Opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha has called a meeting of the party’s highest body, the National Assembly, in an attempt to overshadow his former mentor Sali Berisha’s similar initiative that will take place one week earlier.
On Monday, during a meeting of the steering committee, Basha accused Berisha of sowing division within the party, and proposed an assembly meeting on December 18.
The nearly 7,600 assembly members will be invited to vote on defending PD interests by prohibiting members from using the party as a political shield – a clear indication to Berisha – and to adopt PD’s political action and new structure.
Berisha had submitted a similar request last week, allegedly backed by over 4,2000 assembly members, to hold a meeting one week earlier – December 11, which marks the 21st anniversary of the foundation of the largest opposition party in Albania. Members would vote to change the party statuses and dismiss Basha from party leadership.
The former leader, Berisha intends to be elected PD leader and run for prime minister in the next elections.
He had resigned his post in 2013 after losing general elections to Edi Rama’s Socialist Party and had vowed to never return to high party and executive positions.
However, this changed when Basha excluded him from the PD parliamentary group two months ago at the request of the US Biden administration after Secretary of State Anthony Blinken barred him from entering the US over allegations of corruption. Berisha denies such allegations.
The charismatic leader, now 77, launched a national tour with party members, rallying them against Basha, and vowing to open the party to all those feeling defrachinzed by the party leadership in the past 9 years.
Basha’s supporters within the party claim Berisha’s request to call for an assembly meeting is null, as it violates procedures.
Likewise, Berisha also claims that the steering committee is illegitimate and its decisions are null, as most of its 38 members were allegedly appointed by Basha, in violation of the requirement to pass a secret vote at the 485-member PD National Council.
Reports from the meeting of the steering committee, which should vote on Basha’s proposal, say heated debates are ongoing between a majority of supporters of the current leader and a minority of Berisha’s supporters.
All procedural claims aside, it appears that with two assembly dates announced – December 11 and 18 – the political contest between the two leaders will be who will attract more than half of the 7,600 members on each date to have the necessary quorum for the assembly.
Update: On Monday evening, the PD steering committee adopted Basha’s proposal for the party national assembly to be held on December 18. Of its 38 members, 26 voted for, 3 against, 3 abstained, 4 didn’t participate in the voting, and 2 were not present.