Xhemal Qefalia, a Socialist Party MP gave a recent interview with Edison Kurani that was published on the Balkan Insights website. In the piece he vociferously criticises the oppositions decision to resign from their mandates and to call for a transitional government and new election.
Whilst the content of the article is curated with great care, it is not truly representative of the situation and seeks to undermine the reason why the opposition MPs are taking such action- evidence of links to criminal gangs, drugs, money laundering and the rigging of the 2017 General Elections.
“The Albanian opposition’s decision to abandon its parliamentary mandates has aggravated the situation in the country even more.”
It is hard to imagine a political situation more aggravating that discovering that vote rigging took place during the last general election. This combined with the fact that the government has not taken the issue seriously, or called for any kind of proper investigation into it is a great cause for concern and a significant threat to democracy. In a case like this, one must consider cause and effect- if the vote rigging had not happened or the situation was being dealt with correctly and according to law, perhaps the MPs would not have needed to resign from Parliament to make their point.
“My colleague MPs decided to take the wrong step and do something which was not well-thought-out. I’d like to stress that such thing is not acceptable in a democratic country.”
The decision of the opposition MPs is the pinnacle of democracy. After evidence surfaced of vote rigging and no action was taken despite constant pressure to do so, they were left with very few possible options. It was clear from Rama’s public outbursts that the evidence was “garbage”, that the situation would not be resolved, and an election would not be called, therefore resigning from a parliament that is shrouded in corruption was really the only logical step. Furthermore, the process of resigning is covered in the Electoral Code and the Constitution, meaning the process is in fact completely and utterly democratic.
“People vote us to represent them in parliament.”
“This government is legitimate, because it has been voted by the people. A government which is voted by the people must serve the full length of its term in office and there’s no reason why it should declare early elections.”
Sure, some people did vote but at this point no one knows for sure how many of those votes were given under duress, how many were paid for, and how many of the total were as a result of the vote rigging scandal. Before such bold statements are made, a free and fair election should be called where everyone has the opportunity to campaign and be elected without any third party or internal interference. If the Socialist Party are so confident of their popularity, they should have no problem in calling an election.
“We have not seen such decision being taken in any other country. My colleagues’ action is not in the best interest of Albania and Albanians. And this is not the right moment for this.”
Similar action has been taken all over the Balkans, in particular in Serbia and Montenegro. In Serbia, the Alliance of Serbia have walked out of parliament due to a list of alleged abuses by the ruling party. In Montenegro, MPs have been walking out and boycotting parliament since 2016 due to allegations of vote rigging and poll violations.
What is in the best interest of Albanians is a shift away from the current hybrid regime and an electoral process that is free and fair.
“Because we’re expecting to open accession talks with the EU in June and such action really makes us look bad in the eyes of the international community”
What is making you look bad in the eyes of the international community is not the resignation of opposition MPs, it is the links to drugs, organised crime, and vote rigging. In addition to this, the treatment of protestors and journalists paints a very sombre picture to a European institution that honours freedom of speech, freedom of expression, media freedom and democracy above all. Albania needs to mend the glaring cracks in its society, not just paint over them to tick a couple of boxes for the EU.
“Nonetheless, given that Albania is advancing with the vetting process and the constitution of the new judicial institutions, I think that the judicial reform will have yielded its first results by June and this is a big step for the opening of the talks.”
In fact, establishment of justice institutions has been delayed beyond constitutional limits. The justice reform has also been marred by serious controversies, most notably the clearing of prosecutor Donika Prela by the vetting process. Prela was the head of the Durres Prosecution Office that investigated the same organized crime group that was involved in rigging the 2017 election. Mayor of Durres Vangjush Dako, whom the prosecution wiretaps revealed to have been colluding with this criminal organization in buying votes, still remains in his post. To make things worse, Prela has applied to be a member of the Special Prosecution (SPAK) that is supposed to investigate crimes committed by politicians and high officials.
In his statement, socialist MP Xhemal Qefalia claims that the reform will have yielded its first results by June, which implies that the SPAK will have investigated and brought to justice corrupt politicians by then. This is simply not true. Moreover, it is in line with the ongoing government propaganda that regularly and in breach of the separation of powers feeds Albanians with deadlines for arrests of criminals which never happen. Actually, the SPAK can hardly be fully formed and operating by June, let alone yielding any results.
“The international community has always supported this legitimate government which has come out of the popular vote. You can all see how the international community is reacting.”
The international community only supports you based on what they are told. A considered stream of propaganda is fed to the Western agencies and diplomatic missions in Tirana, and the EU regularly turns a blind eye to serious situations, instead regurgitating the government line. Any media source that dares to criticise what is happening is attacked and defamed and foreign journalists are exposed to campaigns of misinformation started by government, funded or supported by media portals.