1-The project of hope and faith is still pending
Since its defeat in the general elections of April 25, unfortunately, the Democratic Party has yet to come up with a new project focused on faith and hope that can motivate its membership and electorate, as well as engage other segments of Albanian society and public opinion. Without such a project, it is hard to imagine a victory in the next elections. The membership vote for the party chairman and the party council, that took place shortly after April 25, virtually prevented the formulation of a new project.
The slogan “Forward with what we’ve got” was the party’s ideological equivalent to an ostrich burying its head in the sand.
I am sure, however, that in Parliament, the Democratic Party MPs will continue to denounce the abuses and failures of the Socialist government; trying to be, as much as they can, the checks and balances of the Albanian political system. They performed this important democratic function best during the last two legislatures, until the fatal moment of “mandate burning.”
But in addition to this, the MPs and the entire Democratic Party presented an alternative vision of governance, and their victory was considered possible by many. Until April 25, 2021! After eight years in opposition and on the eve of another four-year stint as the minority party, this is no longer the case.
This situation naturally makes the government even more arrogant, more abusive and more harmful to a democratic and European Albania. Therefore, the status quo in the PD must be unacceptable to any politically conscious Democrat.
2-The monopoly of truth
On May 19 this year, the US Secretary of State designated the former PD Chairman Sali Berisha as ineligible for entry into the U.S. Three days later in an interview I said that “This news has been a shocking and surprising to many; not just to Berisha’s fans. I do not know the facts and evidence that may have served as basis for this designation. The parties can clarify. But I am surprised that, unlike the three officials who have been so-designated earlier [by the US], Sali Berisha has not held any office of power in the last eight years. He has regularly denounced the iniquities of the Rama government; which, in a different language, are also denounced by international reports. And unlike these three people and many others, Mr. Berisha has historical merit in our relations with the United States”.
U.S. officials, meanwhile, have explained that the process for verifying which individuals will be banned from entering the U.S. on charges of corruption takes a long time because it involves many agencies and a number of procedures of scrutiny. Therefore, the timing of this designation and its announcement has nothing to do with the political context in the country of the individual in question.
It could very well be so. Although anyone who follows public life in the US may be shocked (I say shocked in the case of a benevolent person like me) by the mutual accusations between political camps, especially over the last five years, about the politicization and partisan instrumentalization of government agencies including very important ones. Although error is human and humanity includes America as the reports of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (SIGAR) show.
Making educated guesses on this matter is of no use. As long as the evidence and witnesses of the prosecution and the defense have not been publicly confronted in the Albanian legal system, guessing would remain speculative. This applies in principle to the other two persons, who have also been banned from the U.S. and are related to the current government. Despite the fact that we may have plenty of information on them, and have already formed a certain opinion on the two.
But there is something else that needs to be clarified. US officials over the summer have privately and publicly pressured the Democratic Party to expel the former chairman from its parliamentary group—as soon as possible and not later than September. We saw the consequences of this on September 9, when Lulzim Basha, current chairman of the PD, made the personal decision to expel Berisha from the parliamentary group of the PD.
Whereas this did not happen with Tom Doshi, former Socialist MP, and Vangjush Dako, former Socialist mayor of Durrës. In both cases, the Prime Minister has openly challenged the American designation. For Dako, Rama stated that he has and will always be a friend, whatever America says. The mayor did not run again in the last municipal elections, but his power remained intact as Socialist leadership placed his loyalists everywhere. As a member of the Socialist Party’s central body, he was gently and kindly removed only at the next party congress two years later, i.e., this September.
Doshi, whom the Prime Minister had to formally expel earlier, was consoled with contracts and his people as regional directors. This enabled him to collect votes for his newly acquired political party. When the SP chief for the region (ironically, the foreign minister) complained to the party leadership about these excessive favors, the reaction of the Prime Minister was that Doshi constituted a political reality in the region and this had to be respected. The result was three additional parliamentary seats for the government after April 25 and the continued influence of the now-resigned MP.
US officials have not yet explained why two standards were used. Despise the responsibility of the government being always greater than that of the opposition. Until that happens, speculation will continue that American designations, their time and nature and especially their impact on the ground may not be entirely bureaucratic, automatic and objective. And I personally have one less reason to reconsider my above statement on the May 19 designation.
But since we are talking about sovereignty in our parties, we must remember that no one can deny the US its sovereignty to allow or deny entry to whomever it wants. We must also say that American designations, whatever we think of them, must really be considered as elements of the real world and of the relationship with a great and irreplaceable friend and ally of our Republic. Therefore, for the sake of greater interests than personal ones, those need to be resolved personally. We must be careful next time!
3-Not every evil comes to harm us
Berisha has launched a movement within the party, which has widespread support with party membership. The reasons for this show of support range from dissatisfaction with the PD’s electoral defeats, to anger at the expulsion and the way it was carried out, and the hope that the party can once again become a real alternative to power.
The potential of the movement is positive if it is future-oriented. Therefore, I hope that narrow personal goals will be filtered along the way in favor of those who serve the party and the country. Strange proposals for statutory amendments should be left behind. The PD has not suffered from the quality of its statutes, but from its violation or arbitrary implementation before and after 2013. Consolidating a culture of intra-party legality is a long-term challenge. Also, the precocious review of the September 9 decision would be counterproductive.
It should also be clear that a reorientation towards the future does not mean the restoration of how things were before 2013. There are plenty of elements here that can be added or removed from the agenda of the movement and the party congress it aims for. The debate among Democrats in the coming weeks and months will outline this agenda.
The value of the movement and the merit of the former chairman will be in building a new project of trust and hope for the future. Therefore, as a member of the PD Council, I call for the convening of the Extraordinary National Congress of the Democratic Party.
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.