Albania’s internal political crisis intensifies

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 21, 2019 21:12

Albania’s internal political crisis intensifies

Story Highlights

  • The joint opposition protest in Tirana on Saturday was accompanied by tensions in front of the parliament, when protesters tried to break the protective police line. Police used tear gas, while protesters were reported to throw strong items to law enforcement officials.

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The united opposition protested on Saturday and again on Thursday against the Rama's government, which it accuses of being closely tied with criminal networks in the country, of winning the last elections through illegal ballot buying and of corruption.

The protest’s main demand is the resignation of the Rama government and the establishment of  a caretaker government which can facilitate early elections.

The joint opposition protest in Tirana on Saturday was accompanied by tensions in front of the parliament, when protesters tried to break the protective police line. Police used tear gas, while protesters were reported to throw strong items to law enforcement officials.

Later, police also used water to disperse protesters. Some protesters were injured, falling on the ground, along with police officers.

A day after the protest, police notified it arrested 14 people and is searching for seven others, all to be punished for the acts of violence during the rally.

For 11 other protesters, criminal proceeding has began in a free state.

The same decision was reached for the Secretary General of Democratic Party Gazmend Bardhi, as he was the person who requested permission to protest.

The detainees are charged with the criminal offenses "Organization and participation in illegal gatherings and manifestations", "Violence due to duty", "Violent opposition to a police officer", "Disruption of public order and peace" and "Keeping and using explosive materials.”

On Thursday too, the situation in front of the parliament, while an ordinary plenary session with the government only in parliament was taking place, got intense after protesters tried to break the line of policemen.

This time, police did not use tear-gas or water against the protesters, some of whom were throwing fireworks towards the police lines.

Police explained that "procedural actions were conducted on the basis of an analysis of film footage, service reports, and other evidence collected by the investigative group. At the scene police have collected as material evidence about 130 capsules banned as life-threatening.”

For its part, the DP accused the police on Sunday of escalating unprovoked violence towards the protesters with the sole purpose of scattering them, scaring them and keeping them away from the protest, but that it got its answer from the people.


Basha: We are not a destabilizing factor

Opposition leader Lulzim Basha denied criticism that the opposition’s decision to resign its parliamentary mandates is destabilizing the country.

"Albania is destabilized by crime, we will put an end to this destabilization, Edi Rama should leave an hour early," said Basha.
The president of Albania, Ilir Meta, who cut his visit to Azerbaijan short, reacted on Saturday. He said that he is following the developments with concern, and has called for the avoidance of confrontation and violence.

In a later interview, Meta added that all political parties involved in the serious deadlock that’s been created should take responsibility and not hide behind international representations in the country.
“I think that the political class should assume its responsibility and not hide behind any international as it has been so far and issues should be resolved in a transparent, principled manner, away from the bargains and misuses even of any internationals,” Meta said.

Meanwhile, both the US Embassy to Albania and the EU Delegation warned ahead of the protest that violence during rallies is “illegal” and “intolerable,” through two different statements.

The international community has openly criticized the opposition's decision to abandon  parliament by resigning their lawmakers’ mandates collectively.

The opposition, however, has clearly announced that there will be no stepping back until the government's departure. Democratic leader Lulzim Basha said yesterday “the protest will be another chance for Albanians to unite and raise their voice.”

 

Reactions from Germany

Last Thursday, German Minister of State Michael Roth told Deutsche Welle that they consider the opposition’s parliament boycott is irresponsible.

"Because it's not just parliament or government boycotting, but also democracy. The parliament is the place to debate. We asked for intervention seeking moderation. But I'm afraid the situation is already very poisoned.”

Meanwhile, rapporteur for Albania in the Foreign Commission Christian Schmidt thinks the government is also responsible for the crisis.

"This is not normal. The parliament lives by debate. It is up to the government to guarantee parliamentary cooperation,” said the former German minister for DW. Schmidt has been Albania’s rapporteur at the Bundestag’s Foreign Commission for a year - one of the commissions that decide to open EU negotiations for the country.

Schmidt told DW that he plans to travel to Albania soon to be informed about the situation.

"I particularly want to see how much the opposition is involved in parliamentary procedures," he stressed.

Germany's decision to open negotiations will depend on the progress report of the European Union Commission that will be published on May 29th. But to give final approval to the EU Council on 19 June, Germany will have to get the Bundestag's approval.

 

Opposition officially heads towards local elections’ boycott

The Central Election Commission announced on Tuesday that only the governing Socialist Party handed in its members list for the Local Electoral Administration Commissions within the March 18 deadline, while the opposition’s Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration chose not to propose any candidates.

The local electoral administration commissions (KZAZ) play a vital role in administering local elections, which are to take place on June 30.

By submitting its candidate list on time, the SP attempted to show everything is going normally in the country. Prime Minister Edi Rama gave the same message of maintaining a normal parliamentary situation to the Socialist MPs - the only MPs remaining in parliament after the opposition collectively resigned its mandates two weeks ago - one day before submitting its candidate list.

Meanwhile, refusal to submit their KZAZ candidates list is the first sign from the DP and the SMI that they will be boycotting the upcoming local elections.

Missing the KZAZ deadline has occurred before in the past.

During the 2017 election campaign, all parties failed to submit a full list until a few days before the elections, leaving large areas of voting without sufficient preparation.

The tactic of postponing the publication of the names of commissioners in polling stations is a party-recognized tactic and aims to reduce the risk that opposing parties "buy" commissioners ahead of the election.

The electoral reform, required by the EU and OSCE/ODHIR, is supposed to remove any political influence in the selection process of election commissioners.

However, now that the opposition has left parliament, there is little chance that the reform will be adopted and implemented before the next elections.

On Monday, Rama also assigned former minister Damian Gjiknuri as electoral reform coordinator, although he was dismissed from duty in December 2018 due to his involvement with the DH Albania scandal - a ghost company that received almost 30 million euros through government tenders.

Relying on the prosecution's interceptions, which were published by VOA last month, the opposition also claims Gjiknuri was the chief SP official who led the vote buying in Dibra district during the 2017 elections.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 21, 2019 21:12