IBNA Special Report/Sali Berisha has left every function of the Democratic Party and has remained a simple MP. Sokol Olldashi lost the race for the new leader of DP, but remains an MP. Lulzim Basha is the new leader of the Albanian opposition. What challenges await him and what has he promised to do?
Tirana, July 24, 2013 – By Edison Kurani
After 8 years in power which were preceded by 8 years in opposition, as of July 23, the Democratic Party has a new leader. For the first time in 22 years, Sali Berisha is no longer a leader of this party, which broke the wall of the worst dictatorship in Albania and no longer a high official of the state.
After suffering a defeat in the June 23, 2013, elections, Berisha decided to resign as leader of DP. Meanwhile, he will continue as prime minister for a few more weeks until September, when the left wing government is expected to be formed, after 8 years in opposition.
But what are the challenges that await DP now that its power is limited in maximum?
For two years, Lulzim Basha has been mayor of Tirana, which is the largest municipality in the country. He delivered the mandate of MP and minister, when he raced against Edi Rama in 2011.
Basha won by a narrow margin against the head of the Socialist Party, who had been a mayor of Tirana for 11 years.
After the loss of DP in the June 23, 2013 parliamentary elections, Mr. Basha decided to run for leader of the DP, like Edi Rama did in 2005, when Fatos Nano’s government lost the elections and took the SP to opposition.
Like Mr. Rama in 2005, Mr. Basha too, on July 22, 2013 faced an election through the principle “one member one vote”.
But, between Rama and Basha there was a crucial difference as far as the party elections were concerned. In 2005, Rama ran almost alone, having as opponent the former Minister of Transport, Maqo Lakrori, who had no support within the Socialist Party. Like it was expected, Rama’s victory was deep before a doll candidate, like the media considered his opponent.
Meanwhile, in 2013, 8 years after, Basha faced a strong rival in the DP, MP and Minister of Transports, Sokol Olldashi.
At first glimpse, the race took place without the public support of the acting leader, Sali Berisha. But many people and especially media and columnists, said that Basha’s victory was expected, as he enjoyed a strong support by Berisha.
Yesterday (July 23) saw the publication of the election results. Out of 106 thousand members called to vote, only 41 thousand participated. 33 thousand votes went in favor of Basha, who thus won with over 80% of votes.
Olldashi’s reaction was filled with doses of irony. He said that new names were introduced in the recent days in the voting lists of the DP members and added: “I hope that these people become members of the DP like they entered the lists(!)”.
Olldashi’s irony was even deeper: “I’d like to congratulate the rival candidates on the victory”, said Olldashi, although officially, in front of him in the race was only Mr. Basha.
Nonetheless, Mr. Olldashi said that he doesn’t intend to leave the DP. “Our party is a family. It happens for rules to be breached within a family, but we remain a family”, -said Mr. Olldashi, after stressing that the “election process within the DP was entirely deformed”.
Mr. Olldashi’s declarations were not commented by Mr. Basha. In fact, during the campaign, Basha never attacked Olldashi. It was Olldashi who in several occasions said that he had advantages against Basha by saying: “I can be a full time party chairman”, reminding the fact that Basha is also the mayor of the biggest municipality in the country; “I’m an MP in Parliament and I can better defend the strategy of the opposition”, pointing out the fact that Basha is not an MP and the fact that he has been in the DP for 23 years, when the DP has been both in opposition and in power, while Basha arrived at the DP in 2004 and has been a member of this party only during the period when the DP has been in power, 2005-2013.
In spite of these clashes, situation within the DP seems quiet and strong preparations are being made to be in opposition. The new leader, Mr. Basha has expressed several engagements which aim to bring the DP in power.
Basha has said that the Socialist Party didn’t win the elections. In reality, the Socialist Party won 65 seats in the 140 seats parliament, or 3 fewer than in 2009, but in order to form a government, 71 seats are needed and the Socialist Movement for Integration led by former Prime Minister Ilir Meta, who in the past 4 years had been in a coalition with DP of Berisha, came to aid.
On June 23, SMI won 16 seats, without counting the two seats on the list of the Socialist Party. Thus, SMI grew by more than four times as opposed to 2009.
These are the facts that encourage Mr. Basha to use as part of the strategy of the new opposition the fact that the SP hasn’t grown in the elections, although it was the largest opposition force.
In the victory speech, but even during the speeches held during the one month campaign for the elections in the DP, Basha said that he would continue to walk in the path of Sali Berisha. He said that nobody is able to replace Berisha as a leader of DP, while adding that as a new leader, he will work for a strong opposition in order to bring the DP as soon as possible in power.
The new chairman of the DP has promised that measures would be taken against unfair dismissals from the administration. In fact, every time that the government changes, administration in Albania is strongly shaken due to the drastic changes. Basha promised legal advice for every person who would be dismissed from work with the arrival of the new government in September.
On the other hand, Mr. Basha has decided to amend the mistakes of the 8 years in power of the DP. For the first time, the ordinary members of the DP will be entitled to participate in the national decisions of the DP, especially for MP candidacies and those for the heads of local government, which so far has been a centralized process from the head office in Tirana.
Nonetheless, for Basha there are also other difficult challenges. In two years time there will be local government elections, where the new leader of the DP faces two challenges, that of the decision to run or not for a second term in office as mayor of Tirana and what’s most important for the new opposition, to win these elections, because this victory would offer him the opportunity to demand early elections and bring the right wing back in power, which is the main point of the opposition program of the coalition which is now led by Lulzim Basha. /ibna/