Sali Berisha has denied allegations that he has been behind some of the most important decisions made by the opposition Democrat Party in the last 4 years and deemed by some as “radical” moves.
Berisha, who was the PD leader from its inception until 2013, when he resigned after losing the general elections to the Socialist Party led by Edi Rama, said he did not influence party leadership, and that decisions were taken by current PD leader Lulzim Basha.
The former president was interviewed by TV Klan on Thursday, after being banned, along with his family, from entering the United States over allegations of corruption, and following his decision to sue the US Secretary of State for defamation over the issue.
In the beginning of the interview, he spoke of the opposition’s decision to stage a protest in a tent raised in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s office back in 2017. The protest lasted 3 months.
“Can you imagine Sali Berisha putting you in a tent? I am a man of the square and not of tents. The tent was Lulzim Basha’s idea,” Berisha said.
The protest in question was one of the opposition’s major political actions during the second Rama government (2017-2021). The protest started in mid-February 2017, demanding Rama’s resignation, and the establishment of a caretaker government that would prepare free and fair elections. The opposition maintained that Rama had rigged the previous elections and would do so again if he stayed in power.
In an agreement mediated by members of the European Parliament, Basha and Rama agreed to a government led by Rama but that included ministers from the opposition, who would guarantee free and fair elections.
The opposition lost, and it maintained that the elections were rigged. Two years later, the Albanian and German media revealed the Albanian Electiongate prosecution tapes, showing the highest PS and government officials discussing with criminal gang members and public administration officials strategies for harvesting votes for the PS and their results.
Berisha also denied having influenced PD’s decision to relinquish their parliament seats, and later the party’s boycott of the local elections of June 30, 2019.
“I was against the relinquishing of [parliamentary] mandates. I said only a few words: ‘This [decision] will take us either to victory or disaster,'” he said.
“Never [did I influence the decision to boycott the local election]. I was not involved at all in the matter of participating in the June 30 elections,” Berisha stressed.
The former leader said he had personally been against these decisions but had followed them because they were taken collegially.
Finally, he also denied suggestions that he has been against the justice reform in Albania, which is strongly supported by the United States and the European Union.
“I have been 100% in favor of justice reform […] I have been thanked 10 times by the US Ambassador for the justice reform,” Berisha said.
In his earlier statement on Thursday, Berisha said that his criticism had been directed at the way the justice reform has been implemented and the ruling party’s attempts to control it by making changes to the Constitution and related laws.