Freedom House: No Progress for Democracy in Albania

Tirana, Apr 12 (Tirana Echo) – Albanian democracy stagnated in 2017, as every step forward was offset by another one backwards due to political polarization, says the annual ‘Nations in Transit’ report by US based organization Freedom House, which qualifies Albania as a hybrid regime with increasing authoritative tendencies.

The report which is drafted by Blendi Kajsiu, an Assistant Professor of political science at the Faculty of Law and Political Science in the University of Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia, criticizes the entire political spectrum of Albania.

FH points at the comfortable majority of Edi Rama’s socialists in parliament which could enable him to govern with an iron fist, while underlining that the war on corruption was offset by the election of Ilir Meta as president of Albania, who is perceived as a symbol of corruption.

The improvements in the June 25 elections were preceded by a political deadlock between the opposition and government during the first four months of 2017 that put the entire electoral process at risk. Progress in reducing cannabis cultivation was offset by revelations that former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri was connected to an Albanian-Italian drug trafficking network. Achievements in the war against administrative corruption was offset by the election of Ilir Meta as president of Albania, perceived by many citizens to be a symbol of corruption, as well as by the election through a simple majority in the Albanian parliament of a temporary General Prosecutor on December 18, which seriously undermined the credibility and independence of the prosecution.” – says Freedom House.

While there was some progress in the fight against corruption, efforts were upset in early November by parliament’s rejection of a request by the Prosecutor’s Office to remove the immunity of ex-minister of interior Saimir Tahiri, so that he could be arrested following serious revelations by Italian law enforcement agencies that he was connected to an Albanian-Italian drug trafficking ring.

FH adds that although last year’s parliamentary elections marked an improvement over previous electoral processes, the boycott of parliament by the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) during the first four months of 2017 halted the reform of the electoral code pursuant to OSCE/ODIHR recommendations.

Outlook for 2018

Freedom House believes that 2018 holds the promise of improved governance as well as the danger of authoritarianism for Albania. With a comfortable majority in parliament, the ruling Socialist Party and its prime minister enjoy a genuine opportunity to carry out important reforms that have the potential to reduce corruption in the judiciary and bribery in the public administration while enhancing good governance. On the other hand, the complete control that Prime Minister Rama has over the Socialist Party and the solid majority he enjoys in parliament, combined with a tight control over the executive, could give rise to authoritarian tendencies that can bring other state institutions under the premier’s control.

In 2018, Nations in Transit Report registered the most score declines in the project’s 23-year history: 19 of the 29 countries had declines in their overall Democracy Scores. For the second year in a row, there are more Consolidated Authoritarian Regimes than Consolidated Democracies.

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