From: Bledar Qalliu
Opposition Coalition Registers for March By-Elections 

The “House of Freedom” opposition coalition has registered for the March by-elections in six municipalities,  drawing in an attack by the formal opposition Democratic Party (PD).

The coalition expanded with the Demochristian Party, in addition to the PD Refoundation Group and the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI). The group led by Sali Berisha is the political leader of the coalition, which uses the LSI as a formal party to register with the Central Election Commission (CEC).

A number of other small opposition parties have sa far preferred not to officially join any of the two groups clashing over the PD leadership.

The formal Democratic Party attacked the new coalition as a “symbol of corruption, old politics and fake news”, accusing Berisha and President Ilir Meta (former LSI leader) of forming an alliance with Prime Minister Edi Rama in an attempt to beat the Democratic Party headed by Lulzim Basha in these by-elections.

Basha’s PD has yet to announce their mayoral candidates, unlike the Socialist Party and the House of Freedom Coalition.

PD members elected the latter’s candidates in the first ever primaries held within the party, after the group led by Berisha had called a meeting of the highest party body which changed the PD status and fired Basha from leadership. As a result, the groups led by Basha and Berisha do not recognize each-other. However, the CEC recognizes Basha’s PD and his leadership.

The three big contenders in these by-elections so far are the Socialist Party, the House of Freedom Coalition, and the formal Democratic Party led by Basha. Eleven parties have registered with the CEC in total.

A split occurred in the PD last year, 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.

Many see these by-elections as another battle over the legitimacy of the two PD leaders – Berisha and Basha – within the opposition party.