OP-ED/Will Rama reshuffle the government in September?

OP-ED/Will Rama reshuffle the government in September?

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

By  Roland Qafoku

There are two important events that Albania is expecting to happen in the month of June. The first one relates to the EU decision whether to open or not open the accession talks and the second event relates to the fact that the justice system will decide whether the recording involving the Interior minister’s brother is authentic or not. Whatever these two decisions are, Prime Minister Rama is in front of a big dilemma. He will need to decide whether he will reshuffle his government or not. He promised this during the Socialist Party assembly on 28 April when he declared:

“What changes? If it’s necessary, we will make government changes in September. We will make changes in ministries which have poorly performed and disappointed those who trusted us. At the end of this campaign, we will see which senior party members will leave and which ones will arrive”.

But is it necessary for Rama to make changes in the government in the name of new impulses, which have never been justified every time they’ve been articulated? Is he interested on shaking the government and the party after shaking his political opponents?  Chances are that he will not. After the criticism expressed by several EU member countries and the clashes with the opposition regarding the recording involving Xhafa’s brother, Rama must have regretted what he pledged on April 28. There are several strong reasons for this. A reshuffling of the government in September means that Rama will artificially create a new uncomfortable situation for himself. The opposition will certainly exploit it and all the ministers that Rama will remove, will be trumpeted by the opposition as victory. It may not come as a surprise for the opposition to demand convictions, investigations and jail for the ministers who are removed, arguing that Rama himself admitted the accusations launched by it. Meanwhile, based on the tradition, the new ministers will be accused by the opposition for “connections with the underworld and abuse in the line of duty”. In this situation, it may not come as surprise if the opposition considers the government reshuffling as a new big crisis of Rama’s government. In all likelihood, Fatmir Xhafaj will not be part of these government changes either. Whatever the conclusion of the video recording is, it will still continue to be considered as a just cause for the opposition and according to the opposition, Xhafaj should have been part of those who leave the government. The situation would aggravate even more if the EU countries decided against the opening of negotiations. In this situation, Rama would score an “own goal” if he makes government changes. Based on the situation that we may encounter, this will once again provoke a debate and a new political clash and under these circumstances, Rama will not be interested on this. What matters to him is to start the holidays with a peace of mind and the battle in September would not be the best possible way of starting the second year of his term in office. What’s more, September will also mark the official start of preparations for the 2019 local government elections. This will be a very important year for the SP and this may force this party not to start September with a reshuffle. This would be the best thing for Edi Rama, although this will be considered as a promise that was not kept. Between a potential political crisis and a promise that was not kept, Rama would prefer the second. And this would not be the first time he would do this!

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