1- The surprise of the D’Hondt formula according to the old law
In the first days of this week after the election results were announced, I conducted an exercise, dividing the result of each subject in each county and listing the quotients that correspond to the MP mandates won. In other words, I applied the D’Hondt formula, named after a 19th-century Belgian mathematician, commonly used around the world to distribute mandates. I was not doing what was on every media outlet!
I was imagining as if the Electoral Code had not been changed unilaterally by Edi Rama in autumn and that the Democratic Party (PD) and Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) were both competing within the United Opposition coalition but each with its own list. The result of this exercise surprised me: In five constituencies, the opposition received one more mandate than it currently has; precisely in Tirana, Durres, Berat, Vlora and Gjirokastra. With this result, the PS received only 69 seats and the United Opposition 68. Kingmaker remained the PSD, which in September would likely do what its chairman said on Monday.
2 – Personal and collective responsibility
One Monday in February 2019, the parliamentary group of the PD discussed and approved an unusual proposal that the MPs heard a day before on the TV: the definite leave from the Assembly or as it is known in Albania “the burning of mandates”. Two months later, the National Council of the PD discussed and approved another unusual proposal: “to commit to preventing the holding of façade elections” or as it is already known, the boycott of the local elections of June 30, 2019.
The decision-making took place in an atmosphere influenced for months by a popular superstition that such extreme measures would automatically bring about a change of government. But even those members of the group and of the Council who were little influenced by superstitions faced a difficult dilemma: rejecting the proposal also meant public delegitimization of the leadership; all this before the local elections that would be followed by the parliamentary ones.
Seen in retrospect, both the proposal and the decision were wrong. Perhaps the goal would have been achieved if it was consciously acknowledged that the costs of a “color” revolution like the Ukrainian or Georgian one would have been worth it, and that the will to get things done would have been hardened. Even when the end was near the extreme. But that did not happen! It is true that the public inside and outside became aware of Rama’s bandit oppression and some internationals began to open their eyes to him. But since the two opposition acts did not bring the promised political change, the neutral part of the public began to see them as problematic venture. As for the internationals, big and small, the concern that such recklessness was becoming an opposition practice in the Balkans, the Caucasus and beyond was much bigger than the problems inside Albania. That was enough and more for them to become aggressive with the opposition.
I have to take responsibility for my vote regarding the wrong decision; perhaps even apologize to those who voted for me as a Member of Parliament and a member of the Council.
3 – If only I could turn back time
But looking in retrospect does not mean practicing hindsight bias. This self-critical analysis helps understanding what happened and serves us all as an experience.
If the PD and after it the whole opposition had not “burned the mandates” then Rama would not have been able to abrogate the pre-electoral coalitions that were practiced in the last two decades and would not have been able to take 2.8% of parliamentary seats just with this trick; or five of them as the exercise above showed me. Those who remind me that the fault can be found more to the thief than the guard can have an answer that explains that you don’t have to leave everything before the predator as a gift.
If the PD and after it the whole opposition had not boycotted the local elections, I do not predict that it would have triumphed in them; but the PD alone won 1/4 of the municipalities in 2015. The 2019 opposition could have realistically hoped for more. Edi Rama took all the municipalities in the country without competition and misused them for elections, massively increasing electoral employment. I would not recommend that the missing PD municipalities do the same. But it is clear that they would greatly help the campaign canvassing. Especially in three or four constituencies where the d’Hondt formula for two or three hundred votes sent the last mandate from the opposition parties to the PS.
If the opposition did not venture in the spring of 2019, most likely it would manage to win at least 70-71 seats. If the Rama government in the campaign would not buy votes, would not abuse the state, would not call bandits for help, would not control the media and so on, the victory of the opposition would be deeper. But the opposition could not stop the latter. I could go further and say that if the opposition would not make certain mistakes, but this seems now unnecessary. This note is not about crying over spilled milk. Political life goes on. As well as the need to learn lessons and to not repeat mistakes.
Genc Pollo is a former Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Education, Minister of Telecom & IT, former Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Media and also of European Integration.