This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al
By Eduard Zaloshnja
It has only happened once in the past three decades that a political coalition in Albania has managed to seize power with less than 1 million votes. This happened in 2005 for two specific reasons. First of all, in the 100 constituencies where a majority electoral system applied, there was no run-off. Therefore, many democrat candidates managed to win in their constituencies with only 30% or 40% of votes, because the left was divided. Secondly, thanks to the proportional system, the Republican Party and many other allies of the Democratic Party managed to win the majority of 40 seats which were decided by this system.
In other cases, the winner has always managed to win more than 1 million votes. In 1992, the Democratic Party coalition managed to take more than 1 million votes. In 1997, the Socialist Party coalition managed to take more than 1 million votes. In 2013, the Socialist Party coalition also managed to take more than 1 million votes.
Today, the Democratic Party political coalition is expected to seize power, but it does not have 1 million votes. None of the opinion polls published so far do not indicate such thing. They show that the Socialist Party may take around 50% of the votes, while only 1.5 million voters are ready to cast their ballot today in Albania.
Why is there a need for a landslide victory in the next elections?
In the absence of an electoral system like the one in 2005 (when the DP coalition came into power with only 41% of the popular vote), it’s hard to seize power from a party which has almost half of the votes of those who are ready to vote. Was it possible for Rama to win the elections in 2011, despite the fact that initial vote counting showed that he had an advantage against Basha in Tirana? The fresh counting of the votes in the “wrong ballot boxes” made Basha a winner, despite the astonishment of the US ambassador who had rolled up his sleeves during the initial counting.
After learning his lesson in 2011, in the 2013 elections, Rama was obliged to forge a big coalition with Meta and this secured him 1 million votes.
Currently, the Socialist Party coalition has deep electoral roots. This is the reason why this coalition has the potential to win around 750-800 thousand votes, while turnout in the elections could be 1.5-1.6 million.
In a country such as Albania, when the opposition enters the elections without having a clear advantage beforehand, the final result is known.
This is not only an Albanian problem
In Turkey, a republican candidate won the mayoral elections in Istanbul after 17 years. But the problem is that he had only a 0.1% advantage against his rival. In spite of this, president Erdogan forced the Election Commission to annul the elections and hold fresh elections on June 23.
In the US, Donald Trump managed to win the elections at the Electoral College thanks to a small advantage in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin (namely 0.4%, 0.2% and 0.1%). However, on a national level, Clinton was up by a 3% margin (the majority of opinion polls indicated this).
Although Trump managed to get in the White House, he was worried about the fact that he had lost on a national level. Therefore, he set up an inquiry committee to prove that millions of emigrants had voted illegally in the states where he was defeated. But, the committee could not prove this and was dissolved without making too much noise.
However, that episode has forced the opposition leader to raise the alarm about the 2020 elections. According to her, if the opposition candidate wins against Trump by a small margin, the latter will not leave the White House and will take the case to court (Trump is known to be a businessman who has been to numerous court cases to avoid payment to third parties.)
If the opinion polls show that united opposition is far from taking 1 million votes, then this would be dangerous for the opposition to request early elections. The opposition can only hope on a victory if it’s close to the 1 million vote mark or if the Socialist Party is divided (as it happened in 2005), because the experiment with the interim government didn’t work out in 2017.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy