From: Ilmi Rehova
Today’s Votes in Tirana’s Municipal Council Are a Political Test for the LSI

Today the Municipal Council of Tirana will discuss two important proposals, which will be a tryout for the new power balance on the political scene after the PS’s victory in the parliamentary elections.

With the disintegration of the former government coalition, the Democratic Party and the Socialist Party for Integration now have a majority in the Municipal Council of 32 out of 61 council members. This would allow them to form a strong opposition and practically control and condition the decision making of Mayor Erion Veliaj as regards many of the important areas in which the municipality is active.

The Democratic Party has declared that it will vote against Veliaj’s proposal to double the drinking water price and against his proposal to give out €60 million in concessions for 17 new schools in Tirana.

These decisions are important in that they directly touch upon the wellbeing of the citizens and if they were to be approved they would confirm abusive and clientelist politics damaging to the interests of Tirana’s citizens, as we have explained here and here.

The LSI still didn’t take a clear position in these debates. However, its vote will provide proof of its political color. Will the LSI finally side with the public interest or will continue to be led by the private interests of its leaders? Will the LSI finally act like a political force that thinks and acts politically, or will it continue to behave like an interest group that treats the government like a company?

During the four years of coalition with the PS, the LSI has supported, without any hesitation, every law, project, and decision of the PS. Many of these projects had direct, negative effects on the lives of Albanian citizens, such as the waste management law, predatory concessions in the healthcare and energy sector, the increase in taxes and tariffs, and so on. The justification of the LSI leaders was always that they were forced to be faithful to the coalition agreement – an insidious argument because a coalition agreement doesn’t mean unconditional support and not influencing policy that goes against the public interest.

After the June general elections, the newly elected LSI leader Monika Kryemadhi declared that the LSI had made mistakes when it supported such clientelist policies in the past. Today she has the possibility to prove that these words were a sincere reflection or just propagandistic justifications.

It should be noted that the school concession project is a project that will profit all the large construction companies in the country, as well as all the main banks – part of which is allied to the LSI. It is also well known that former LSI leader Ilir Meta kept on friendly terms with Mayor Veliaj after his break with Prime Minister Edi Rama. This was interpreted as an interest of Meta in the (building) permits that Veliaj was able to hand out.

Today, the LSI will show whether it liberated itself from its clientelist interests, at least in the case of these two decisions. Today, the LSI no longer has the option of playing the game of wiser “third party,” fighting for tolerance and understanding between the two opposed political forces. Today, the LSI will be on the side of the citizens or its clients – it will show whether it is a political party or a private business.