From: Bledar Qalliu
Berisha Advances Initiative to Replace Basha as Head of Opposition Party

Former Democratic Party (PD) leader Sali Berisha has announced to have submitted the requests of 4,200 members of the PD Assembly, the highest party body, to change the party statute. This will open the way to an assembly vote to remove current party leader Lulzim Basha and elect Berisha back to the top position, according to the latter’s plan.

In a press statement on Wednesday evening, Berisha said he had been able to gain the support of 4,200 assembly members instead of the 1,800 needed to call a party congress.

Berisha launched a national tour two months ago aiming at rallying PD supporters to remove Basha from power, after the latter excluded him from the PD parliamentary group at the request of the United States, whose Secretary of State Antony Blinken barred Berisha and his family from entering the US over “significant corruption”.

The former PD leader, as well as Albania’s former President and Prime Minister, slammed Basha for the “anti-statutory” decision, and filed a defamation lawsuit against Blinken with a French court.

The signed forms requesting the convention of the Assembly were submitted to Edi Paloka, the head of the PD National Council, the second highest party body. Speaking to journalists from the PD headquarters, Paloka said that no institution but the party Assembly has the right to verify the signed forms, and that the verification would take place on the day of its convention, December 11.

However, in a press statement shortly after, PD general secretary Gazmend Bardhi denied that Berisha had gathered the necessary 1,800 signatures. He slammed Berisha and Paloka for bluffing and manipulating the public.

Bardhi reiterated the current leadership’s stance not to recognize decisions of an assembly gathered in violation of party statute, which according to him requires party organs to receive the requests and organize an extraordinary convention. 

Clashes between the two blocks within the party are expected to escalate as December 11, the date announced by Berisha for the national assembly meeting, approaches. Chances are high for this to result in a split in two for the main opposition party in Albania.