PRISHTINA, July 28, 2013 ― Albania’s June 2013 national elections marked an important milestone of democratic maturity that will position the country for European Union membership.
The left-wing coalition, led by Edi Rama and the Socialist Party (PS), achieved a convincing victory, defeating incumbent Prime Minister and longtime leader Sali Berisha. The electoral process ran relatively smoothly and the losing party accepted defeat cordially, considering the heavily contested, high stakes elections. There have been reciprocal claims of fraud since some results were challenged, but they remain minor.
The high level of electoral fraud in previous elections, especially during 2009, was not present this time around. International observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
The process also saw a peaceful transfer of power from the previously ruling Democrats to the Socialists and Prime Minister-designate Edi Rama. The satisfactory conduct of these elections, the change in country’s leadership, and the commencement of required reforms are expected to bring
The outgoing prime minister and leader of the Democratic Party (PD), Sali Berisha, conceded defeat to the head of the rival Socialists only a few days after the elections. In a surprise statement, Berisha also went on to resign from the chairmanship of PD and called for party elections. The entire experience presented a substantial shift from previous bouts of disputed electoral results, and heated and bitter exchanges by the two main parties.
Even with his withdrawal from party leadership, Berisha is expected to continue to pull the strings behind the scenes. Albanian commentators have stated, “Berisha nuk ka ikur” ― meaning he’s not gone yet.
The former prime minister formed his party following the fall of communism in the early 1990s. Berisha’s favored candidate to take over, Lulzim Basha ― currently the mayor of capital city Tirana ― recently won the party elections in a landslide victory. Basha is young and charismatic, but politically less-experienced than Berisha. While he represents the future, he has also been a right-hand-man to Berisha.
In the next elections, Basha is expected to be a serious contender for the prime ministership, attempting to defeat Rama as he did in the 2011 mayoral elections in Tirana. This will only be the case if Basha is not seen as a proxy to Berisha’s continued leadership, which remains to be seen.
Albanians’ view of Sali Berisha will likely remain divided. This is not uncommon in a country with a very polarized political landscape and view of recent history. On the positive side, during the former PM’s tenure,
The election results showed that voters indeed penalized the Democratic Party for its governance, rather than rewarded the Socialist Party for providing a viable political alternative. The Socialist Party’s political power within the parliament did not grow compared to the elections of 2009. They secured only 66 seats, five MP positions short of securing the majority.
At the same time, PS’s electorate grew by 15 percent compared to 2009 or by about 90,000 votes. The real winner in
The incoming Prime Minister will inherit a number of challenges. First, the new government needs to tackle the decelerated economic growth and the rising fiscal debt through stringent structural economic reforms. Second, the government needs to undertake political and judicial reforms that will contribute to the better functioning of independent democratic institutions. Third, the government must adopt a rigorous action plan to meet the criteria for EU membership. There is a lot to be done.
The opposition will also play an important role in
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