Socialists’ referendum, democracy or a rigged process?

Socialists’ referendum, democracy or a rigged process?

Analysis/Socialists were called in a much debated referendum. The figures of participation and the result are very close to 100%. Rama considers this as pure democracy, his rival Blushi calls it an outrageous rigged process. Insights from Servet Pellumbi, Blendi Klosi, Grida Duma

Tirana, 11 April 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Edison Kurani

In Albania, the Socialist Party held a referendum during the weekend which confirmed and strengthened the position of leader Edi Rama even more, following accusations against him of refusing to hold elections on his mandate.

Members should have answered with a Yes or a No to the question: “When the SP is in government and its leader has been elected Prime Minister, is the leader’s mandate considered to be automatically renewed?”

ibna rama (1)

Around 100 thousand members were called to vote and around 85% turned out in the process. According to the data published by the SP, around 95% of the members voted in Rama’s favor.

For the SP leader and PM Edi Rama, the referendum was “a democratic and entirely successful exertion of rights”. According to him, members of SP “have supported the fact that elections for the party leader were not held after I entered office as prime minister” and the referendum proved this.

Referendum as an “invitation” to expel Blushi

The truth is that this referendum was held to avoid Ben Blushi, who demanded elections for the leadership of SP. Blushi accused Rama of governing the country without a mandate from the SP. According to Blushi, it is unacceptable to lead the country when the party’s membership hasn’t given you a mandate.

On his part, Rama said that given that the SP has won the parliamentary elections, there’s no need to hold party’s elections.

Meanwhile, Blushi’s argument goes even further. He insists that the elections have been won by the left wing coalition and not Edi Rama. The SP also came out as the first political force, but it could not govern on its own as it didn’t have the necessary numbers in parliament. In these circumstances, Blushi and other critics within the SP suggest that the prime minister mandated by this party must be first confirmed as chairman through elections and then continue to govern the country.

The referendum was held for this purpose. There was almost no campaign for this. However, the result was deep: Over 95% in Rama’s favor.

The extremes of figures

The Socialist MP, Ben Blushi analyzes the figures and says that they are a lowly contrivance. “If the referendum saw a turnout of over 90% of the voters’ list, this makes socialists a race of voters unknown up until today and this is why: In the past two elections, parliamentary elections in 2013 and local elections in 2015, general turnout in the polls was 54% and 49%. This means that Albanian socialists are keener to vote on a meaningless referendum than to elect their MPs or mayors?!”

At this point, Blushi also offers what he considers to be a real figure of participation: “According to the information coming from all over Albania, turnout in the referendum was no higher than 40% of the voters’ list”. Here, Blushi challenges Rama by iniviting him “to publish the voting paperwork and open the ballot boxes”.

One of the first and most prominent leaders of the SP is former vice chairman Servet Pellumbi. Although he has often been a critic of “Rama’s era” in this party, Pellumbi strongly criticizes Blushi and he sees the result of the referendum as credible.

According to Pellumbi, the referendum “was a democratic demonstration of the will of the SP’s members”.

ibna pellumbi

Regarding the result and turnout, which was close to figures during the communist regime, Mr. Pellumbi has an explanation: “Here we’re talking about party elections. Parties are organized, they have members who have their organization. Thus, it is completely normal to have such a high percentage of turnout while voting within a party. Meanwhile, the popular referendum was formal and was held based on those parameters. There cannot be an analogy here”, says Prof. Dr. Pellumbi.

Blushi: The referendum was a rigged process

ibna blushi

Ben Blushi is not convinced by Pellumbi’s arguments. He says that the idea for a referendum aimed at preventing him from running as chairman, while the process was rigged and the result predetermined. Blushi accuses Rama of managing to stuff the ballot boxes a day before the referendum. He says that there was total lack of transparency: “These are the first polls in Albania, if they can be considered polls, where there is no evidence of the counting process. We don’t know how the voting took place in rural areas, who participated in the voting and how safe were the ballot boxes. Edi Rama’s subordinates counted the votes of Edi Rama”, Mr. Blushi says, commenting the official results of the referendum and its progress”.

Klosi: Democratic voting. Duma: Alarm for parliamentary elections

The Organizational Secretary of the SP and minister for Social Affairs, Blendi Klosi thinks the opposite. He says that the referendum “was the highest expression of democracy in the party”.

ibna klosi

According to Klosi, “the party’s membership voted freely on the issue that it was presented with”.

Accusations for manipulation are also launched by the opposition. Secretary for Public Relations in the DP, Grida Duma says that “Edi Rama’s polls not to allow elections in his party, are more than internal issues of the SP, as the right of vote was breached”. Duma adds that “all the violations identified by OSCE-ODIHR in the official report for the elections of last June, were present in yesterday’s voting”.

Duma also offers proofs which according to her prove the abuses taken place: “Pressure against administration was outrageous, because not only it was monitored to see who voted and who didn’t, but civil servants who didn’t intend on voting were threatened. The manipulation started with the lists which had in it only those who were loyal to Rama”.

ibna duma

Duma believes that an 85% turnout that was announced by the SP was fake. At this point, she believes that “all these abuses are features of a confirmed enemy of the free vote, such as Edi Rama”.

For Mrs. Duma, this is an alarm for the upcoming elections “as it is clear that Edi Rama has only one project, to destroy them”.

As far as the opposition’s accusations are concerned, Mr. Klosi says that the DP must learn from the SP: “I Invite the DP to conduct valid and transparent electoral processes, as the SP has done for years”.

Regarding the risk that Duma warns, Klosi says: “DP must not fear anything about the upcoming parliamentary elections, because like every process that has been organized by us, it will be free, transparent and in line with all democratic standards”.

Blushi’s future in doubt?

The prominent writer and politician considers the fact that municipality of Tirana launched fireworks for Rama’s victory as outrageous. “The fireworks proved that the anxiety of the man who invented the referendum was bigger than the rigging of the process. The municipality of the capital celebrates the party’s referendum only in Panama”.

Meanwhile, he comments his future in politics and the SP. He says that this was a referendum against him, but adds that it was against the bylaws of the SP which require the holding of elections for the party’s leader once in four years.

Meanwhile, he has a message “for all of those who believe that I have lost through this referendum”: “I would like to tell them one thing: Nobody loses his freedom as a result of this rigged process. This referendum convinced me that the SP no longer allows any voting and this has happened for seven years in a row”.

Blushi also offers another message which clarifies his plans for the future: “I haven’t lost anything, but I have won my freedom. And this is bigger than any referendum and any party. After many years, I will laugh by telling my joke. But until then, I have many things to do. I will show to Albania that it is not time to despise Renaissance, but overthrow it”. /ibna/