From: Ilmi Rehova
No Solution to the Crisis – Five Losers and One Winner

Five Losers

1. The Democratic Party (PD) and Lulzim Basha

It now seems that the PD will not take part in the elections. As it looks right now, a few weeks from today it will find itself outside Parliament and outside any other state institution, except for a few municipalities, for the majority unimportant ones. With no way back, the PD has entered unknown territory, where no other political force has ever trodden before: political survival outside the institutions.

Under these circumstances, it would have to safeguard its political importance: to keep its members united, to secure public support, and to secure the perception of an alternative through which it can regain power. This looks like a difficult task and may require its “reestablishment” as the only way to reinvigorate its membership and create public credibility.

During recent months, the behavior of the PD – although it is has conveyed and given voice to large social issues, including the cannabization of the country, the criminalization of politics, corruption, and clientelism – has been tailored to its militant core, from the language it has used and the way in which its conveyed its messages, to the political means that it has employed. Even though some of its messages have resonated with the interests or thoughts of the non-party affiliated part of the population, they didn’t warm to the PD because of its rhetoric and the antiquated image that it generally projected.

The PD’s main challenge now remains to credibly and tangibly show that its standpoints are principled, that its extreme position aims for a greater goal: for a new political, economic, and social system. This requires a serious proposal for the reform of the party, electoral, and governmental system of the country, as well as a radical transformation of its economic structures.

If the PD’s attempts in the coming weeks and months will be or will be perceived as a forfeited operation or a strategic maneuver that doesn’t address the core of the system, the political importance and the ability of the PD to attract the citizens’ votes will fade away considerably. And with those the political and historic fate of Lulzim Basha, who is the main decision maker regarding the course and decisions of the PD, will be sealed as well.

2. The Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) and Ilir Meta

The political game of the LSI is finally over. For four years, the LSI has played with the two main political sides, using the PS’s need for a coalition partner in the government to stay in power and the PD’s weakness, which seems to have thought that without the LSI it wouldn’t be able to return to power. The LSI has been a stubborn and difficult partner for the PS and an open flirt with the PD. In this way it created leverage over the PS while avoiding attacks and accusations of the PD.

This game is now over. In the coming days, the LSI will have to choose and its choice will be categorical: either with one, or with the other. LSI can not longer keep, not even as propaganda, its role as proponent of consensus, tolerance, integration, or love for the sake of Albania. Now it will become either the carrier of the “government of crime and weed” or will join the “coalition against vetting.”

LSI’s choice is difficult and risky, because in neither of these alternatives it is in control of its own fate. If it will enter the elections without the opposition, it is certain that it will not be part of the post-electoral government, because the PS will win enough votes to govern on its own. Besides staying in the opposition, Ilir Meta will risk experiencing Edi Rama’s revenge and desire to damage him politically. After the elections, the PS will have most probably enough votes to unblock the vetting and Rama will be under pressure to deliver concrete results with the judicial reform. And Ilir Meta would be the perfect symbol with which to crown the new “justice” of the judicial reform and show the “honest” engagement of Edi Rama for justice. Meta’s fear for investigation and punishment for corruption has been a worry, even a paranoia, of his ever since January 21, 2011. And it seems that the coming days will bring difficult nights for his fear.

Meta’s alternative would be not to take part in the elections and join the opposition. This brings another problem because the LSI has not proven that it can attract votes, support, and funding without being in power. A LSI outside Parliament for a few years, or even just a few months, is likely to lose a good part of its supporters, which will turn to the government – the PS, PDIU, or other parties that will participate in the elections and will share power afterward. Above all, a government without the participation of Ilir Meta would destroy his largest political asset: the perception that he is the key to the government of Albania and that power goes where he goes.

3. Edi Rama

With a megalomania typical for Balkan leaders, Edi Rama had a big project to create longterm political power for himself through a marriage between politics, business, media, and even illegal interests, through which he would “sculpt” Albania according to his own tastes and visions, and that’s how he would enter history. This project has in principle failed, but there is still a possibility that Edi Rama can at least govern for a long time, even without being a “historical” leader.

