Impact of Greek election in Albania and Albanians in Greece

Impact of Greek election in Albania and Albanians in Greece

IBNA Analysis

Tirana, January 21, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Edison Kurani

Greek early parliamentary election is anticipated with much interest in Albania. Politicians and analysts take into account not only the developments in the neighboring country and their impact, but also the social and economic impact that they are expected to have on 500 thousand Albanians who live in Greece and in Albania.

Most analysts say that the plans of left radicals are unreal and dangerous, because they have not yet explained where they will find the money to implement their policies without endangering the economy, which at the moment, depends on foreign creditors.

On the other hand, it seems that the majority of Greeks is facing a dilemma and they cannot endure any more austere measures. According to them, in the past two years, the reforms only produced unemployment, tax rises and recession.

Sunday polls

This Sunday, Greeks have been called to the polls in order to vote about the new parliament, as last month saw the failure of the efforts to elect a new president. This race will see the participation of 18 political parties and 4 political formations. But it doesn’t look as if Greeks have many choices and they face a dilemma, because all these years, they have lost faith on their political system and have distanced themselves from politicians.

SYRIZA is the winning favorite, Tsipras is seen as the new prime minister

Polls published in the past few days in Greece indicate that the extreme left party SYRIZA, led by the 40 year old, Aleksis Tsipras, a politician that started his career with the Greek communist youth, dominates. Left wing radicals lead by a 3% margin against conservatives in the latest polls.

One of the polls announces SYRIZA a winner of the elections with 30.4% of the votes. Meanwhile, PASOK would be voted by 3,5 % of voters while Golden Dawn by 3,8% of voters. The poll underlines the negative effect that is caused by the division of PASOK following the creation of the new party Social Democratic Movement of former Prime Minister Papandreu, but on the other hand, it also points out the fact that the new party will not be able to receive many votes.

According to the poll, on top of the political leaders list is Samaras, followed by Tsipras who is seen as the next prime minister. Tsipras has always been active in the ranks of left wing extremists since his teenage years and university. When he was a student, he adhered to Sinaspismos, a coalition of left wing radicals, which was later called Syriza. In 2008, at the age of 33, he managed to become party leader and the youngest party leader in the history of Greek politics.

SYRIZA, how it turned into a favorite party

Before the eruption of the debt crisis, Syriza was a fragile party that enjoyed only 1% of the support of the electorate. It was considered as very extreme and not up to the level of governing the country, in contrast to the two main parties, right winged New Democracy and PASOK’s moderated leftists.

But, the consequences of the financial crisis overthrew everything. During the 2012 elections, Syriza became the second largest party. It gained lots popularity and the latest polls indicate a progressive increase.

Last Spring, in May, Syriza won the European Parliament elections. In the local government elections, it won the main municipality, that of Athens.

This Sunday, SYRIZA is expected to win the elections with the slogan “Hope is coming”.

Dr. Islami: SYRIZA’s victory would be dangerous for Greece

Albanian opposition MP, Kastriot Islami says that SYRIZA’s victory would complicate the situation in Greece. “Samaras’ victory or in the worst case, SYRIZA’s failure to create a government on its own, would keep Greece in its path of getting out of the crisis. Otherwise, economic situation in Greece could be complicated again”, says Prof. Dr. Islami.

According to him, Samaras’ government had started to implement a cooperation program which was taking Greece out of the crisis. “Meanwhile, a SYRIZA led government could raise several questions and take Greece back into a deep crisis”, says Islami, who has been for more than two decades a prominent politician of the Albanian left wing.

Albanians are closer to the Greek left

Most of Albanians who live in Greece have been integrated in the social and economic life of the neighboring country. Their vote is important in the parliamentary elections, given that it’s a large community and a part of which have become Greece citizens, eligible to vote.

The elections are expected to bring back in power the radical left, which has a friendly approach toward emigrants.

Albanians living in Greece seem to think like the majority of Greeks who want political change. However, many of them cannot have a direct impact, because they have no right to vote.

Several Albanians run for the Greek parliament

Albanians too play a role in the Greek politics and they’re mainly close to the left. Pirro Dhima, the Albanian that supports PASOK, will once again run as an MP for the Greek left wing.

The Albanian born Olympic champion will enter a second term in office as a Greek MP if he manages to win.

