Tirana, Albania | Tirana Echo – Albania once the world’s most isolated country finds itself in a political limbo, as today the former communist country bitterly remembers its brutal dictator’s death after 40 years of ruling the Balkan nation with an iron fist, amid political crisis and democratic deficiencies.
On the morning of 11 April 1985, Albania’s communist dictator Enver Hoxha died after being struck by a massive ventricular fibrillation, leaving the country with a legacy of total isolation, fear of the outside world and huge economic uncertainties as Europe’s poorest country.
Hoxha’s 40 year rule over Albanians was marked by barbaric Stalinist methods of torture and elimination of opposing adversaries, prolific use of the death penalty or long prison terms for his political opponents, and evictions of their families from their homes to remote concentration areas that were strictly controlled by police or secret service ‘Sigurimi’.
Although the communist regime rebuild the country after WW2, erecting Albania’s first railway line, eliminating adult illiteracy and leading Albania towards becoming agriculturally self-sufficient, the country came out of the brutal regime in 1991 as Europe’s poorest nation with an immediate fall of its real GDP by 50% in 1992.
Since its painful transition from its Communist past into an open-market economy in the 90’s, Albania has struggled to build a well functioning democracy and a solid economic model.
Although a NATO member and hoping to join the European Union in the near future, the country’s economic development and foreign investments are hampered by high rates of corruption and organized crime activities, mainly in the drug trafficking rings in South East Europe.
As Albanians today are bitterly reminded of the death of its dictator Enver Hoxha, their country finds itself in a huge political limbo with the opposition threatening to boycott upcoming June 18 general elections.
Albania’s opposition democrats and their smaller allies have been protesting for more than 50 days demanding Prime Minister Edi Rama’s resignation and the creation of a technical government to guarantee free and fair elections.
Democratic Party chairman Lulzim Basha accuses the prime minister of turning a blind eye to the country’s massive cannabis cultivation and trafficking towards Italy and Greece, claiming the narcotics dirty money would be injected to fund criminal elements for buying votes in favor of ruling Socialist Party
Rama’s junior ally Speaker of Parliament and chair of LSI Ilir Meta has also expressed concerns of increasing drug activity and has proposed the establishment of a government of ‘trust’, which PM Rama strongly refutes.
The democrats, themselves under constant accusations of corruption when in power, have declared they will not enter elections with Rama as prime minister, and last night failed to register at the Central Elections Commission for participation at June’s elections.
Apart from its dictator’s death 32 years ago, April also counts several important constitutional dates which could determine Albania’s future to the European Union.
The first deadline for political parties to register of election participation, run out last night with the opposition boycotting the process.
By April 19th pre-electoral coalitions have to be registered at the Central Elections Commission while by April 29th all party lists of candidates running for parliament have to be officially registered.
In addition, Albania has to vote on the names to perform its crucial ‘Vetting’ process as part of an historic justice reform approved last July, and has to kick of the start of the election of a new President for the country.
Albania’s PM Edi Rama has said he will not resign while elections will go ahead as planned on June 18th, with or without the opposition. Rama has also accused the opposition democrats of boycotting parliament because they fear the justice reform which will get rid of may judges and prosecutors place in duty when the democrats and their former leader Sali Berisha were in power.
However, with the opposition democrats boycotting parliament, none of these processes can go forward.
Speaker of Parliament Ilir Meta has convened tonight an extraordinary plenary session in parliament which is expected to vote on the vetting process and hopes to be able to establish the parliamentary ad-hoc committee which will scan all proposed names for the vetting bodies.
The European Union has conditioned Albania’s membership bid on the implementation of its justice reform.
However, the opposition has warned it intends to continue its boycott, which would make the establishment of the ad-hoc committee impossible, as equal representation is required from both majority and opposition.
Opposition leader Lulzim Basha repeated his calls for the prime minister to resign this morning.
“Rama can come to our tent with his resignation and we will receive him peacefully. He can also come to the table as prime minister but will have to get out of talks as a resigned PM. We will go to the end of our battle for European standards which would guarantee once for all the free will of citizens at parliamentary and local elections,” – said Basha this morning to his party’s faithful in Tirana.
32 years after its dictator’s death, Albania finds itself in a growing political deadlock, with the country’s disillusioned youth wishing to leave for better lives in Europe, with a highly corrupt justice system which seems difficult to reform, high levels of corruption and organized crime and with opposition parties claiming the country’s socialist government cannot guarantee free and fair democratic elections.
Meanwhile, the European Union and the United States, unable to influence events elsewhere in the region, find themselves puzzled by Albania’s inability to move forward, and by a region which has traditionally been torn between East and West, between Europe, the US and Russia.
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