Editorial: A chance to end 'tough guy' politics

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 6, 2015 11:40

It reads like a script from the hit television series "The House of Cards": Wealthy businessman with suspicious past who bought a seat in parliament through bankrolling his party's electoral campaign has been targeted for assassination by those in power who no longer need him.

That's what Tom Doshi, a Shkoder MP, has told Albanians after he was expelled by the parliamentary group of the ruling Socialist Party after a very public spat with the country's prime minister over lack of access and unwillingness by the prime minister and the government to accommodate Doshi's requests.

The accusations have been dismissed as fantasy by Prime Minister Edi Rama and his chief coalition partner, Parliamentary Speaker Ilir Meta, who Doshi accused of ordering the hit. However, investigations are taking place to go to the bottom of the claims, and the parliament's work has been entirely hijacked by the affair as the opposition demands Meta's dismissal and accuses the government of being in bed with criminals.

More than the thriller-like story, Doshi's expulsion has brought attention to one of the ugliest features of Albanian politics in the last decade: The growing influence of a select group of business owners and other 'tough guy' elements who became wealthy or locally powerful in the chaotic years of post-communist Albania amid allegations of involvement in criminal activities.

Such elements have become influential on both sides of the political spectrum, first as campaign financiers and local party enforcers and later as members of parliament.

Albania's key international partners -- the United States and the European Union -- had raised concern for years over the trend and rightfully so.

Doshi was the poster child of the group, using his wealth and influence in the Shkoder region to turn the once right-wing stronghold into a Socialist victory in the last elections. But that clearly came at a high cost for the image of the party elsewhere.

Prime Minister Rama's political decision to distance himself from Doshi was the right one. Others like him need to be expelled from politics as well, so they cannot exert undue influence which would no doubt be against the country's laws and democratic ethics and ultimately mire the government's work.

This should serve as a time of reflection. The major parties need to come together and make a pact to clear the ranks from those with suspect wealth and 'tough guy' attitudes. They and their money should have no place in our democracy. Otherwise, it is party capture, which then leads to state capture.

Campaign financing needs to become entirely transparent with all funds going through banks, and their origin must be verified to make sure they were not ill-gained. Legal changes must take place where needed to enforce such norms.

The Doshi soap opera unfolding on Albanian screens is giving anyone who is trying to watch and understand a headache. Murder for hire, hidden cameras and criminals in politics -- are the themes currently on Albanian screens.

The problem is that the quality of the debate is set by the quality of the politicians and the representatives elected in parliament.

The quality of the Albanian parliament today in terms of intellectual capacity is lower than it was a decade ago -- and 'tough guys' and those who bought their seats through campaign financing now make up a large portion of the parliament.

Both major parties now have an opportunity to eliminate this negative element from Albanian politics -- starting with the people running in the upcoming mayoral elections of June 21.


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 6, 2015 11:40