The 1 million dollar question for Basha

The 1 million dollar question for Basha

This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and

 By Eduard Zaloshnja

During the eight years that Berisha served as Prime Minister, Edi Rama did everything to take his place using all sorts of manners. In the first four years, his methods were peaceful. For instance, after the blast in Gerdec, Rama shook Berisha’s hand at the hospital where many of the injured people during that tragedy had been admitted. The US ambassador regarded him as a state’s man for that gesture, given that Albania was ahead of its NATO accession. An aggressive opposition in those moments could have prevented accession.

After the events in Gerdec, Rama and Berisha struck an important deal which had to do with the changes of the electoral code and the constitution, persuaded that he would win the elections, trying, at the same time, to make it harder for SMI to come into power. The latter joined the DP in power and this helped this left wing party to become even stronger.

After his strategy failed, Rama started his weekly protests. He even set up a tent in front of the Prime Minister’s office, where socialist MPs and militants remained for 40 days. This Jacobin strategy culminated on 21 January 2011. Referring to the French and American revolution, it was alluded that the people react against tyranny through uprisings when they’re denied the right of vote (Rama claimed that he had won the elections and that Berisha was refusing to open the ballot boxes which he claimed contained the truth).

Despite his Jacobin efforts, Rama was forced to participate in the 2011 elections, where he lost the elections in Tirana (although that defeat was very controversial). So, he went back to his Jacobin methods by blocking roads, burning car tires and holding protests on the boulevard.

But, when he saw that he could not seize power through such methods, he decided to form a big coalition which he was sure it was going to defeat Berisha. So, he decided that such coalition should also have SMI in it. After taking back everything that he had said about Meta, he entered a coalition with him. That sudden move was translated into 1 million votes in favour of the coalition led by the Socialist Party.

Similarly, in the first four years that Rama was in power, Lulzim Basha tried everything to take his place. In the first two years, Basha held several peaceful demonstrations in central Tirana, hoping that he would send out a message that a western type politician was now leading the Democratic Party.  However, when he lost the elections in 2015, he started to raise his voice and protests in the boulevard became less peaceful. They culminated with a tent that was set up in front of the Prime Minister’s office (the same thing that Rama had done). According to Basha, no elections could be held for as long as Rama was Prime Minister. But, similar to what Rama had done in 2011, he was forced to enter the 2017 elections, although Rama continued to remain Prime Minister. Basha even made a deal with Rama. This deal seemed to penalize small parties, especially SMI (like Rama had done in the past with Berisha). After spending a relatively quiet period since his defeat in 2017, Basha has once again come back to his strong messages. Basha’s current motto is that an interim government should be formed (without Rama as PM) in order to take the country to early elections. This sort of motto has often been used by oppositions in Albania, however the only time when it was successful was in the ‘90s.

If he wants to take his place, Basha should look into the strategy that Rama used to come in power. In other words, he needs to think about forming a big coalition which would defeat Rama.

In the past decade the right wing parties (altogether) managed to obtain as much as 750 thousand votes (in 2009). SMI has managed to obtain as much as 260 thousand votes in 2015. If these two parties go back to their record levels, together they would obtain a total of 1 million votes, the same number of votes that Rama needed to defeat Berisha.

But the question is: will Basha manage to collect 1 million votes? With such radical methods, chances are that he may never come into power.

 Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy