From: Bledar Qalliu
Election of President Stirs Up Albanian Opposition’s Internal Strife  

The upcoming election of the Albanian president has become the most recent subject to mirror the internal strife within the opposition Democratic Party.

On Wednesday, MP Enkelejd Alibeaj and other PD MPs sat with the ruling Socialist Party to discuss the start of the election process for the president, which is expected to be elected within a month. 

Alibeaj participated in his capacity of chief whip of the PD parliamentary group, a position from which he was fired one week ago by the National Assembly, the highest decision-making body of the party, in a movement led by MP Sali Berisha, which Alibeaj refuses to recognize.

Alibeaj and Socialist chief whip Tauland Balla agreed to postpone the official start of the process to May 10, and the first voting session on the president’s election to May 16, according to the opposition MP’s request.

Following backlash by other MPs opposing Berisha’s movement regarding lack of internal discussion before Alibeaj sat with Balla, the opposition MP called a meeting of the parliamentary group on Thursday, again in his claimed capacity of chief whip. The meeting was attended by at least 21 of the 59 opposition MPs, who discussed the PD’s position regarding the president’s election.

The party’s Refoundation Committee, established when the assembly dismissed all PD leadership in December last year following Berisha’s initiative, also called a meeting of the newly elected National Council on Friday, to decide on the party’s stance on the president’s election.

According to an Euronews Albania survey, 73 percent of Albanians want to elect the president by national vote, while 65 percent want a non-politician elected.

The Constitution foresees five sessions for the president’s election. The Socialists have the necessary simple majority to elect the president in the fourth or fifth session, while the first three sessions require opposition votes also.

They have invited Alibeaj in his capacity of opposition chief whip to lead the opposition representatives in negotiations to elect a president by consensus, but the Refoundation Committee insists that Alibeaj is an MP only, stripped off of all his previous duties. Neither Alibeaj, nor the Socialists accept this. Berisha’s movement accuses Alibeaj of operating as Rama’s puppet, trying to legitimize in public as consensual the Socialist leader’s choice for president.

Clashes within the Democratic Party continue between Alibeaj, who is supported by little more than half of PD MPs, and the Refoundation Committee led by Berisha and supported by the vast majority of PD members nationwide.

An appeal court is expected to rule on a lower court’s decision to recognize Berisha’s movement as the legitimate leadership of the Democratic Party. Alibeaj and other MPs opposing Berisha hope for the appeal court to reject decisions of the National Assembly in December, so that the party headquarters, stamp and representation remain with them.

Meanwhile, on May 21, PD members nationwide will elect their new leader.ew Berisha is the only one to have announced his candidacy, and in any case he is considered without a rival under current circumstances in the party.


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