TIRANA - There is a week to go until June 21 when Albanians will cast their ballots to elect their local government officials who will run the entire local power administration. The first thing to be noted is the feverish electoral campaign which has started long time before the official date set by the Central Elections Commission, and secondly the engagement in it of the highest leaders of both majority and opposition.
In all what is happening across the country during these weeks it is evident the intensive participation of the Prime Minister, Head of the Socialist Party (SP), Edi Rama, and the Speaker, Head of the Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI), Ilir Meta. There is nothing wrong in this but the intensity, the rhetoric used in the numerous rallies with their supporters is incomparable with the previous elections. Does this show that the majority is doing the utmost to get as many as local units and expand massively its central power to the local level? What would happen if the majority succeeds to put under control all the local power units – regions, municipalities and communes - in Albania?
As a matter of fact that was an issue which became a topic of exchange of views with a foreign diplomat during a friendly conversation on the current electoral campaign and the concerning issue of the post-electoral events that will occur after the polling stations are closed.
A concentration of both the central and local power in the hands of the majority seems to be a possible scenario for Albania having an impact with many unknows on its democratic pluralist system. Albanians, and particularly their political class, have been urged for all- inclusiveness in the implementation of the democratic reforms in this Balkan country greatly plagued by corruption at the highest official levels and organized crime.
Likewise the international partners, especially the US and the EU, have recommended that a united front of the majority and opposition could cope with what is eroding Albania: corruption in all spheres of the society, including government offices, but considered as cancer in the judiciary.
As it has become a bad routine it cannot be said that the majority and opposition have joined forces in such a battle which, of course, affects the implementation of the five priorities set by Brussels in the drive of Albania – an EU candidate country – towards the European family.
If such a lack of will of the majority and opposition to find a ‘common language’ on the above mentioned issues keeps at a low speed the EU integration process, a concentration of power at central and local levels by the majority might be more counter- productive.
Of course, no one can blame the majority if such a thing happens in regular elections where all the democratic standards are applied. The will of the electors should be respected, but it would be unacceptable a revanche against the opposition supporters. There are some bad signals when majority leaders do not spare statements which carry in themselves a kind of threat. “What will 30 percent of DP supporters do when the majority wins?” This has been one of the many articulations heard in the rallies of the majority which might be considered as an ‘unfriendly’ message to the people and supporters of DP-led opposition.
In Albania the supposed concentration of power would mean massive sackings in the administration at local level, preferential treatment of the businesses which have backed the majority etc., phenomena which have happened even when the Democratic Party was in power headed by Sali Berisha. Power rotations have always been accompanied with such negative aspects that in my humble opinion hinder the progress of genuine democracy in this EU candidate country.
Wisely enough the above mentioned diplomat noted that compliance with EU standards would mean respect of the official status in the public administration. “Albania should free itself from revenge which seems so much rooted in the personality of many political leaders,” the diplomat said.
The ego to concentrate as much power as possible on one side of the political class, namely the local power which is the case, has nothing in common with moderation, with the attempt to create a peaceful social atmosphere in a country like Albania, where, unfortunately, the society is over-politicized, a card used by the political class of all colors in its interests.
Henry A. Wallace, the 33rd Vice President of the United States (1941–1945), has said: “Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.”
The 21st of June local elections will be another test for the fragile democracy in Albania. After all let the people speak with their votes in the freest manner and according to democratic standards as those elected by them will run regions, municipalities and communes for another 4-year mandate.