. Rama works hard to convince the Socialist Party and Albanian society that the last elections were unacceptable, and that, "vote theft can no longer be tolerated," and all this creates the opportunity for Rama to remain at the head of the SP, because according to him he did not lose in free and fair elections. In Albania, elections are a process involving at least fifty thousand voters and there is no need for a speech, even if it is Edi Rama delivering it, to convince Albanian society that "the elections were manipulated and the opposition was denied victory."  Neither are five or seven political analysts sufficient to convince the Albanians that these elections were free and fair and acceptable, if the perception of the public itself does not lean in that direction anyway. Without the slightest complex and with full conviction, today it could be said that these elections were free and fair, in terms of Majority-Opposition parity, or more accurately parity between the DP and SP, full parity, equal financial conditions, equal conditions concerning access to the media, bipartisan DP-SP electoral procedures, from the vote on the Electoral Code and up to the 7-0 vote of the Electoral College on the final results. There are victims in these elections, but they are the smaller parties, with the SMI at the head, however their co-aggressor is 50 per cent Edi Rama and 50 per cent Sali Berisha. This is why, all that is needed for the next elections is a little correction and fine tuning here and there-both in the electoral code and up to the optical vote count. Edi Rama, in compliance with all of this, hopes to build in Albania, the political metaphor of the former Soviet republics, something he mentioned several times in his speech at the Extraordinary Congress of the SP, convened a week ago. The parallelism drawn between Albania and these countries is not valid because Albania is a country fully under Western and not Russian influence, a country in the process of European integration. The efforts to draw parallelisms between Berisha and Georgia's Shervanaze, or between Berisha and the Ukraine's Leonid Kuzman are way out of line, because the Shervanaze-s and the Kuzman-s of Albania were toppled by the DP and Berisha in the elections of 1992. There are partial parallelisms between Berisha and leaders of the East European countries, but they have nothing in common with parallels that may be drawn with the former Soviet republics.


Together with the non-recognition of the legitimacy of the elections, together with a return to the model of radical opposition, and together with the metaphor of the Soviet republics, efforts to promote Gramoz Ruci as the socialists' most honoured figure for 2009, as Rama very obviously did in his speech, the official line of the congress fell to a position of autism-in other words he was talking to himself and not to the Albanian society. With an open conflict in the party where Rama has lost the support of several leading figures, instead of seeking broader consensus with society, Rama, in fact is narrowing the base of consensus and support for himself in the party, where up until yesterday he was incontestable, but from 29 June onwards he is politically suspect. And this is only the beginning. 




            [post_title] =>  Edi Rama-is his a radical Opposition? 
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