Even though it seems as if Edi Rama has managed to maintain international support or some sort of the image of an open and modern politician, he is in fact losing the key to that support: the idea that he is a guarantee for the political and social stability and normality of the country. As long as the country was stabile and things functioned normally, especially in the face of the divisive actions of the opposition, the international preference or support for him was simple and rational. Now that the country is in crisis, which Edi Rama could neither avoid nor slow down with either dialogue or force, his importance has weakened considerably. As a typically Balkan leader he does not understand that a modern politician is judged and valued also for his capacity to unite, create consensus, negotiate, and solve disagreements and crises. No matter how right he is, a politician that cannot secure harmony and consensus is a bad politician and useless for a democratic society.

Added to this failure to secure stability and normal political process in the country are the reasonable doubts about the tolerance or links of Edi Rama and his collaborators with cannabis cultivation and trafficking. This will be amplified by the fact that in his second mandate the importance of any leader becomes less, because few expect a third mandate. Therefore the oppositional elements gain in importance.

4. The European Union

The image and importance of the European Union has been seriously damaged, mainly because of an amateurish politics which focused only on one direction, and, at least in the public perception, on a single political force. The propositions formulated by McAllister and Fleckenstein were the first time that the EU accepted, albeit indirectly, the problem of drugs and the involvement of the police with drug trafficking, as well as the problems and risks this brings to the elections. With her utterly disdainful attitude toward the real problems of the country, and with a clear pro-government stance, the EU Ambassador in Tirana has done great damage to the relations between Albania and the EU.

Exit has analyzed every single public declaration of Ambassador Vlahutin over the last three years and not once has she mentioned the problem of cannabis, the problem of corruption, the issues with crime, or the elections – all important issues in the eyes of the public.

With a single negotiation mission the EU tried to solve within one day that which it has downplayed or denied for a 1,000. As a result, the Albanian citizens who have the unusual and irrational belief that others will solve their problems have gotten a bitter taste of reality, ending up in the despair and hopelessness that while the EU diplomats don’t worry about democracy, drugs, and elections, nothing is to be expected from ours.

5. The newly created parties

With an interest to profit from the promising situation in which the opposition does not participate in the elections, first of all Libra of Ben Blushi and Sfida of Gjergj Bojaxhiu have decided to take part in the elections and to support a series of unprincipled positions to keep their good standing with foreign diplomats and to appear independent. In an absurd manner, Libra justifies participating in the elections with its duty toward the people or democracy. This is a curious argument because Libra doesn’t have a duty toward anyone except its members, that is, itself, because the party doesn’t represent anyone yet. These parties are nothing more than a legal reality and the voice of a single individual. Both new parties, which advertise themselves as different and against the system, should have occupied strong, principled, and moral positions and control their impulses for immediate electoral profit, which would have gotten a lot of support them in the middle term. In short, those are the parties that need to be tested through principled elections and not through rhetoric which is neither indicative of nor a guarantee for anything.

One winner

1. The Albanian citizens

It may seem paradoxical, but the failure to arrive at an agreement between the parties to solve the crisis is in a way a victory for the citizens, or, more precisely, the salvage of a possibility to solve the crisis in their favor. With any type of political deal or agreement for the solution of the crisis they would lose the possibility to solve the crisis on a fundamental level, by fixing the causes that have brought this crisis and all the problems it is related to.

Over the last 25 years, Albania has had one crisis after the other, which were always solved with agreements between political parties, only to prepare for the next crisis in line. The political system itself has remained untouched: political parties have functioned the same way, the electoral system has become worse, the separation of the powers has been a mere facade, and minority rights impossible. The continuation of the crisis could finally focus our attention on the fundamental problems and convince the Albanians, but also the foreigners, that the only solution is a radical transformation of our political and economic system and a farewell to the rotten political, economic, and social elites of the transition.

A seemingly smaller, but important, profit of the continuing crisis is that it will continue to focus the attention on the destructive problem of the cannabization of the country, exerting pressure on the government which at least, however minimally, is trying to constrain the extent of the problem. Even though it is broadly undervalued by the public, the economic, social, and political effect of an economy concentrated on cannabis is destructive for the country. So it would be enough to say: thank God that no deal was reached.