Pirro Dhima remains one of the best Greek athletes of all times, with four Olympic medals. He has a strong social impact in Greece. In the last election, Dhima led PASOK’s list of candidates.

Another candidate is Pavlo Sota, an Albanian emigrant. The lawyer from Fier is part of the party led by former Greek PM, George Papandreu. Sota runs in constituency A, which is considered as the biggest and the most difficult ones for candidate MPs.

Sota talks about the new party and his candidacy: “Papandreu is a prominent political figure in Greece, who has given a special contribution for emigration and has strongly supported Albanians. We support him because he comes with a new party and he wants to offer new elements to it, such as us, old emigrants here in Greece. This is why he wants our support”.

But what is the impact of these elections for Albanians in Greece? Sota says: “January 25 polls are very important because if we obtain the necessary support from emigrants, we will be able to make our way into the Greek parliament and have our say. This is why I call upon all Albanians that live here to support George Papandreu, to support me in order for me to be able to voice their concerns in the right place, in the Greek parliament. Let this be a historical day where an Albanian from Myzeqe in Fier ran for Greek parliament”, says Sota.

Being a new party, it’s difficult to enter parliament, therefore the participation of Albanians is seen as important in order for Papandreu to cross the electoral threshold.

The Albanian candidate is optimistic that the contribution of Albanian community and the Greek community would help this party enter parliament. “Yes, I’m fully confident. We, Albanians, help each other and in difficult moments, we have shown who we are. At the same time, I have very good relations with Greeks. I’ve been living in Greece for 25 years, I have excellent relations with Greeks and I’m very confident that I will receive lots of votes from them”.

Ina Panajoti is an Albanian from Vlora and she’s running for the Greek parliament. Like Dhima, Panajoti too is running for PASOK. Ina left Albania when she was 15. She says that Albanians in Athens are supporting her and are holding a campaign for her.

The majority of Albanians here are well organized. They are members of the Socialist Party of Albania here in the Greek branch and given that I’m running for PASOK, as a party, we belong to the same ideology. I’m hoping on their support”.

Panajoti is reserved with her promises, but she assures that in the Greek parliament, she will act as a voice for Albanians who live in Greece. “I don’t want to make promises that I cannot later deliver. I just think that being here for many years, their voice must be heard by state institutions”.

Will a possible exit of Greece from the Euro zone have a positive or negative impact for Albanians?

The Greek, Albanian and international press have talked a lot about a possible exit of Greece from the Euro zone. These rumors are strengthened by suspicions that left radicals may win the elections. Albanians analysts comment a possible scenario of the exit from the Euro zone and say that this scenario brings positive and negative effects for the Albanian economy. If this scenario happens, the banking system is expected to suffer a very negative impact.

Economy expert, Prof. Dr. Adrian Civici, former member of the Oversight Committee of the Bank of Albania, says that the come back of the old currency, Drachma in Greece, would initially lead to a rise in remittances. According to him, this would happen because  emigrants would send their savings to Albania.

Prof. Dr. Civici says that in the long run, remittances would fall with Drachma, because in all likelihood, Drachma would be weaker than Euro.

The same opinion is shared by Prof. Arben Malaj. He believes that Greece’s exit from the Euro zone would have an impact in the volume of trade between the two countries. Dr. Malaj says that Greek imports would be favored and Albanian exports would be penalized.

But, in spite of the Greek crisis, Albanian economy experts rule out the possibility if this country exiting the Euro zone. According to them, the launch of this idea is part of politics ahead of the early polls in Greece.

On the other hand, the EU seems determined not to negotiate the change of anti-crisis plan demanded by Mr. Tsipras. According to the leader of SYRIZA, one of the parts that must be renegotiated is the pardoning of a part of the debt that Greece owes to European countries.

But for Finland, a leader economy in the Euro zone, this demand is not negotiable. Prime Minister Alex Stubb says that thanks to anti-crisis austere measures, the Greek economy is no longer on the verge of collapse, as it was in 2012 when the crisis began. According to him, the Greek economy has gone back to growth. According to Stub, Greece exit is not good for the Euro zone, but nevertheless, he says that this is up to the Greek people. A while ago, German media quoted the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, saying that if SYRIZA wins the elections, then Germany would not object Greece’s exit from the Euro zone. /ibna/