The recently appointed steering committee of the formal Democratic Party has turned against their leader, Lulzim Basha, following the party’s crushing defeat in Sunday’s by-elections.
As a result, in a meeting on Monday, several committee members asked Basha to resign and open the way for new leadership elections.
In December, Basha purged the PD steering committee from the supporters of his opponent Sali Berisha and replaced them with his own supporters.
The results of these by-elections, that had a 29% voter turnout, was predicted by several surveys. However, following the PD’s foretold and unsurprising defeat to the ruling PS and to Berisha’s opposition initiative, the steering committee denounced Basha for the loss.
Starting in September, Basha and his party leadership excluded Berisha and his supporters from all party organs after the United States designated Berisha over corruption.
Berisha then launched an initiative to topple Basha by calling a meeting of the PD national assembly, the party’s highest decision-making body. The assembly voted to dismiss all party leadership.
Basha and his supporters do not recognize the decision and have been able to keep the party headquarters to date, despite the fact that party members appeared to support Berisha’s initiative in large numbers.
Debates from last evening’s meeting leaked to the media and showed Basha defending himself in front of the steering committee by claiming that all six elections after 2013 were rigged by the government of Edi Rama. He warned that his departure would mean Berisha’s return to the party helm.
Steering committee members Grida Duma, Agron Gjekmarkaj, Ferdinand Xhaferri, Dashnor Sula, Helidon Bushati, Lefter Geshtenja, Xhelal Mziu, Elda Hoti, Ilda Dhori, Emilia Koliqi, Selaudin Jakupllari, and Ramadan Likaj were among those demanding Basha to resign, according to media leaks.
Oriola Pampuri reportedly reminded members that they all knew beforehand they would lose these by-elections, arguing that Basha should not be the only one to be held responsible.
Furthermore, some members also asked Berisha to resign from his initiative, simultaneously with Basha, so that a new leader could emerge from elections to unify the party once again. The request for Berisha’s withdrawal comes after his initiative won about 70 percent of the opposition vote in Sunday’s by-elections.
Last night, Berisha argued that democrats are united around the principle of free and fair elections, and that only such vote by party members would prevent him from leading the Democratic Party.
It remains to be seen what Berisha and Basha will do next. But the main takeaway from these by-elections, as it pertains to the opposition, is that PD members overwhelmingly support Berisha.