Analysis/Must the leader of the Albanian left wing receive a vote of confidence?

Analysis/Must the leader of the Albanian left wing receive a vote of confidence?

Tirana, 20 July 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Edison Kurani

The meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Socialist Party was the only chance for critics within this political force to express their complaints about their leaders and problems that they have identified.

Thus, this weekend, which saw temperatures rising up to 41 degrees, saw a heated up atmosphere in the premises where this meeting took place, a few weeks after the left wing reconfirmed its strong position in the local government elections.

The political debate was held between the socialist leader, Edi Rama, who chairs the government and Ben Blushi, MP and former minister in left wing governments.

The socialist leader says that all the structures of the SP will undergo fresh elections, while as far as his post is concerned, he says that he doesn’t need to be reelected, as he has won two consecutive elections since 2013.

Rama is not expected to receive a vote of confidence in the January 2016 congress either, because “whoever wins the elections, is automatically reconfirmed as head of the party”.

Ben Blushi MP is against this. He accuses Rama of violating the principles of SP and its statute. “You have violated the statute, because for two years, you have remained head of the party without a mandate and you don’t allow the holding of the elections. You have blocked the elections for the chairman within the SP. You’re an administrator. Land owners and monarchs are not elected. We’re the most unique party in the planet, where we don’t elect the chairman”, Blushi said in the SP meeting.

Rama reacted: “We just held the elections. In 2013, we won and we took power. Under the statute, then the party wins the elections, the chairman is elected prime minister. Thus, it was a confirmation of the mandate of the chairman not only by the membership of the party, but also by voters. However, I have said that we will follow the example of the most democratic parties, such as the Labor Party”, Rama said.

This reference suggests that when elections are won, the current chairman of the party who creates the government doesn’t need a vote of confidence.

But Mr. Blushi considered Rama’s claim as a lie. He said that this is not the practice being followed by the parties that the PM refers to. “Given that you’re bring labor as an example, your friend, Tony Blair left the party’s leadership and was replaced by Gordon Brown, although he had won the elections. The same story with Margaret Thatcher, who left the party’s leadership following the victory of the general elections. In the present day, we have an example from Germany. Chancellor Merkel was elected as head of the party through a voting process, although she had won the elections”.

These facts mentioned by Blushi, gave way to political accusations.

Rama changed his tone: “Shame on you for coming to the assembly to attach the leader of the party and the party. You have abandoned the SP’s battle.  When the others fought for votes, in the June 21 elections, you fought against the SP”.

But Ben Blushi is convinced that he hasn’t done anything wrong: “Who should be ashamed?! I’m not asking for any tenders or legalization! I have not asked you to offer someone a job or release someone from jail, because you’re used to these demands and you grant them! I’m only demanding elections. Must someone be ashamed of demanding elections?!”.

But the economic situation was another important political card.

Ben Blushi doesn’t spare his criticism for the economic situation, which according to him, the government is responsible for. “We promised to Albanian people that we would save them from poverty, especially the poor. The poor have become poorer and the rich have become richer. The taxation policy has failed, because we could not manage to reduce poverty among Albanians. This is why we have a record number of asylum seekers. The only success of our economy is the increase of debt with over 70%. We have borrowed to pay debts, something that we criticized in Berisha’s government”, Blushi says.

Blushi says that his criticism is based on the concerns of the Albanian people, stressing that the government is not keeping the promises made to Albanians in the 2013 elections.

Contrary to Blushi, minister of Economy, Arben Ahmetaj says that the Albanian economy is not falling and that its indicators are normal. “I’m not saying that the economy is flourishing, but I’m saying that the economy needs support”, says the minister, who considers Blushi’s comments about a weakened economy as emotions.

Ahmetaj refers to official sources when he says that new companies are being opened, the Greek crisis was absorbed without the need to cut salaries or pensions and the country, according to him, is becoming a destination for foreign investments.

“During these two years of the government in office, new jobs have been created and Albania has managed to absorb the Greek crisis. Last year alone we saw the creation of 16 thousand companies. In 2014 we saw the arrival of 948 new foreign companies, which shows that Albania is becoming an interesting destination for foreign investments”, Ahmetaj said.

The minister admits that pensions have not been cut, adding that “through the taxation system and progress tax, we have given back to Albanian people a considerable amount of money by reducing tax or by zeroing it”.

Voices against SP are few, but they are strong voices and throughout the years, they have served as senior officials within the largest political force of the left wing.

Former minister and former MP, Marko Bello, is known as Rama’s critic and he was kept far from the SP leadership and parliament, since 2013.

Marko Bello is concerned about democracy within the SP and says that Rama has lied. “Ten years ago, in the autumn of 2005, the newly elected chairman addressed the participants with modesty and humbleness, declaring that they would not have in front of them an imposing leader, but a mere “primus inter pares” (first among equals). Ten years later, in 2015, from the first among equals, the chairman is the first above the unequal. He no longer accepts to be voted by the party’s membership, declaring that “the model of the British Labor Party, which he has taken as a model, doesn’t apply the voting for the chairman, in case when the party wins the elections and takes power. Another time, other customs”, Bello says, not concealing his concern and even irony.

The famous phrase used by Rama, “primas inter pares”, is also targeted by the other former socialist leader, Kastriot Islami, who is an opposition MP today.

“Ten years were needed in order for “the first among equals” (primas inter pares) to be transformed into the Napoleon of the Orwellian Farm of Animals “like the equal among equals…”. With a small “labour” like difference, where “equal has been replaced with the most equal…”… Or from SP to a sect”.

Blushi is one of the few critical voices within the SP, but it’s not clear if he aspires for the head of the party. The MP for the constituency of Elbasan, doesn’t comment if he would race against Rama if the SP membership is called to elect the leader of the party.

Ben Andoni, a journalist for many years and deputy editor in chief of the weekly political “Week”, says that Blushi’s criticism must be heard. “It’s good to hear a different voice in the choir of the party in power, which has now turned into a propaganda body”, Andoni suggests.

According to him, Blushi’s resistance has been worthwhile, because it has “somehow shaken the prime minister”, telling him that “2015 Albania is not flourishing and the country cannot be a Balkan example, like Rama’s subordinates are often making it to be”.

However, Andoni noted that the Prime Minister “is not very impressed by criticism”.

According to analyst Ben Andoni, the same thing that used to happen within the DP, is now happening in the SP. “We have inherited such experience from the DP a while ago, when Berisha was the only one who spoke and the others took notes or heard without saying anything, by approving the leader’s words. We all know how this party has become today, in the most disgraceful levels after the  90s”.

“This is why Blushi must be heard, although he’s the only one in the party to raise his voice. A party which is dictated by Rama’s strength and logic”.

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The Socialist Party Assembly decided to renew the party’s structures until the end of the year. SP wants to increase the number of members from 100 thousand to 150 thousand. The socialist congress has been announced to take place at the end of January 2016. A vote of confidence for the current leader is not expected to take place in the party’s congress. /ibna/