From: Bledar Qalliu
Albanian Opposition Leader Intensifies Public Pushback against Challenger

Democratic Party (PD) leader Lulzim Basha has intensified his public efforts against former leader Sali Berisha’s attempt to topple him and take back party leadership.

On Wednesday, Basha held a meeting at the PD headquarters with all 71 regional party leaders he himself has appointed, after which he threatened to exclude Berisha from the party if he didn’t stop his initiative to hold what Basha claims to be an “illegitimate” national assembly aimed to dismiss the current leader. 

Basha excluded Berisha from the PD parliamentary group at the request of the United States two months ago, after the latter barred Berisha from entering the US over corruption allegations, which he denies. 

He fought back by launching a national tour with PD members, vowing to dismiss and replace Basha in a national assembly of party delegates, in accordance with the party statutes.

The highest body in the party, the PD national assembly has 7,600 delegates. It can convene either after being called by the party leader, or at the request of at least 25 percent of the delegates.

Last week, Berisha announced to have received the support of over 4,200 delegates—more than twice the amount required to convene the assembly.

This is the first time in PD history that delegates attempt to call a national assembly. In the absence of a precedent, Berisha argues there are no rules in place demanding that delegates ask the party leadership—the same leadership they want to replace—to organize the meeting that would dismiss it. He has called a meeting of the national assembly to dismiss Basha on 11 December.

Basha, who had kept a low profile during Berisha’s two-month-long daily national tour, fought back when the former leader made the announcement. He challenged Berisha to submit the request and the 4,200 signed forms to the PD structures he leads, so that procedures to call the assembly meeting could start. Basha accused Berisha of lying to the public about having received the signatures of 4,200 delegates.

On Monday, Basha held a meeting of the party steering committee to call a “legitimate” meeting of the national assembly on 18 December, one week after Berisha’s. Delegates will be asked to vote on the political direction of the party and its restructuring. 

Berisha says the steering committee has no legitimacy as most of its members were appointed by Basha recently, instead of being elected through a secret vote according to requirements.

After over a week of disagreement on procedural questions concerning the calling of the national assembly, the clash between the two blocks is now coming to the point where they can longer avoid discussing who the 7,600 party delegates are: what are their names, who, when and how were they appointed or elected, and which fraction’s claimed delegates are legitimate.

The PD statuses stipulates that they include a vast number of appointees to regional party offices, steering committees, departments, advisors, coordinators, members of partner organizations, 485 members of the National Council, 38 members of the PD steering committee, and the PD members of parliament.

As with other topics they have disagreed on so far, it is highly likely that the two blocks of the Democratic Party will come up with two different lists of delegates. 

A quorum of more than half of the 7,600 delegates is necessary for the national assembly meeting to start.