Albert Rakipi: The government’s conceit and disregard for growing public concern angered Albanians

Albert Rakipi: The government’s conceit and disregard for growing public concern angered Albanians 

 Tirana Times -

Why did the political right perform so poorly in Albania’s 2013 general elections? 

First and foremost, I believe that the return of the Democratic Party — after eight years in power — to the status of an opposition party is entirely normal. However this argument does not sufficiently explain and does not help us to understand the poor and disappointing results that were achieved by the DP in these elections. DP’s performance was even poorer and more disappointing placed in the context of the perception and expectations ahead of the election. The perception was that both parties are very close and that the difference in the results would be very small. This kind of public perception was forged by many factors and many different developments: First the Democratic Party, and Prime Minister Berisha in particular, almost entirely denied that even a doubt existed that they would not be able to get a third mandate. In 2005 the electoral campaign of the Socialists was very lukewarm and almost none doubted that the Democratic Party would return to power after spending eight years in opposition. On the other side, three months before these elections the opposition publicly declared that 72 seats were guaranteed for them in the next parliament. In the establishment of this perception a special contribution was made by the army of mediocre analysts that regularly fill up television screens in Albania. They arrogantly speak about everything, since they believe they are experts about everything. A false reality was forged which bore no resemblance to real life. 

Hence, I believe we should be looking for the explanation for the poor results of the Democratic Party and not about the loss of the elections, because the loss of the elections is normal and would have been normal for every government in the context of an economic crisis. Sometimes, arrogance and disregard for people is an even more decisive factor than poverty or unemployment. 

There is no doubt that there are also other factors that brought this significant loss by the Democrats in Albania — for example, the unrealistic promises about hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Look at a comparison between political behavior in Italy and in Albania: The prime minister of a country which belongs to the group of the most industrialized countries in the world, and a big state like Italy, promises the creation of 200,000 new jobs, while in tiny Albania, 300,000 new jobs are promised. 

There were the big, yet unfounded, promises too. 

While we are at it, the SMI (Socialist Movement for Integration) phenomenon should also be accounted for. They had a phenomenal success. This of course requires reflection and explanation but a basic question remains: Do Albanians look at SMI as the model to be followed and why?

There might be other factors, but I would like to return to the essential one of the unprecedented poor results for the Democrats in these elections. 

The Democratic Party brought pluralism to Albania; it is the party of freedom. Albania’s NATO membership and visa liberalization as the second liberation from isolation are major achievements that directly related to a people basic freedom rights. The values, the advantages and the achievements of the Democratic Party are indeed all related to this identity that revolves around liberty. Every step that goes against this is a mistake. Every separation from this identity and any deformation of these values comes with a steep price to pay. Arrogance, disregard, the imposing of the same faces in the government for eight years in a row, the forceful imposing of low and very low standards coupled with an exclusionary approach may have angered many people, and I believe many democrats as well. Add to this the high profile corruption cases as well as the culture of impunity due to people that placed themselves above the law because of their money or their public posts. 

Here are two approaches to understand and explain the significant loss of the DP. One way to go about it is to blame the others, to seek an enemy as it is often in the character of Balkan societies. The other way is to bring the party and its latest governance face to face with the values, the identity and the ideology for which it was created and for which Albanians have voted in the past. I am certain that the DP has chosen and will always choose the latter. 

What are the main challenges for the new government faced? 

Economy comes first. And I am afraid that the situation now is even worse than what we think. However, I believe that the essential problem in Albania is the weak state, the low functionality of the state — low standards in education, in healthcare — they all relate to the weak state. I believe we need a consensus and a pact about the state itself. 

Would it be correct to say that this second peaceful rotation of power is a maturity sign of the Albanian democracy and will have a positive impact in the political and social life of the country? 

This has been a historical time for Albania. The elections, conducted almost within all international parameters have allowed for a power transfer from the majority to the opposition. The loser has accepted his loss and has congratulated the opponent. This has been missing for more than two decades. I believe that we are approaching the end of era in which deep political conflict has been dominating and has influent elections and power. After the elections of 2005 this is the second time that there has been a peaceful power transfer. It took more than two decades to arrive at this point however we should not ignore the troubling heritage we had form the communist past and the very few liberal and democratic experiences we have dabbled with in the past, during Albania’s modern history. In the meantime w should wait and see how the winners will place themselves and how they will behave with the newly acquired power. 

This interview with Albert Rakipi, executive director at the Albanian Institute for International Studies, first appeared in Java, an Albanian news magazine.