Albania’s democracy is in decline, according to the latest report from Freedom House.
The report, entitled “Nations in Transit 2020: Dropping the Democratic Facade” notes that “a growing number of leaders around the world have dropped even the pretence of playing by the rules of democracy.”
Through a desire for self-interest, politicians have stopped hiding behind a facade of normal compliance. They are now openly attacking democratic institutions and attempting to do away with any remaining checks on their power, according to the report.
Freedom House noted across the board accelerated assaults on judicial independence, threats against civil society and the media, the manipulation of electoral frameworks and the hollowing out of parliaments which “no longer fulfil their role as centres of political debate and oversight of the executive”.
Autocratic leaders in the region are continuing to “pay lip service” to democracy- claiming they act according to the will of the people- but really only doing so to justify their concentration of power and escalating violations of political rights and civil liberties.
Freedom House said these developments have contributed to a “stunning democratic breakdown” in the countries covered in the report. This erosion has left citizens vulnerable to further rights abuses and power grabs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dropping from 3.89 to 3.82 in 2019 Albania is considered a ‘hybrid regime’. It received particularly bad scores for its judicial framework and independence (3.25) and corruption (2.75). It also got less than satisfactory results for national democratic governance (3.25), and independent media (3.75).
In terms of its position amongst its Western Balkan neighbours, it was surpassed by Croatia (4.25), Montenegro (3.86), and Serbia (3.96). Its overall score of 3.82 is the median for the region. The median score for Central Europe is 5.4, falling to 1.39 in Eurasia.
The report mentions the exit of Opposition party lawmakers by resigning en masse in February 2019.
Freedom House describes the situation as follows:
“They demanded fresh elections after an investigation revealed that the governing Socialist Party had enlisted the help of organized crime networks in the 2017 vote that brought it to power. Undeterred, the Socialists have put off electoral reforms while working to stifle the country’s media and proceeding with plans to oust the president.”
The report then details how the Opposition boycotted local elections but the Socialist Party “pressed ahead with local elections…leaving voters with no meaningful choice.”
In terms of media freedom, the report noted that government attacks continued across all countries. It also noted the “EU’s lack of success to date in addressing autocratization ” in countries such as Hungary and Poland.