By Alfred Peza
What we saw in Monday’s parliamentary proceedings may be enough to predict what will happen during the rest of the year. The way the sides were positioned on this first day may be considered as the best picture of what we’re expecting to see in the reality of this electoral year.
Let us go into more detail. What the majority and opposition performed on the first day of parliamentary proceedings following the summer holidays was in fact announced during the month of August.
The Socialist Party started Monday with a meeting of the steering committee focusing entirely on internal issues which relate to the holding of local government elections next June. The message that was issued was that the governing majority will strengthen its alliance with citizens and that it will not respond to what it considered to be defamation of the opposition. However, the majority did not rule out the possibility for constructive dialogue with the opposition on issues which concern the interests of the country and the citizens.
Meanwhile, the DP and SMI boycotted the 5 o’clock proceedings in Parliament, by moving the meeting of the two parliamentary groups in Shkodra, a city which has recently registered a series of serious criminal acts. While Lulzim Basha declared that the Prime Minister should not have been in Parliament, but instead, he should have accompanied the leader of the opposition in Shkodra, Interior minister Fatmir Xhafaj declared that the leader of the opposition should have been in parliament along with other representatives elected by the people.
Why did we see this kind of approach?
The decision to boycott the first parliamentary session by representatives of the Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration, was a clear political signal that this is how the opposition is expected to behave during this electoral year that we have in front of us.
For the DP led by Lulzim Basha, these elections are supposed to be decisive, following the two previous elections which his party lost. If this party is defeated once again by a Socialist Party which will race on its own, this will be a serious blow for this opposition. This would not offer any guarantees for the return of this party in power in 2021.
Meanwhile, for the SMI, these are the first elections in opposition after being eight years in power. This will be a real test for survival in new conditions. Up until yesterday, the support that this party used to have in the electorate used to be generated by the fact that everyone was convinced that SMI was a kingmaker in the formation of the government. A victory of the opposition coalition would be very encouraging, while defeat would seriously threaten the survival of this party in the parliamentary elections which will be held in three years time.
What will happen next?
In front of this situation where the SP and Edi Rama govern on their own through an “alliance” forged with the citizens of this country, the opposition is attempting to find a crucial element which will be used for the 2019 local government elections and which it considers to be very important for its political future.
In the meeting held in Shkodra, the opposition declared that it will unfold its platform which aims at “removing criminal elements from the government”. In a way, what the opposition means by this is that it will go back to its old ways of not participating in the meetings held by parliamentary committees.
The fact that the opposition announced this sort of platform, which may also be considered as its most important political document for the new electoral year, shows that it is not yet prepared about the steps that it says it will take.
Despite the details of this analysis, one thing is clear now: September 3rd, 2018 marked the start of a new electoral year in Albania. The signal for the start of this new political marathon was launched and the sides have been clearly positioned now.