Ilir Meta Will Be PM or Opposition Leader After 2017 Elections
By By Ilir Kulla
Albanian Daily News
Published October 31, 2016

Ilir Kulla gave an interview for daily Standard in which he made an assessment
of the three main political forces of Albania, the Socialist Party (SP), the
Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI), and the Democratic Party (DP), now
that the parliamentary elections are just seven months away. According to Mr.
Kulla, no stormy political developments are expected until the New Year, as the
focus will be on the partial elections in Kolonja and the results of the report
of the Council of Europe which will decide if the EU will open negotiations
with Albania or not. Commenting on the main political actors of the country,
analyst Kulla made a review of the relations between the two main leaders of
the ruling coalition, PM Edi Rama and Speaker Ilir Meta, and insisted that
developments will prove his thesis that after 2017 elections, Mr. Meta will be
either the Prime Minister or the Opposition Leader. In regards to the
strategies of the right-wing opposition to remove PM Rama from power, analyst
Kulla said that the boycott of the Parliament cannot achieve this end, on the
contrary, it will strengthen the PM's position.

to Mr. Kulla, the electoral campaign has already started.

just say that the main parties have already started their electoral campaign.
Clearly, the opposition has started its engine earlier than the others. This is
understandable because it is not in the government and it has more time at its
disposal. However, I think that until the New Year, we will see no changes or
big movements in the country. We will simply see a verbal debate between the political
sides, which will be accompanied by visits in different areas of the country.
Two important political events will happen during this period. First, there
will be elections in Kolonja which will test the political situation in the
south, unlike the elections in Dibra which tested the political situation in
the north. Since Erseka leans mainly to the left, the opposition has trusted
its race to the candidate of the Agrarian Environmentalist Party (AEP), who is
the representative of a left-wing traditional family, the brother of a former
socialist lawmaker, hoping that the electorate will vote for him. I think that
the elections in Erseka will be a test, but I don't expect any surprises.
Second, there is the issue of opening of EU negotiations. As the PM has made it
clear, he will be in Berlin on November 28, despite the fact that there is no
simple formula from the time of the declaration of the opening of negotiations
until the actual opening of the negotiations. But let's hope the best for
Albania in the EU, despite the fact that I remain very skeptical in regards to
the EU enlargement, because of the inner situation of the EU at present,"
analyst Kulla said.

Kulla was asked about the tense political situation between the two main allies
of the ruling coalition which was seen during the period before the approval of
the judicial reform, and recently about the open electoral lists and law on
waste import.

must be realistic. The SMI reached a political victory for Albania by passing
the constitutional changes with unanimous consensus. Imagine what would have
happened if the changes had passed with bought votes. We would be in a very
tense political situation. The intervention of the SMI, especially the stance
of Mr. Meta during that period, relaxed the situation in the country very much
and it gave it a chance for what we are waiting to happen, the opening of EU
negotiations. Clearly, the SMI and SP are two different parties, regardless of
the fact that they come from the left. The SMI was created 13 years ago. It has
matured during the years, both in central and local elections. This is the
reason why these two political forces have different views on different issues.
After all, this is democracy. There is a plurality of opinions even within the
same ruling coalition. The SMI, as well as other parliamentary parties, are
willing to listen to the ideas of the public not only for issues such as
"imported waste", but for other daily issues as well, such as education and
life in general. The Law on Imported Waste is not just an ideological issue
that has to do with being on the left or on the right, but it has to do with
the need of companies to invest and keep their industry going, and it has to do
with the need of the people to have transparency for what is happening to the
environment. There's nothing strange about the fact that the SMI has opposite
ideas with the SP, or with some Ministers of the SP, on such issues as cannabis
and imported waste," Kulla said.

on, analyst Kulla said that there are differences between the views of PM Rama
and Speaker Meta, and he commented on the statement of SMI's lawmaker Perparim
Spahiu who said that the next PM should be from his political force.

think that the SMI was born not to be an addition of another party, because
otherwise, this political force would have simply been a faction of the SP
since 2003, since the famous November Congress. For this reason, the leaders of
the SP of that time disconnected ties with that group of the SP, from which the
SMI was formed. History evolved, and some of the people who at that time were
exponents against the group which created the SMI, including Ylli Manjani and
Luan Rama, are now leaders of this party. And I say this to further expound the
thesis that the SMI now has its own electorate, which is verifiable and has
been stable in several elections. Therefore, there is no reason for the SMI to
become an addition or an extension of another party. And moreover, if three
different coalitions would enter the next elections, I think that the electoral
result of the SMI would be a big surprise," Kulla said.

to analyst Kulla, the SMI will be a much stronger political force after the
elections of 2017 and he made a short summery of its history to support his

has a history and every history is linked with the details and reality we live
today. All the current political parties, except for the Democratic Party (DP),
and all their leaders have a past which is linked with the SP and its leader of
that time, Fatos Nano. Edi Rama is a politician who was discovered and
supported by Fatos Nano, as is Ilir Meta, or Shpetim Idrizi, or Agron Duka.
Vangjel Dule was an ally and friend of Fatos Nano and I believe that even
Lulzim Basha, if he had been living in Albania at that time, would have
approached the SP. This was the political situation of Albania at that time.
Today we are talking about a completely different situation. The SMI has
experienced six years in opposition. It has run on its own during the elections
of 2005 and 2009. It has been in a coalition with the left wing and the right
wing. And in all this, it has given a great example on how to grow after every
election. What makes the management of elections as important are: the
electoral process and the electoral maps. In the future elections, the parties
I just mentioned above will manage the electoral commissions and the electoral
administration. They will have their commissioners there, at a time when the
other parties will not have them, based on the current law and code. For this
reason, the SMI sees the electoral code as a priority, because the discontent
that has been seen in past elections would be eliminated in the next elections.
In my view, the SP would not have lost elections in 2005 or 2009 if it had made
a coalition with the SMI. So, if the SP thinks that it can replace the SMI with
a different electorate, such as that of the Party of Justice, Integration and
Unity (PJIU), that would be the same mistake as in 2005 and 2009. I am sure
that the SMI will get more votes than in the past elections, because this has
been the trend from 2005 until the present. What is important is the fact that
the SMI is strong in the entire territory of Albania and if it gets the same
number of votes it got in 2015, it would be the first political force in many
regions. The two main parties at present, the SP and DP, which for the sake of
truth tried to get the SMI out of the picture, will become second and third
political forces. I don't believe that it is in the interest of the SP to go
towards a divorce with the SMI. It's clear that a political force which only
keeps growing and becoming stronger has the right to demand to have a PM from
its ranks. The statement of Ilir Meta issued a few days ago is in the same line
with what I have been saying during the last two years: In the 2017 elections,
Ilir Meta will either be the PM of Albania or its Opposition Leader," Kulla

Kulla also said that the DP must not boycott the Parliament because it is not
beneficial to the opposition.

the DP has its own right to behave as it pleases politically. But time has
shown that boycott does not bring results in its efforts to remove the PM. So I
see this more as a pre-electoral debate, but there is no clear strategy behind
this stance," Kulla said.

Standard, October 29, 2016)

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