Fatmir Xhafaj’s departure is a positive development for the country. Exit.al has argued from the beginning that Fatmir Xhafaj was a politician who could only hamper Albania’s progress and that he could not continue to be a minister after his brother’s sentence on charges of drug trafficking was revealed.
Finally, all of a sudden and without much ado, Xhafaj left the most important ministry in the country without any explanation at all for the public, not even an implied one.
The way his departure occurred supports our arguments about Xhafaj; however, few quick considerations would be pertinent.
- Xhafaj’s departure is first and foremost a result of opposition’s endeavor
The main factors for Xhafaj’s departure were undoubtedly the continued pressure and attacks against him by the opposition. Only five months were enough for this result. Presumably, the final straw that broke the camel’s back was not from the opposition; however his position was already way too weakened by the opposition that his departure could only be a matter of time.
Xhafaj’s attempt to defend his brother from the opposition’s attacks by staging a fake witness met a spectacular failure, thus further damaging the government’s image and putting at risk the political careers of Taulant Balla and Ardi Veliu, as well as potential charges on them. In short, holding on to Xhafaj had become costly for the government because of him being an easy target for the opposition.
Ironically, although the opposition has been reproached for its non-radical approach, facts have shown that it has at least been efficient in exposing government’s incrimination; Xhafaj is just the last one in a long list of individuals parting with politics as a result of opposition’s efforts.
- Xhafaj’s departure is a clear loss for Edi Rama
To begin with, Xhafaj’s departure will dim the façade splendor of the war on crime, which so far has been Edi Rama’s major political enterprise. The departure of the main leading figure of recent operations against some criminal gangs politically damages Edi Rama and his image. Although the recent efforts against crime were only partial, they were seemingly considered successful, and Xhafaj’s departure during the peak of operations shows that their real goal was not the war on crime.
On the other hand, Xhafaj’s unceremonious departure will have an effect on many other individuals blindly serving Rama. It will show them that their protection by Rama cannot be taken for granted once they are not needed anymore. Rama will subsequently find it more difficult to defend other incriminated individuals in the government, and he will need to let go of at least some of them. In the long term this might be at his advantage, but in the short term it will be a blow to the public image of government.
- The socialist government’s bonds with crime are seemingly unbreakable
It is reasonable to think that Xhafaj’s unexpected departure, his silence about it, Rama treating his departure (so far) as irrelevant and without any consequences, are all signs that Xhafaj left in a flash because of the danger of exposing himself or Edi Rama to potential evidence or to some other grave scandal. Saimir Tahiri can be thought as the most probable source of such blackmail. However other complications or clashes related to the latest investigations into eminent politicians colluding with criminals to secure the rigging of elections cannot be excluded.
Whatever the real circumstances might be, this story looks more like a mafia reality rather than the activity of a government or of a democracy. In the context of accusations and suspicions on Balla, Gjiknuri, Dako, Sejdini, Manja, Çyrbja etc., as well as proved criminal activities of Roshi, Tahiri, Prenga etc., it is clear by now that crime metastasis has spread throughout the whole socialist government and it’s too late to be saved. Furthermore, mafia-like blackmailing, rivalries and clashes have now become the dominant way of running government activities.
- Saimir Tahiri remains the most powerful man in government after Edi Rama.
Notwithstanding The fack that he is not in a governing position, Tahiri appears to exercise strong extrapolitical power. He maintains enough influence and control on Edi Rama to compel him to sacrifice anything and anyone so as to defend Tahiri from getting sentenced for involvement in drug trafficking. One might speculate that Tahiri exercises such power by blackmailing Rama with compromising evidence he possesses and is ready to use.
With the help of the prosecution which he fully controls, Edi Rama is working on having Tahiri charged with abuse of power only: negligence or irresponsibility in lending his own car to the Habilaj gang. One of the main purposes of the latest operations has been to create an image of a war on crime that doesn’t spare even the “big fish”. This would lay the ground for conditions under which Tahiri’s acquittal of all charges won’t boomerang on Rama, but instead it will be accepted by the public on the basis of the narrative “We have proved we don’t spare anyone jail, even our men, when evidence is there, but we won’t allow political accusations on anybody”.
Xhafaj might have just stood against this scenario, thus bringing to Rama’s easy decision to get rid of him, given his already weakened position. In this sense, Tahiri’s pre-announced press conference should have been conceived as pressure on Rama to accelerate Xhafaj’s departure, and not as blackmailing of Xhafaj with the publishing of further evidence against him.
Under circumstances of such a great power Tahiri maintains over Rama, the worst case scenario would be if Tahiri’s power was not just over Rama personally but also pressure by those criminal groups who had relations with or were supported by Tahiri. The later scenario would mean a government under the control of organized crime and with no political power out of the crime realm.
- The media remains exploited, prey of propaganda and shallow clichés.
Two myths fed by Rama himself have been growing in the media and in the public’s eye for several months now. The first one is the myth of Xhafaj’s power, the danger he posed Rama and the later one’s inability to reckon with Xhafaj. The cliché of internal threats to power is one of Rama’s favorite methods to create an intriguing and entertaining atmosphere for the public while diverting public opinion. Through such hocus-pocus he was able to keep alive for four years the legend of Meta’s danger to their coalition. He later fed the myth of clashes between him and Veliaj and that of the possibility that the later might replace Rama as prime minister. Finally, he blew up the myth of a powerful Xhafaj endangering Rama – a myth that deflated this morning when Xhafaj left quietly.
The second myth is that of foreign officials supporting Xhafaj. This is another method regularly used by Rama to support collaborators who are exposed to or accused of connections with crime. This myth is primarily fed by having such individuals accompany Rama as part of official delegations and including them in photos with world leaders. Rama did this with Tahiri when he visited the White House, as well as with Xhafaj and Balla when he visited Germany and met with Chancellor Merkel.
At the same time, Rama schedules official visits to other countries for these individuals, and exploits foreign ambassadors to gain support on them, as he did with US Ambassador Lu on Tahiri or Italian Ambassador Cutillio on Xhafaj.
In fact, Rama is exploiting foreign officials to create the idea of having their support, while on the other hand exploiting the media to blow up the myth of foreign officials’ support. Until when these myths deflate, like the Xhafaj myth deflated lately.