By Apollon Baçe
According to the current leader of the Democratic Party, Basha, “Tirana has never seen such participation in a rally before” and according to yesterday’s chairman of the DP, Berisha, “over 500 thousand Albanians (participated) in the ‘redeath’ funeral”. Namely, twice as much as in Bucharest, which means that the expected overthrow of the government is subject to the simple logic of 1+1=2.
He who wants to know the real reality and not the virtual one of a rally must see the rally from nearby. He must see the participation within the crowd, how the crowd reacts to the words and calls of the speakers and most importantly, what its numerical force is. I am bringing the figures below (sorry for the prolixity) not for the purpose of denigration or humor, but to assess what happened and what is expected to happen.
The area where the rally took place was 700 meters long, 42 meters wide, thus 30.000 square meters. On the first row there were 70 people, on the middle row there were 50 people and on the last row there were 30 people. The gap between the first rows was 0.5 m, in the middle it was 1.5 m and in the last rows, it was 3 m. As such, the rally had around 500 rows of protesters with an average of 50 people per row, which brings the total participation to around 25.000 people. This is a much higher figure than what is claimed by the SP militants and fewer than 500 thousand people claimed by Berisha.
Seen from this angle, the 18 February 2017 rally was just like any other rally where ¾ of the participants who were behind were talking to each other without listening to what the leader was saying and ¼ was following the messages of the leader. It was neither the weakest rally that the DP had ever held, nor was it the apex of the rallies that the DP has organized, especially at the end of 2015.
The spirit of the civil (not militant) protest was motivation: injustices toward the person and not the generic slogan. At the end of 2015, motivation was present: The homes of poor people were being demolished, power supply was cut off leaving children in the dark and cold, people were arrested for 35 dollar utility bills and when they hung themselves, they were labeled as thieves by the Prime Minister. But at the moment when the rallies were becoming like an avalanche, MP Fufi’s brother told Berisha that Meta had said that Sali had said that Fufi had said… and thus, the momentum of the protests under the slogan “Meta Leave” was lost (out of a personal grudge). And momentum in politics (and in battles) is very decisive.
The hanging of a relative, the destruction of a home and the fact that children were left in the dark and in the cold were motives to come out on the square. “Meta Leave” was not a motive. “Why are you protesting?”, I asked a demonstrator in January ’96. “They rigged the elections, but I don’t really care. Now they stole my money and this I will never allow”, was his reply. Meanwhile, Rama, who seemed to have read Al Kapone’s expression “the scope is achieved more easily with a sweet word rather than a bitter word. Especially when you have a gun in your hand”, gave up (temporarily) from arrogance, demolitions of homes, arrests and fines and he even purchased excavators to open ditches for farmers.
Meanwhile, the situation is not like that, but worse. The most accurate and explosive phrase for the Albanian leadership and current situation belongs to the book “Decoding Albanian Organized Crime (LA,2015): “Albania suffers from an elite political corruption, government clientelism, oligarchic usurpation of national assets and narco-politics.” Let’s analyze some figures again. According to Guardia di Finanza, 250.000 plants have been photographed from above in an area which constitutes 15% of the territory. This constitutes 1.7 million plants for the entire territory and 2000 tons of marijuana (at a rate of 1.2 kg per plant). Based on an average value of 15 thousand euros/kg (9 thousand in Puglia, 15 thousand in Istanbul, 21 thousand in Oslo), the total amount is around 30 billion euros. Deducting the amount seized by police forces (mainly foreign ones), that which has been destroyed by police and the profits that remain abroad, the total figure corresponds to 8 billion euros: two times more than incomes from agriculture, four times more than incomes from mines, 6 times more than incomes from manufacturing and only 15% lower than total GDP. Columbia was not born as such, it became like this and today, if the marijuana branch is cut, Albania falls along with its government and its people.
Why do people continue to remain passive? Why don’t they protest against state corruption, abuse of funds, the horrendous treatment that it is subjected to, caprices and the luxury of the elite (if it can be considered as such), price of oil, miserable healthcare system? Due to its bad character (as it is often labeled), philistinisation of intellectuals, replacement of the blood of students with lymph, due to the absence of a civil society (not the absence of NGOs’ parasites)? But it was these students and these people that put their life in danger in 1991 to overthrow the bloodiest dictatorship in Europe.
In 1990, I participated in the German SPD electoral campaign and its motto was “we’re better than CDU”. The motto of the Albanian campaign is “the opponent is worse than me”. Based on this motto and Churchill’s advice on the lesser of two evils, I hope the DP has found itself in that tent and I hope that it has learned its lessons, even as the lesser evil which is always better than the greater evil.
* The opinion of the author doesn’t necessarily represent IBNA’s editorial line