This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al
By Roland Qafoku
Neither Xhafa, nor Rama left. Even the government was not shaken. All the protest left behind was a number of comments, which was equal to the number of people living in Albania. But what did Saturday’s protest really bring? Did it meet its expectations? Did it show that people do not want this government and is the opposition ready to be an alternative to replace the government? There are 10 special elements that we saw in this protest. They reveal a lot about the two hours of the protest.
1.The protest could not make Xhafa and Rama leave
Aiming to make the Interior minister and the PM leave, the protest of 26 May showed that the DP is far from achieving this goal. With a video recording as its trophy, the DP promised Albanians that based on this protest, the brother of the trafficker, who is Interior minister, would leave and along with him, the Prime Minister of the country too. But this did not happen. Xhafa entered his office prior to the protest and came out of there as usual. Meanwhile, the opposition did not keep its promise that he would no longer be in office on Saturday.
- The protest sparked debates
It’s been more than two weeks that the Democratic Party was using the audio-recording of the Interior minister’s brother. But, although the audio recording was what fueled the protest, debates are now taking place on its participation, the clash with police and others elements like this.
- Low participation
Out of 10 protests that the DP has organized in the past five years, this is considered to be the protest with the lowest turnout. Not even the buses or the surprise tour in the bars of Tirana with the calls “join us in our efforts to make Xhafa and Rama” leave, could not fill the 850 meter long boulevard. The Democratic Party had been planning this to be the biggest in the past 27 years. However, this participation does not act as a motive to overthrow the government.
- Slogans out of fashion
Those who heard the calls “Freedom and Democracy” during the protest, surely laughed. It’s surprising how this sort of slogan, used 28 years ago during the anti-communist protests, is used in a more than normal protest organized by the opposition. Besides these kinds of slogans, for the first time we also heard police telling participants not to push police forces through a megaphone.
- Clashes with police
Nowadays, a protest is not considered a protest if protesters do not clash with police. But, if there’s one thing that we can say about Lulzim Basha is the fact that he doesn’t enjoy violent protests. The clash of a group of 100-200 people in front of the Interior ministry could be considered as the culmination of this protest. But, was this clash planned? The surprising thing is that it was the democrat MPs the ones who were trying to contain the crowd. They were the ones who informed the chairman and they were the ones who removed the violent protesters. Could it be that protesters were instructed to be violent and then lift the flag of peace? We don’t want to believe it.
- A disorganized organization
Even this time, the DP showed that organization is one of the biggest flaws of this party chaired by Lulzim Basha. Without a clear scenario and organization, it was clear that everything would be left to chance. This was reflected by the fact that the permit obtained allowed the opposition to protest for four hours, but the protest only lasted 2 hours. Could this protest be better organized and could it involve better coordination? Of course, but this is not a quality that the heads of DP have.
- Coordination with the allies
It was clear that one of the failures of this protest was the coordination of the Democratic Party with its allies. First, with its biggest collaborator, SMI. Chairman Basha was the only one to speak on the podium and nobody else followed him. Wouldn’t it have been better if we had also heard chairwoman Kryemadhi speak along with other allies? This was particularly noticed among supporters of SMI and others. The protest was identified with the DP and the other allies looked like they didn’t exist.
- A divided media
Once again, this protest focused the attention on the media. Besides reflecting the protest, different media outlets and journalists were involved in a debate on the way the protest was held. For more than a decade, journalists have ranked themselves as if they were representatives of political parties rather than professionals who analyze the protest. It’s rare to find an analysis which would point out the values of the protest and its flaws.
- The functioning of police
During this protest, police forces were worthy of praises. A police force which doesn’t belong to Rama or Basha, but to the state. This force showed professionalism and ethics. It did what it was supposed to do. There wasn’t even a single moment when it used excess force. However, there’s no doubt that the injuries caused on journalist Bledi Kasmi should be investigated and if he has been attacked by a riot police officer, that officer should be punished.
- Show must go on
Will the DP continue with its protests? With these low levels of participation, it’s hard to say if they will continue and if they will force the government to resign. The World Cup starts on 14 June and we don’t believe that Albanians will put Ronaldo and Messi aside in order to protest for cardinal issues that concern the country. Thus, the political show cannot go on. The whole world will be focusing on this football event and we don’t think the opposition will go against this rule. Then, after the World Cup, it’s the holidays. We need to wait and see until June.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy