The members of Albania’s largest opposition party, the Democratic Party (PD) are voting to elect the party president for the next 4 years.
Polls opened throughout the country on Sunday for nearly 75 thousand registered voters.
The PD leadership decided to hold elections one month earlier than the party statute requirement, following a loss in April 25 elections.
Four candidates are running for party president, including Lulzim Basha, who has been leading the party for the last 8 years, unable to win in two general elections and two local elections.
The three contestants who all run on platforms to reform the party are Agron Shehaj, Fatbardh Kadilli and Edith Harxhi. They all blame Basha for the last election loss, and have asked for his resignation, to which the PD leadership reacted by announcing early elections.
Agron Shehaj, 43, was the second most voted opposition politician in the last April 25 elections, following Lulzim Basha. He is a self-made businessman who joined the party as MP in 2017. Shehaj has promised to tie the party president’s term to winning elections: election loss means the president resigns and cannot run again. He has also promised to give the party members the right to elect candidates for members of parliament instead of appointments by party leadership; to launch an online platform for party members to vote on all party issues; to annually publish a party financial report.
He stresses the fight against corruption and creation of new jobs as his main adjectives and strong points.
Fatbardh Kadilli, 55, was a member of parliament between 2009-2013, before Basha took over the party. He was the first of the 27 members of the Party Leadership to publicly demand Basha’s resignation, and successively to announce he was running to replace him.
He also promises to restrict the party president’s term to just one, and untie the president’s political leadership from administration tasks. Candidates for president, locally and nationally, will run in primaries at least 1 year before party elections. Local heads of the party will automatically be candidates for MP. Fractions inside the party will be allowed and forums based on interests, occupations, etc., will be encouraged. In his manifesto, Kadilli promised a thorough reforming of the party at all levels.
Edith Harxhi was deputy minister of foreign affairs between 2005-2013. She has been part of a PD group that has been criticizing Basha political actions during most of his 8-year tenure.
Harxhi runs on a platform that demands a party open to criticism and difference of opinions. She promises a return to the original PD principles as a party on the right of the political spectrum, and vows to create the grounds for debate and fair competition. Members will elect the party leadership at all levels, instead of the president, if Harxhi wins the election today, and local branches will have higher autonomy.
Lulzim Basha, 47, runs for a third term as PD leader. His party lost general elections in 2017 and 2021, as well as local elections in 2015, and boycotted those in 2019.
Basha has called on party members to unite and continue their struggle under his leadership to bring justice for the allegedly rigged elections of 2017 and 2021. He maintains that the last elections were rigged by Prime Minister Edi Rama’s government, that the PD won’t recognize the results but will nevertheless enter the parliament in September.
The committee tasked with administering the PD elections has decided to exclude from voting party members who criticized the PD during the last electoral campaign, and those who campaigned for other small parties outside the PD coalition.
Party members will be able to cast their votes in one of the 76 voting centers across the country from 8am until 7pm on Sunday.