From: Alice Taylor
Comment: The Circus is Open, Enter the Clowns

I had high hopes for the start of the new Parliament. After the Opposition resigned their mandates in 2019, we were subjected to a single-party parliament with no genuine opposition that passed laws and appointed wholly unsuitable individuals into key roles on a total whim. With the capture of every Municipality but one in the 2019 local elections, the ruling party solidified its executive, legislative, and administrative grip on the country.

This was a huge setback for a country wishing to eschew its dark past of almost 50 years of communist rule. But following the April 2021 elections, a new opposition was elected, and while they were unable to secure a majority, there was hope that things would be better.

In my naivety, I hoped that the Opposition would be eager to jump in and start righting all the wrongs of the past few years.

The “anti-defamation package” backsliding anti-corruption efforts, brain drain, the critical situation for women’s safety, educational reform, the health system, human trafficking and the rule of law. And what about the issue with waste, pollution and climate change? Unsustainable hydropower plants, money laundering, and a chaotic judicial system?

Let us also mention the pervasive poverty that is a sad reality for many throughout the country. Some 34% of Albanians live in poverty, with little hope of lifting themselves out of it. Meanwhile, those in power dress in designer clothes, send their kids to study abroad and drive cars worth the equivalent of 30 years of minimum wage salary.

I could go on.

Election campaigns on both sides were full of talk about stopping mass emigration, increasing salaries, improving education, and giving Albanians the social and economic opportunities they deserve.

I was hopeful that the first days of parliament would open with a bang, and politicians would be eager to get down to it, putting differences aside to work together for the common good. I hoped for accountability, transparency, maturity, and above all, progress.

Sadly, this was not to be. The night before the first day of parliament, Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha announced that party-founder Sali Berisha would no longer form a part of their parliamentary group. Berisha insisted he would enter parliament, stating that people voted for him to be there.

His decision to continue instead of bowing out with grace overshadowed what should have been one of the most important days in Albania’s recent history.

Predictably, chaos ensued. The session’s time was consumed by politicians giving bellowing diatribes, using crude language and convoluted analogies. To anyone that has ever tried to translate one of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s rants into another language, I salute your sacrifice and struggle. 

None of them had anything constructive to say. It was nothing more than a mudslinging exercise, a theatrical performance by amateur actors with little substance.

Then, instead of voting for the Speaker of Parliament, the Opposition decided to ostentatiously rip up their voting slips. They pranced one by one into the limelight and ripped them up with the dramatic impact of a troop of clowns. Rather than, I don’t know, voting against the proposed candidate, they decided to give up their rights once again.

In two years, all the PD have managed to achieve is voluntarily destroying their right to partake in democracy. Twice. It’s self-sabotage at the highest level. No wonder the people despair.

Then, as a new week began, I hoped things might finally progress, but no. Instead of continuing with the job at hand, namely agreeing on memberships in parliamentary committees, Basha and the PD walked out. This came following a lively and over-the-top argument between Basha, Taulant Balla, and Speaker Linda Nikolla.

Their reasons for refusing to work with the government is because they say they are criminals, on the take, lining their pockets from the public purse and collaborating with self-serving oligarchs and the criminal underworld.

I’m inclined to agree; after all, Rama is a ruler straight out of the Orban and Vucic playbook, a larger-than-life Machiavellian character who I believe dreams of ultimate control and long-lasting power. But this is not the way the Rama issue is solved, nor is this the way Albania will become a better, more democratic, and stronger society.

I do not support anyone. What I support is what is best for the country. I support people taking their role seriously and with the best interests of the Albanian people in mind. I dream of a future where my children will want to stay here and not flee to the EU in search of education and jobs. I want a future where this incredible country, and the people that inhabit it, finally get the peace and quality of life that they deserve.

Sadly, I don’t see this happening anytime soon, and this is a really painful realization. I hope and wait to be proven wrong.