A wrap up of the main developments in Albania for 2015

A wrap up of the main developments in Albania for 2015

Tirana, 31 December 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Edison Kurani

The local government elections confirmed the domination of the left wing majority by further deepening the defeat of democrats in opposition. The right wing protests gathered a significant number of citizens. Decriminalization becomes the main topic of the year and its implementation is expected to provoke further debates. The economy seems to have marked a slight growth, but many people claim that poverty has grown.

The national football team makes history by qualifying for the final stage of France 2016 European Championship. This and many others accounted for the main developments of the year coming to an end in Albania

Political unrest resumes with Ilir Meta

The same as in 2011, four years later, the year started with Ilir Meta at the center of serious accusations. While four years ago, the leader of the Socialist Party, Edi Rama, accused the leader of SMI for massive corruption, this time, it was MPs from within the majority that accused Meta for a murder plot.

Tom Doshi, a renowned businessman, accused Ilir Meta of having ordered and paid for his murder and for the murder of his colleague, Mhill Fufi. The latter didn’t become involved in this debate, but the case precipitated until the prosecution launched an inquest. The prosecution concluded that the plot was made up. Tom Doshi insisted and came out with a video, which according to him, suggested that his denouncement was founded. A few days later, he was arrested and now he’s undergoing a trial.

In this case was also involved the leader of the Christian Democratic Party, Mark Frroku, who is also a businessman. He was arrested on several counts and is now facing charges of murder in regards to the killing of an Albanian man in Belgium.

In February, March and April, the opposition demanded the resignation of the speaker of parliament, Ilir Meta, but he didn’t step down.

Opposition also organized a protest on 12 March. “We ask Ilir Meta unanimously: Leave, resign!”, said the democrat leader, Lulzim Basha. Meta’s reply was clear: “I have no reason to leave”.

US ambassador uses a tougher language on decriminalization and corruption in justice

On the verge of June elections, US ambassador Donald Lu, who had just entered office, spoke clearly: “We have identified several people with potential criminal records and we are discussing their cases with political leaders”.

Three days later, the left wing comes up with a proposal following the proposal of democrats, who take a step by withdrawing their candidate in Kelcyre.

In spite of suspicions for concrete names, socialists didn’t make any movements. Candidates with a criminal past were elected in the polls and Lu’s words were not taken into account. Citizens voted the candidates and parties in spite of the appeal not to vote criminals.

The hot summer continues with criticism by the Americans. In July, the US State Secretary Assistant for Europe and Eurasia,  Victoria Nuland, demanded decriminalization of institutions in Tirana. A few days later, the US Department of State report mentioned the fact that an Albanian MP had been previously convicted for traffic of human beings. The MP in question was the socialist Arben Ndoka, who resigned in September. Mark Frroku also resigned at the end of November.

Many people believe that the current parliament, 2013-2017 is the most incriminated one and the most unacceptable by all standards. Some say that at least 35 MPs out of a total of 140, who have criminal records. In the meantime, in the past two years, parliament has changed around 30 other MPs.

Process of decriminalization continued in November too. The government and opposition prepared a joint draft which was approved. Parliament voted it unanimously. The US embassy and European Union praised the passage of the bill, but they demanded for it to be implemented in practice.

The left wing crushes the opposition, it confirms the 2013 victory

In the race for Tirana, the two candidates were Erion Veliaj from the left wing coalition and Halim Kosova from the opposition coalition.

The approach of the Tcham party, PDIU with Prime Minister Edi Rama’s political side, led the party that defends the interests of the Greek community, PBDNJ to join the opposition ranks.

The 21 June 2015 elections led to the victory of a majority of left wing candidates who will run municipalities in the next four years, 45 to 16 in favor of the left wing. Democrats were happy to win some of the left wing historical strongholds, such as Pogradec, Permet, Lezha and Selenica.

In the majority of left wing municipalities where the DP won, there were accusations from SMI against SP that it had mined the victory of its candidates.

The victory of the left wing coalition also spread in several right wing strongholds, such as Has, Malesi e Madhe and Puka.

The elections were held for the first time based on the new territorial division.

These elections will also be remembered for the shortest time in which the final result has come out.

They were the elections with the lowest number of contests by political parties and candidates.

Enough with corruption in the Courts of Law

Corruption has ruined the justice system in Albania so much, that many people, including the prime minister, are convinced that there is no justice in the country, as it is a service which is bought and sold with money.

In an effort to change this rotten system which has degraded in the past 25 years, Rama’s government announced a package of reforms where the opposition was not involved.

The package was sent to the Venice Commission and a few days ago, the latter offered its conclusions which give way to the approval of reforms in parliament and their possible implementation next year.

Even in the case of the justice system, the international community continues to launch criticism. US ambassador Donald Lu was open on the state of the justice system: “In the Albanian judiciary system, some people must be fired for corruption and some others must be sent to prison”. According to the US ambassador, “corrupt ministers, criminal MPs, incompetent judges and prosecutors who take your money and never prosecute anyone, will not be happy with the reform”. For Mr. Lu, “some powerful people in Albania are scared”. “They are scared that they may lose their job and their dirty incomes.  They are also scared that they may end up in prison. And they are right to be scared”.

Meanwhile, EU ambassador to Albania, Romana Vlahutin demanded a full and deep reform.

Meanwhile, judges defend themselves by demanding not to be generalized and ask more independence from the state and fewer attacks from the government.

At last in the European Football Championship

More than for the political developments which are associated with lots of clashes and divisions, 2015 will be remembered for a very special event, which united Albanians by making then proud as a nation.

For the first time in history, Albania was qualified for a European football championship, which will be held in France next June.

The qualification marked the fulfillment of a dream which nobody had believed that it would ever come true. Albania ranked second in its group, after Portugal.

The national team’s players were received as heroes on the following day, on October 12 upon their return from Armenia, on the airport, while the roads were full of people.

Thousands of people gathered in the square in front of the government building, where the prime minister hosted a special reception. “You won, equalized, lost, climbed, dropped and climbed again, by writing a glorious page which without any doubt will be always remembered thanks to the qualification, but you would certainly be remembered even without the qualification”, Rama said in front of the players.

After the prime minister, the team was received by president Bujar Nishani. “Our national side came through. It has united our nation more than politics, demagogy, ideology and empty rhetoric”, the president underlined.

Then, a big celebration took place in Mother Teresa square, where under the sounds of music, the players, the coach and federation members, rejoiced over this big achievement in the history of this sport.

Two months later, on 12 December, the draw was made in Paris.  Albania will play in the same group with France, Romania and Switzerland. For the Italian coach, Gianni De Biasi, this is not mission impossible.

More on the main highlights of 2015 in Albania:

CEZ affair, government accuses Bode, Ruli and Mima for 414 million euros

IBNA Interview/Manjani: Changes in penal policies reduce overpopulation of prisons

IBNA Interview with the Minister of Environment of Albania, Lefter Koka

Albanian government says that it has broken the monopoly of the only international airport

Inflation for 2016 in Albania is expected to reach 2,3%

Bill on decriminalization approved, the sternest one in Europe

Albanian opposition announces a plan of protests “until the government’s overthrow”

Forum/Why do political parties need a code of conduct?

EU says that Albania is making sustainable progress, but “reforms must be implemented”

IBNA Analysis/ For a judiciary system that reflects contemporary standards

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