From: Karl Kuçi
Vetting and Counter-Vetting, A Tent without Flags

For months, Albania has been shaken by a judicial reform, promoted and studied by international and local experts and coordinated by the Socialist Party (PS), which aims to replace many corrupted magistrates through a selection process called “vetting.” After its implementation, it is the idea (or rather threat) that non-corrupted judges could expel many characters who direct and manage today’s country from political life. This is a “cold” process that does not consider how it has been possible that Albanian politics is so mired in corruption stories and proximity to the world of crime. Many authoritative observers have stated in the past, entirely unheeded, that before forcing a mechanism for cleaning, it would be necessary to find a political consensus, a unanimous decision, to stop the use of bandits which until then had been necessary to “consolidate” all possible election results.

Here’s the point: for many years, criminals, violence, and weapons have been the only instrument which guaranteed the election result; if a party does not have a “military” force (either the police, or the criminals) its reasons and votes “evaporate” during the electoral process. Added to this should be the phenomenon of vote-buying, which could be extended because of the omnipresence of all the recent drug trafficking activity. And to control the criminals, you need to control the judges, to be able to release them or guarantee them a substantial immunity. That’s the point, all the other words are meaningless.

Now the tension to determine this process has reached its highest point, apparently taking a road of no return.

The Democratic Party (PD) has put in place many thousands of people without even a firecracker or a small scuffle, and now oversees this tent, pompously called “tent of freedom,” demanding the resignation of the Rama Government as the only possible guarantee for a smooth running of the upcoming elections.

Prime Minister Rama cannot close down the protest without risking accidents that would be politically fatal, so he seeks to cushion the effect of the protest by making fun of it and accusing that the PD wants to avoid the vetting of the judges, the initial process of judicial reform that should exclude from the judiciary all those who have a background of corruption, or worse, crime. And in the meantime the prime minister is seen in public with a member of his majority, PDIU deputy Aqif Rakipi, whose mandate the General Prosecution asked to revoke, due to significant and infamous criminal record that was not declared on decriminalization self-declaration form.

The PD claims to boycott the Parliament as long as the protest lasts, which means until Rama resigns freeing the way for a technical government to ensure free and fair parliamentary elections for all. But boycotting the Parliament also means not approving the necessary laws to reform the justice system, and especially not appointing the institutions that must manage the vetting process, which in this way will remain completely blocked.

Meanwhile, the PS and government offices continue to make efforts to render the decriminalization law ineffective, whose immediate effect, due to a large number of PS deputies with criminal records, would be to change the balance of the majority in Parliament. This would make it impossible to resort to vote buying, if Meta decides to withdraw his support for the coalition.

Paradoxically, this has become a real possibility because the decline of PS deputy Armando Prenga from Lezha, who would be replaced by a deputy from the LSI because the PS has exhausted its complete list of candidates for the region owing to both the decriminalization process and forced renunciations.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rama seems to focus on the opening of his solo exhibition of sculptures in Florence, scheduled for February 25, while his main coalition ally Ilir Meta, considered by all as the true “kingmaker,” remains silent.

These are the facts summarized in their essence.

On the one hand a worn-down government, unable to propose an economic and political perspective to the country, while strongly attaching to the judicial reform, at least on paper, and trying to force the other political factors to yield in the face of a system based on an increasing political involvement with criminals and drug traffickers, to the point that it refuses to apply the decriminalization law that is decimating its ranks and would highlight the criminal interests to those politicians. On the other hand, the parties with a heavy past terms of “purity,” but which are trying to renew their leadership or at least their image, claiming they intend to complete the judicial reform, but accuse the government of manipulations to take control of the judiciary for political purposes.

Rama’s bet is that the protesters will get tired and go home, as he buys the votes of some deputies who under investigation or are no longer able to become a candidate, in order to get to the voting control in place for the elections. Basha’s bet is that other characters and politicians join the demonstrators in that tent intentionally left without party flags, to start cleaning the country in order to depart from a broad political coalition rather than criminal power play.