On Sunday, the members of the Democratic Party (PD) held primaries for the faction led by Sali Berisha, where they elected six mayoral candidates who will run in the by-elections of March 6.
The faction will run with Bardh Spahia in Shkoder, Ardian Muka in Durres, Elton Bano in Lushnje, Premtim Kryemadhi in Diber, Lulzim Vrana in Vore, and Hekuran Xhani in Rrogozhine.
They are expected to be joined in a coalition by other opposition parties in an attempt to win over the ruling Socialist Party (PS), as well as against what has so far remained the official PD led by Lulzim Basha.
Of the three contending political forces, Basha’s PD is still expected to decide on its mayoral candidates, whereas the Socialist Party has already announced its representatives, except for Lushnje.
Many see these by-elections as another battle over the legitimacy of the two PD leaders – Berisha and Basha – within the opposition party.
A split occurred in the party when Basha excluded Berisha from the PD parliamentary group after the US barred him from entering the country over corruption allegations. Under the leadership of Berisha, party members voted to dismiss Basha, who responded by expelling Berisha and a number of senior PD officials from the party or its leadership.
To date, Basha’s faction is recognized as the official PD by the Central Election Commission although Berisha claims to have the support of the vast majority of party members.
All the rest of 55 municipalities in the country are led by Socialist mayors after the PD led by Basha decided to boycott local elections in 2019.