This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al
By ROLAND QAFOKU
The way the congress of the Socialist Party was organized could easily make it a congress of continuity. This congress really showed that the current government has managed to disappoint many people. This sense of continuity is far from the expectations that people had in 2013. It shows how Edi Rama is surrounded by servile people, who have distanced the Socialist Party from reality. That was a congress of continuity even for the way Rama continues to remain in office with the sort of crisis the country is going through. More than a bet for an extra municipality, Edi Rama should have promised all socialists and all Albanians that he would organize elections without buying votes, without crime money and without candidates who have problems with the justice system. The whole congress focused on what the Socialist Party had done in the past six years comparing it to 2013. But, when it seized power, the Socialist Party made the big promise of bringing total change in the country. This is also reflected by the following declaration made by PM Edi Rama on 12 September 2013 in a speech that he delivered in parliament: “2013, like 1992, will mark the start of a new political history of Albania. It will be remembered as the year of the biggest turn of democratic events that our country has ever seen. 1 million Albanians joined forces”.
When you read these six years later, it makes you laugh. The congress never confirmed that socialists had changed Albania. Following the cheesy speeches that the party senior officials delivered, the closing statement was the culminating point of this congress. It was declared that economic growth in Albania was over 4%; that Albania had reached its lowest unemployment rate of 12,3%; that revenues had seen an increase of 27%; that foreign investments had amounted to 1 billion USD; that growth of exports was in double digits; that growth of tourism was in double digits; that during 2018, Albania was visited by 6 million tourists and that 97% of Albanians had benefited from tax cuts. In other words, we should all be happy that we live in this country. But the figures that were supplied were not enough. There were many things which were left untold. It was not said, for instance, that 300 thousand Albanians have left the country in the past 6 years and that we come second, after Syria, for the number of people leaving the country to seek asylum abroad. Nothing was said that in the period 2014-2016, cannabis was the Socialist Party’s exclusivity and that now, police are seizing the drugs that were stored at that time, without mentioning the biggest crime that the government has done in the past three decades. Nothing was said of the fact that we’re the biggest consumers of cocaine per capita in the world. Nothing was said of the fact that the food we’ve been eating in the past 6 years has never been so unsafe. Nothing was said of the fact that no serious investor has arrived in the country. Nothing was mentioned of the fact that according to Transparency International, in 2018, Albania lost 8 positions in the fight against corruption as opposed to a year ago. Nothing was said of the promises that had been made that every minister who was alleged for corruption, would be removed.
After six years in power, the Socialist Party is no longer boasting about the way it’s doing politics, in contrast to the promises that it had made when it was in opposition. The country is going through a deep political crisis, while this congress gave the impression that life goes on quietly. No serious efforts were made in this congress to solve the crisis. On the contrary, the opposition was ignored and it was declared that the government could do without it. Albania has replaced two old leaders such as Fatos Nano and Sali Berisha with two leaders like Edi Rama and Lulzim Basha who are constantly arguing.
The Socialist Party is going through a war of clans, while the level of democracy within the party has received a serious blow.
The only thing that made the Socialist Party more enthusiastic was Erion Veliaj and his work as mayor of Tirana. Veliaj and his supporters may be considered as a party within the Socialist Party. Edi Rama knows this. This is the reason why there were uncertainties as to whether Veliaj would be running for a second term in office or not. The support given for Veliaj managed to calm a number of socialists, however, it has left a bitter taste about the sense of competition that exists within this party. Today, the Socialist Party is not being represented by socialists. A part of the ministers have not even been part of the structures.
What we can say is that several speeches that were delivered were sincere. In many of them, we heard that this is the congress of the socialists. This was a congress of continuity and nothing more.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy