From: Blendi Fevziu
How Albanian Elections Have Been Ruined the Past 26 Years

Postponing the elections is nothing new for Albania. The stories of organizing early elections, abandoning or not recognizing the election process, make up the ugly mosaic of our inability to organize normal elections, or the inability to recognize and accept defeat.

The story of free elections in Albania starts with an agreement to postpone them. General elections were decreed on February 10, 1991. But in December 1990, student protests brought the creation of the Democratic Party (PD), the first opposition party and anti-communist force that aspired to topple the government of the Party of Labor (PPSh). The time frame from the foundation of the Democratic Party to elections was insufficient, so in January 1991 the Democratic Party organized a string of strikes that put the PPSh and its government into difficulties. The country was suffering from a chronic famine. In the middle of January an agreement was signed to postpone the elections. From February 10, 1991, they were postponed to March 31, 1991, when the elections indeed were held.

The second delay happened in December 2006, when local elections were again postponed after an agreement among the political parties. They were held in February 2007. The reason was head of the Socialist Party (PS) Edi Rama’s insistence that the problem of the certificates with which the Albanians would vote didn’t secure free elections and that they could be stolen. Even thought it seemed more of a paranoia, Edi Rama succeeded in keeping the parties on hold and delayed elections. Back then as it is happening with Rama today, Berisha declared there wouldn’t be a delay of the elections and that they would be held on the announced date. In the end though, he accepted the postponement.

The other case of the last 26 years was the boycotting of elections. The failure of the elections happened once, with fatal results, on May 26, 1996. In many areas of the country during the general elections of that day there were acts of violence and pressure, after which the opposition decided to abandon the elections a bit after midday. The opposition took this decision collectively with PS, PSD, PAD, but the head of Balli Kombëtar, Abaz Ermenji, already declared to abandon the elections since the morning. As a result of the chaos that was created, the Democratic Party (PD) won in all regions, losing only 5 of 115 electoral zone. This broad and uncontrolled victory of PD on May 28 was followed by violence against protesters and opposition leaders on Skënderbeg Square. These incidents forced the USA and Europe to ask Sali Berisha to repeat elections in at least 40 electoral zones. Berisha refused and the Central Election commission decided on redoing the elections in 17 areas. The opposition didn’t participate neither in Parliament nor in the new elections. The only deputy taking part was from Librazhd, Sali Rexhepi, who declared himself the sole opposition. The parliament functioned for a couple of months but this led to the crisis of 1997, which was resolved with an agreement between the parties and with early elections held in June 1997. The elections were won by the left-wing opposition.

A second case of a revote happened during election in 2003 in Tirana. Elections were again followed by chaos and PD candidate Spartak Ngjela brought the case to court. The court declared redoing the elections in 1/3 of electoral zone of Tirana and invalidated the their result in the favor of Edi Rama. But the opposition massively boycotted the second round, accusing government for manipulation.

Besides in 1997, early elections were also organized in 1992. After elections of March 31, 1991 when PPSh won 2/3 of the votes, the country was paralyzed by the economic crisis and strikes of the BSPSh. Two months after its foundation, the second Nano Government, which was supported by 2/3 of voters, was forced to accept an agreement for organizing early elections and creating a broad coalition government. It was called the Stability Government and functioned for only 6 months. In December 1991, the PD withdrew its ministers from the government and a caretaker government led by Prime Minister Vilson Ahmeti replaced it. This government functioned for 4 months and organized early elections on March 22, 1992, where the Democratic Party of Sali Berisha became the winner.

Similarly, in 1997, because of the crisis caused by Ponzi schemes, the Meksi Government fell and the PD didn’t establish a new government. Political forces agreed that country should enter early elections and until they were held, the country was administered by a broad coalition government called the Government of National Reconciliation, led by Prime Minister Bashkim Fino!

Unexpected events happened during elections in 2001. There were interventions by the police, government institutions, secret services and finally the Constitutional Court. From 100 areas, 28 were brought to court, which declared the candidates of the Socialist Party (PS) as winners. The press discovered that voting boxes had been messed with in the basement of the Palace of Congresses where they had been guarded by the police.

Many elections have been regarded as unacceptable and the losing political forces have refused to accept the results. On March 31, 1991, the PD decided not to enter Parliament after murders of April 2 in Shkodra. Neritan Ceka, head of the parliamentary group, read a bombastic declaration in Parliament and left. It took an investigative commission and intervention of internationals to convince the PD to return to Parliament.

Similarly, the left-wing opposition refused to recognize elections in 1996 and did not enter Parliament.

The PD refused to recognize elections in 2001 and didn’t enter Parliament, while PS refused to recognize elections in 2009 and so didn’t enter Parliament.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the worst elections in the Albanian history were the ones of 1996, 2000, 2001, and partially those of 2003. The elections of 1997 were the most abnormal. The right-wing majority refused to do any campaigning in the majority of the country.

The best elections were the ones of 1992 and maybe the best voting in the history of Albania was the Constitutional Referendum on November 4, 1994!

Albania has entered once again a challenging moment for its elections. It seems that elections are its biggest curse that it cannot escape. And without free elections it will be hard for this place to move forward.