Former President, Prime Minister and co-founder of Albania’s Democratic Party (PD) Sali Berisha has been elected its leader once again after nine years taking a back seat role.
Previous Chairman Lulzim Basha resigned earlier this year following a split in the party, protests, and months of internal turmoil.
After the polled has closed on Sunday and his victory ascertained, Berisha addressed the media at the party headquarters.
“I have unlimited gratitude to the members who today on this day of May 22 left all obligations and voted to elect as free citizens their chairman, the chairman of the DP. This extraordinary belief of theirs is a great obligation to me. Very big obligation, but I am convinced that together with you we will succeed,” he said.
Berisha was designated as persona non grata in 2021 by the United States and he and his family are now banned from entering the US due to “corrupt acts” that “undermined democracy in Albania”.
Berisha has not been convicted of a crime in Albania, and is not believed to be under investigation at the moment. He also said he has instigated a libel suit against Blinken in a French court.
After his designation, Lulzim Basha, the leader of the DP, expelled Berisha from the PD parliamentary group.
This sparked significant conflict between the supporters of Basha and those supporting Berisha.
Over the following months, they held various votes against the other faction, culminating in a protest where the followers of Berisha attempted to take back control of party HQ, held by Basha. Finally, after continued pressure and declining popularity, Basha resigned.
Sunday’s vote was between Berisha and Ibsen Elezi from Kukes who had previously attempted to run against Basha.
Berisha co-founded the PD in 1991, the first political party after almost 50 years of communist rule. Berisha was its chairman twice: 1991-1992 and 1997-2013. He resigned in 2013 when he lost elections after two terms in office as prime minister. Berisha also served as president between 1992-1997.
Berisha rhetorically claims that Basha had a silent deal with Prime Minister Edi Rama to benefit from power while staying in opposition. He is running on promises to bring back opposition to Rama’s rule, whom he accuses of state-capture and collusion with the mafia.