Yesterday, Valdrin Pjetri, mayor-elect of Shkodra for the Socialist Party resigned after the opposition had published a prior Italian conviction for drug dealing. As the elections were boycotted by the opposition, Pjetri was the only candidate on the list, while voter turnout in Shkodra was exceedingly low at 10.33%.
In his resignation statement, Pjetri described his conviction as follows:
A totally banal event that happened among me and my fellow students, in which I have no guilt and responsibility and which I didn’t consider important, 17 years ago when I was 20 years old, was taken out of context and I have been accused and lynched beyond any moral and human scruples.
As a mayoral candidate, Pjetri was subject to the Decriminalization Law, which demands that candidates mention any prior criminal convictions. Hiding a conviction is a criminal offense. The Prosecution has so far failed to open a case against Pjetri.
Prime Minister Edi Rama has distanced himself and the Socialist Party from Pjetri. Over the last few years, multiple political associates of the Prime Minister have turned out to have a criminal past. Each time, the Prime Minister has responded by stating this is their “personal responsibility,” without taking any political responsibility himself.
Most recently, former Durrës mayor and Rama confidant Vangjush Dako and his family were banned entry to the US owing to “involvement in significant corruption.” Prime Minister Rama has refused to comment on this matter.
Dako was involved in Albanian Electiongate, which showed scores of PS politicians and officials involved in vote buying and voter intimidation, colluding with drug trafficking groups. None of those involved have been yet brought to justice, while several leading figures in the wiretaps have recently been promoted. This includes Pjerin Ndreu, who recently became mayor of Lezha. Elton Arbana, who has been recorded talking with Dako and crime boss Astrit Avdylaj about vote buying, was made mayor of Shijak.
Further back in time, we find former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri, whose arrest on corruption and drug trafficking charges was prevented by the Socialist Party, even though Prime Minister Rama at the same time removed him from the Parliamentary group.
Then there is former mayor of Kavaja, Elvis Rroshi, who violated the decriminalization law by hiding a former conviction, yet was protected by the Socialist Party until the Constitutional Court ordered his dismissal from office.
The pattern here is always the same: emphasis on “personal responsibility,” dissociation with Rama and his party, while at the same time using the influence of the Socialist Party to slow down or obstruct actual criminal prosecution.