Last week, the daily newspaper Panorama published an article alleging that according to confidential sources the State Police Operative Unit is keeping opposition leader Lulzim Basha under surveillance.
The reactions of various exponents of the opposition, be they from PD or LSI, were prompt and quick to point out how the State Police, under the leadership of the new Minister of Internal Affairs, accused of being the brother of a drug trafficker, has become a political police that, instead of protecting citizens, busies itself with “investigating” the leader of the opposition, guilty of constantly denouncing the Rilindja government’s ties to drug trafficking.
The reaction of the police was eloquent. Instead of remaining within the borders of a normal rebuttal, the police released a statement where it accused “a political party” of fabricating fake news to mislead the public, proving, thus, ironically, the accusation that the police is acting as a biased organ, rather than as an independent institution.
Immediately, the government propaganda machine was put to work, filling news portals and social media with mocking comments against Basha, scornfully implying that there is no need to spy on Basha in order to arrest him, as the Prosecution Office already has many dossiers regarding serious infractions that took place under Basha’s governance in the past. The propaganda attacks were reinforced with mocking comments from Rama himself on his Facebook page, where he initially labelled the allegations of Basha being under surveillance as ridiculous and fabricated as the wiretaps of Interior Minister Xhafaj’s brother, and then, with a humor more fit for a bar than a Prime Minister, he shared a meme depicting a “surveillance report” stating that the person under surveillance, that is, Basha, is constantly asleep.
Once again Rama used his entire propaganda machine – the media outlets he controls, the portals he owns, his paid commenters, his intellectual support, the fake opposition members, the resentful left without political party, the useful idiots who cannot help but give their opinion on everything in order to attract attention even though they have little understanding of the situation, or democracy in general – to discredit Lulzim Basha, declaring that we are talking about someone who does nothing but sleep, is unable to get anything done, lacking Rama’s own charisma, someone who takes his orders from the puppet-master Berisha, someone unable to make decisions and is not a true leader, and therefore, someone who cannot be considered a real governing alternative to Rama.
And so the perennial Rilindja strategy becomes clear, for which Rama never spared his energies and interferences, be they his or those of his propagandists: nurturing mistrust of Lulzim Basha’s person, in order to keep him from becoming a possible figurehead representing the country’s increasing dissatisfaction.
The fruits of a large media investment are being reaped, if it is true that the protests organized by the Democratic Party still cannot manage to consolidate all this dissatisfaction and if it is true that many exponents of the civil society continue parroting the idea that Albania’s problem is a weak political opposition.
However, there are some that have begun realizing that what Rama points at as Basha’s weakness is precisely Basha’s best political trait. Unlike Rama, he isn’t and couldn’t be, even if he wanted to, a danger to democracy. He is not the usual Albanian charismatic leader, who is too quick to become an autocrat able to create a dictatorship.
Basha is a normal person, a bit stiff in his attempt to appear serious and responsible, who has decided to be a professional politician, looking to represent the interests and values he shares with a part of the electorate. At most he may hold on to leadership of his party until the membership plummets to zero, but if people stop voting for him, he will go home and someone else, someone better, will come along and take his place.
However, ironically, many Albanians, conditioned by Rama’s propaganda, do not trust Basha, precisely because Basha does not show strength; his protests do not come with destruction of property and injuries are uncommon. Therefore, Basha is not bad enough to be the leader of the herd, the alpha male, to rule with an iron fist over this country filled with citizens that hide from their own interests – meaning: Basha is not for us, we’ll keep Rama.
This is precisely the idea that Rama wishes for, and the one he’s been disseminating for a long time. However, if Rama spends all his abundant energies to delegitimize Basha as a competitor, instead of, say, fighting crime, this implies that Rama’s only problem, past and current, is precisely Basha.
There is an explanation for this, albeit covered by Rama’s propaganda clouds of smoke. In fact, it was only Basha, perhaps assisted by U.S. Ambassador Donald Lu, before the latter decided to involve himself in Albanian affairs, who ideated the political thesis, then mocked by all, yet currently considered as a defining step, of decriminalization.
He was the only one, in the distracted Albanian society, to warn of the a danger of the criminalization, not only of politics, but of the society as a whole. It was the decriminalization law, so often mocked by Rama as useless, that opened the first cracks in the monolithic system of Rilindja, and showed the people the real human quality of a rigged system. And after the decriminalization came the decannabization, this too, denounced for long by Rama until he was forced to apply it.
Now the narrative, in truth started by Basha alone – that of a country that has lost its normal references, of a widely criminalized society, of a predatory and incapable ruling class, endowed only with a presumption and an increasingly unlimited arrogance – has pierced the thick layers of smoke produced by Rama’s propaganda and is becoming widespread awareness, triggering anger and disappointment, and attempts to escape, in the awareness of an impossible social coexistence and future.
Basha, practically by himself – credit where credit is due – has shown that Rama is a mere illusionist and is exposing all of the latter’s tricks and sleight-of-hands. That’s why Rama, even as he continues to mocking him hysterically, intimately fears Basha, and fears him quite a lot, because he knows that his own politics is nothing but illusion.
Rama is the only one who fears Basha, because the Albanian people have nothing left to lose and nothing to fear.