OP-ED/The protest and the crisis scenarios

OP-ED/The protest and the crisis scenarios

This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al

By Plator Nesturi

It’s been three weeks now that parliament looks the same. Debates and proceedings have been held amidst an atmosphere where MPs shout to each other and bills have been passed without even understanding what the bill was. However, yesterday had something more. It included invitations to participate in Saturday’s protest. This time, even socialists were invited. One thing is certain. The political crisis is entering a new phase which involves clashes. The Democratic Party has requested permission for the holding of the protest and this is a sign that its scenario will not end with a simple demonstration on the square. It looks like the protest will continue, with a tent, which was also seen last year, or something else. Under these circumstances, the crisis is heading to unchartered territory and we’re expecting to see action not only by the opposition which is organizing this protest. Actions are also expected to be taken by PM Rama. What surprises are we going to see? He has two options: he either plays the tough way by not making any concessions to the opposition or he makes some concessions. In the first scenario, this would either defeat the opponent, or escalate the situation. In the eyes of the international community, two sides are always to be blamed about the escalation, although one of the sides may be blamed more than the other. Concessions may calm the situation down and in this case, it could lead to changes in the cabinet. We may see not only Xhafaj leave, but other cabinet members too. Changes in the cabinet may be considered as a solution. In fact, Rama himself has declared that he’s not happy with the performance of a part of cabinet ministers and is thinking to make these changes in September. Public opinion also perceives a gridlock in the government. But the question is: when will these changes be made and how do they relate to the current crisis?

If the cabinet changes are made in September or ahead of the local government elections with the sole purpose of refreshing the team, then this would come too late. Although the government has been in office less than a year, Prime Minister Rama has been suggested to replace a part of his cabinet to offer a new dynamic to the left wing government, but also to reflect on the criticism addressed in particular sectors. After the six month analysis of the performance of his ministers, Rama did not protect his subordinates with the same fervor that he did before. Therefore, it’s hard to think that the changes which are expected to happen are coming too late.

Without a doubt, the main concern of the Prime Minister today is the opening of the EU accession talks and the new tent which may be set up in front of his office may complicate things even more. A year ago, the opposition’s tent was initially ignored, but the tent remained there for two months as proof that the country was in a political crisis. Although the opposition has been weak, although opinion polls suggest that it will be defeated in the elections, that tent is much more than a parliamentary boycott. This tent represents a meeting point, ready to be filled at any false step that the government makes or whenever there’s a scandal which may lead people to take to the streets. So, sacrificing a minister or two may be considered as a preliminary gift ahead of the talks. But, the game has other players too.

Despite the aim to calm the situation down, the impeachment of ministers and the appointment of new ones, could lead to new unpredictable developments. So far, the leader of the DP, Basha, has been demanding a technocrat government to prepare the new electoral infrastructure. So far, SMI is still unclear, despite the strong language manifested by the heads of this party. This may also relate to the fact that in moments of crisis, the president of the country may come into play. A few days ago, Rama praised Ilir Meta by saying that he is the best president the country has ever had. Will Meta return the compliment? This, we don’t know, but what we do know is that the crisis is entering a dangerous phase. The signs are not good. The solution is far away. First, the sides must clash once again.

Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy