The Democratic Party of Albania, the largest opposition party, is set to hold a crucial second national assembly since its former chairman Sali Berisha launched a movement for reformation last year.
On Saturday, April 30, the highest decision-making body of the party is expected to approve some changes to the party statuses, elect the political steering National Council, and most importantly set the date for party leadership elections – tentative proposals were made for May 21 or 22.
Berisha’s movement called the first national assembly in December, after his national tour criticizing the PD leadership for excluding him from the party’s parliamentary group under pressure by the US administration following his designation over corruption.
The assembly voted to dismiss all PD leadership, including chairman Lulzim Basha, and made some crucial changes in the statuses, including the reduction of its membership from over 7,000 to 1,100. A Refoundation Committee was set up to lead the party until new leadership elections. The assembly decisions were approved in a national vote by party members.
This month, a court decision recognized the national assembly decision made in December, but an appeals court later accepted a complaint by Enkelejd Alibeaj in his capacity as party’s deputy chair and the case is currently waiting to be reviewed.
Ahead of the appeals court decision to accept Alibeaj’s complaint, Berisha repeated allegations of interference with the justice system regarding the case against US Ambassador Yuri Kim. After the court decision was announced later that day, Ambassador Kim denied such allegations, replying that she had only encouraged “judges and prosecutors to do their jobs despite threats or inducements.”
In the past four months, the Refoundation Committee has organized elections in all PD local offices throughout the country, resulting in party members mostly electing Berisha supporters to lead them locally.
From the perspective of Albanian legal authorities, the leadership of the main opposition party currently remains in limbo.
A number of PD parliamentary group MPs with strong media visibility and US administration support are opposing Berisha’s movement and his objective to be elected party chairman. Although MPs have limited say in party decision-making processes, a more clear view of each one’s stance will become clear on Saturday, after they attend or boycott the national assembly.
However, Berisha seems to have overwhelming support from party members. Saturday’s national assembly is expected to further strengthen his hold on the Democratic Party ahead of leadership elections next month, where he would hardly face any real challenger.