By Eduard Zaloshnja
Democratic countries often hold opinion polls on important issues that concern their societies. In Albania, opinion polls are often held ahead of elections. There are two reasons for this. First, opinion polls are relatively expensive and secondly, Albanians only notice these opinion polls take place just before the voting.
If the recent developments surrounding the so called “Babale” case had occurred in a democratic and developed country, the media would immediately hold opinion polls in order to see what people think of it. They would even offer percentages in terms of the public support that the sides enjoy regarding the topic in question.
But, as I said above, Albania does not have this sort of tradition. The main political parties carry out private opinion polls, but the public is not informed on them. Even when these polls are made public, they are intentionally altered. In the absence of opinion polls, based on my experience on measuring public perception, I will try to carry out an analysis of the effect that “Babale” case has had on public opinion.
First of all, let’s analyze those who voted the Socialist Party last year (765 thousand). Most of them are more likely to believe the version that was presented by Edi Rama, according to which, the audio recording did not contain a conversation between Albert Veliu (known by the nickname Babale) and Agron Xhafaj (minister Xhafaj’s brother), but an orchestrated conversation between Babale and his brother in law, who has impersonated Agron Xhafaj.
Rama has mentioned the telephone conversation taken place between Babale and his brother in law (God knows how it was leaked to the media) which shows how the two men have collaborated to orchestrate this conversation with the aim of incriminating Agron Xhafaj. In exchange (based on their conversations), they would be rewarded by the Democratic Party with the amount of 200 thousand euros. Rama has also mentioned an American consultancy group (which, according to the materials leaked on the media, is led by a former FBI special agent) which will shed light upon this scenario paid by the DP.
And now, let us handle the other part, those who last year voted other parties (825 thousand). Most of them are more likely to believe the version that was presented by the opposition. The opposition claims that: 1-The Italian Interior ministry did not agree to examine the audio recording that started all this; 2-The British private company which examined the audio recording did not conclude if the conversation between Babale and Xhafaj was genuine or fake, because this company had received a copy and not the original recording; 3-Babale’s brother in law could have been paid in order to talk to Babale on the phone in such way as to serve as material for the prosecution.
But, what is the opinion of those who did not participate in the elections last year (around 600 thousand residents of Albania, because the other 1,4 million voters live abroad)?
As it happened, immediately after the publication of the audio-recording in May, I held an opinion poll for a magazine which is published in English here. According to this opinion poll, the Democratic Party, which is the main opposition party, had grown by 80 thousand votes. From 450 thousand votes that this party had received last year, it had gone up to 530 thousand votes. The opinion poll did not contain any questions regarding Babale (the opinion poll started several hours before the audio recording was made public), but the growth in the number of votes for the DP was certainly due to the audio recording.
After the initial publication of the audio-recording, the DP also made Babale appear on TV in a 30 minute long televised interview. The man of that scandal proved to be very disappointing in that interview. He was mocked on social networks and web pages, which play a key role in today’s society. Then, the DP came up with the investigative journalist of audio recording. He claimed that he had given Babale the recording device, but he was not sure if he had talked to Agron Xhafaj or someone else.
The following month, I carried out another opinion poll for the above mentioned magazine, which suggested that the DP had gone down from 530 thousand to 500 thousand votes (nevertheless, this number is higher than the 450 thousand votes that it obtained last year). And this shows that the initial excitement for the DP (following the publication of the audio recording) had faded.
I don’t know if any media outlets would be prepared to finance some opinion polls regarding the issue in question, but based on my experience, I believe that undecided voters will listen to all the noise being made in the past few days and they will continue to remain skeptic for both sides.
In other words, voters of each camp will continue to stick to their camps without any significant changes.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy