Hoyt Brian Yee, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, met with Rama and opposition leaders this week and called for the opposition parties to end their boycott of the June 18 election, which threatened to throw the country – and Rama’s government – into turmoil.
“The main focus of my message is that elections should be inclusive; they should include as many parties as possible,” he told reporters Monday.
State Department officials, including Yee and U.S. Ambassador Donald Lu, said that they would recognize the election results even if opposition parties refused to participate, a stance which dismayed opposition politicians.
“Elections are always better when there is the widest possible participation of political parties; however, parties have the right not to participate if they choose,” a State Department spokeswoman told Breitbart News. “If the election is deemed credible by the Electoral Commission, domestic observers, the OSCE, and other international observers, then the U.S. will accept the results – even if some parties decide not to participate.”
The opposition Democratic Party boycotted the parliament in February over allegations of corruption and concerns about Albania’s judicial reforms, which opponents had said would lead to more corruption and manipulation of the judiciary. They also feared that the votes in the election would not be counted fairly.
Tomor Alizoti, a Democratic Party politician, expressed his shock at the U.S. stance, saying on Albanian television Monday: “The most democratic country cannot say: ‘make elections without the opposition.’ That will lead to a crisis.”
The U.S. mediation, which the European Union also supported, worked. Rama and Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha told reporters Thursday that they had reached a deal, including an agreement that senior opposition officials will monitor the election. The deal stabilizes the country for now, as well as Rama’s hold on power.
“Bravo to the Albanian people for their patience and their belief in the strength of Albania’s democracy,” Ambassador Lu said on the Embassy’s Facebook page. “Bravo to Edi Rama and Lulzim Basha for their personal leadership and courage in forming this deal.”
“Bravo to colleagues in the European Union, the OSCE and Washington for their steadfast support for Albania. We eagerly look forward to an election with the participation of all of Albania’s political parties,” he added.
The U.S. intervention has apparently stabilized the government of a socialist leader who is both a critic of President Trump and a cohort of left-wing billionaire George Soros.
In an April 2016 interview with CNN, Rama called Trump “really frightening and undermining what America is in our eyes.”
When asked what would happen if Trump won the nomination, Rama said: “God forbid! I think it would harm lots [sic] America and would harm lots the democratic world because he, in the end, will have to do at least some of the things he says he will do, and it will be very, very harmful.”
As for his connection to Soros, as Breitbart News has previously reported, Rama served as a board member of the Soros Foundation in Albania and Soros funded a two-year project designed to politically transform the country in partnership with Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Rama was also a guest at Soros’s 2013 wedding.
Soros’s influence in the country has also sparked concern among U.S. lawmakers. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and a number of other Republican senators wrote to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March, expressing their concern about “Soros-backed organizations,” allegedly backed by USAID money, pushing for certain political outcomes that would give Rama’s government “full control over judiciary power.”
The State Department expressed confidence that dissuading an opposition boycott on upcoming elections was the right move for the United States.
“As a friend and NATO Ally of Albania, the United States strongly urges all parties to respect the rule of law and democratic processes. Parties should resolve disputes and advance reforms through dialogue and participation in key institutions, including parliament,” the spokeswoman said. “We want to see a strong Albania, fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic family.”