By Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
Opposition, Another Effort!

In recent days, the convention of the National Council of the Democratic Party (PD) has led to a stream of declarations that called for an end to the Rama regime. For example, PD leader Lulzim Basha declared:

“We will lead the protests to get rid of evil. We have an avenue to confront it, which is the road of engaging all citizens, the union of all citizens, to put an end to this façade. He has taken a fatal blow from the student movement, and now he needs to receive a final blow from the unified citizens.”

On Monday, Basha stated in Parliament:

“The Constitutional Court was annihilated. The prosecution annihilated. Now it’s time for the PS.”

Through its General Secretary, Gazmend Bardhi, the newly elected executive board of the PD also announced a large national protest on February 16, with preliminary protests starting all around the country from February 4. In other words, a large mobilization and activation of the party base.

Now, the PD is by and large correct in the way it has portrayed the government. Underneath the transparent layer of EU-supported propaganda we find a plethora of systemic problems and concerns: the lethal dependency of the economy on criminal money; the undermining of the rule of law; the crippling brain drain and massive emigration; a justice reform that has abandoned its own principles; EU integration led by incompetent bureaucrats; a rigged public procurement system; long-term economic impact public-private partnerships; the collapse of public education; the ongoing destruction of nature; the threat of the growing regional influence of Turkey; and so on and so forth.

This means that “bringing down the regime” and “unifying the citizens” – phrases which unfortunately sound rather hollow – by necessity should be accompanied by real policy proposals, and more actual content than thinking of “political vetting” as the cure-all method. Because that would be making the same mistake as the government and the EU, which naively thought that the bureaucratic solution of judicial reform was going to bring about the rule of law. Political vetting will not magically bring good governance, either.

The student protests have in fact given the opposition a golden opportunity to produce a sound and well-prepared piece of legislation: a new Higher Education Law. As the student movement already indicated: we are not politicians, we are not expected to have the knowledge and expertise to rewrite the Higher Education Law. This is the task of politicians, in democratic consultation with us, the citizens. So proposing a new Higher Education Law that incorporates the wishes of the students – instead of the Prime Minister’s ad-hoc VKMs – would potentially broaden the PD’s base and appeal.

And as with higher education, so with all other fields of public policy. Members of Parliament are endowed with legislative power, so let them use this power so that for once we actually see an election program that is coherent, implementable, creative, and visionary.

I fear that the only salvation of the opposition currently is actually producing such concrete proposals, because protest, resistance, negation alone can never sustain a movement. Bringing down a regime is not the same as building it up. It is creation, not destruction, which truly energizes. And against the enormous destruction already perpetrated by this government, is more of the same really the answer?

As I already have pointed out several times, the beauty and power of the student protests did not lie in its (belated) calls to cancel the Higher Education Law: it was in the signs, the forms of protest and deliberation, their spontaneous Constitution, and self-organization of meetings and classes without a predetermined leader. In short: their acts of creation and invention.

It would be unfortunate if the opposition, contrarily, would relapse in its old reflexes. Because precisely two years after the last large opposition protests (again an election year), we risk falling into the same pattern: five months before the elections, the opposition takes to the street to bring down the regime offering the same “solution” as two years ago: a “transitional government.”

They would do well to remind themselves of the famous dictum: “First as tragedy, then as farce.” The 2017 protests indeed ended in tragedy: the McAllister+ agreement and an absolute majority for the Socialist Party. The farce of 2019 can be easily imagined: a few weeks of protests after which the opposition is slaughtered in the massive money machine that the PS has created over the last six years, holding key political, economic, and criminal positions throughout the country.

This machine cannot be fought without ideas and without ideals. It cannot be overcome without a program and without policy proposals. Of course the opposition has the right boycott Parliament, but it should never boycott itself. And when it takes to the streets, it should never do so because it doesn’t have enough ideas, but because it has too many.