This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al
By Eduard Zaloshnja
Every two months, I hold a national political opinion poll on behalf of a consultancy firm which offers its services to foreign businesses in Tirana. Because they’re used to the western practice of frequent periodical opinion polls in their countries of origin, foreign businesses want to know how support for political parties change. This offers me the opportunity to measure the perception of the Albanian electorate following important events, which are frequent in our country.
After the protests held by the residents of Astir, I still haven’t carried out any opinion polls in order to measure the effect of this protest.
Since the time when the prosecution demanded Saimir Tahiri’s arrest (last October) until today, the number of people who are willing to vote the Socialist Party has been ranging from 700 to 730 thousand (in last year’s elections, the Socialist Party obtained 765 thousand votes). On the other hand, the number of voters willing to cast their vote in favour of the two main opposition parties (DP and SMI) has been ranging from 650 thousand to 700 thousand (in last year’s elections, the DP obtained 455 thousand votes and SMI obtained 225 thousand votes).
In other words, even after big scandals such as “Tahiri”, “Babale”, “Protest of Kalimash”, etc, the main two opposition parties have not managed to obtain more support than the Socialist Party.
These results lead me to believe that the protest held by residents of Astir in Tirana will not be able to increase the number of supporters for the opposition. Meanwhile, the opposition seems to rely on these types of events, which only have a temporary effect from a statistical point of view.
The opposition needs something bigger. Being the biggest opposition party in the country, the DP needs to change itself drastically, in order to obtain more votes than it obtained last year (455 thousand votes). Let us not forget the fact that in 1997, when there was turmoil in the country, the Democratic Party managed to obtain 600 thousand votes. Of course, this drastic change should start from the top.
Instead of relying on protests such as the one in Kalimash or the one held by the residents of Astir, or even in scandals such as “Habilaj” or “Babale”, the DP should completely change its leadership in order for right wing voters to once again have faith on this party. At a time when we’re not seeing any other opposition party being born, a renewed DP leadership would serve as the only hope to counter Edi Rama’s arrogant leadership.
A new DP leadership should choose a new strategic course, addressing key electoral points. This leadership should decide wether the DP’s only hope to come back to power is to exploit local protests, scandals and the SMI or the return of right wing voters in order to go back to the 740 thousand votes that this party managed to win in 2009.
Both of these strategies have their risks, but one thing is certain: with the current leadership, the return of the DP in power would depend on Edi Rama more than it would depend on the protests and the noise artificially caused by Basha’s DP.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy