This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al
By Roland Qafoku
A demonstration which lasted around five hours. No speeches and no declarations were delivered. Massive participation, but without yielding any results. The government building was attacked with Molotov bombs and strong objects, but teargas, armored glass and water hoses managed to fend off any attack that was attempted by demonstrators. The protest that was held on 16 February did not lead to Edi Rama’s resignation as Prime Minister and it did not lead to the appointment of a new Prime Minister. There are at least 15 conclusions which were drawn in those 5 hours of demonstration.
- The opposition’s protest showed that the government has morally fallen, but the opposition has not gained more support. In the past six years during which the Socialist Party has been in office and the Democratic Party has been in opposition, in the Albanian political arena there’s a gap which has not yet been filled. Many people are not happy with the way the Socialist Party has been governing, but at the same time, the Democratic Party is not offering something new either. It’s true that the Socialist Party governs on its own, but the majority of people have started to think that the problem is not with the government, but with the opposition.
- The Democratic Party’s protest showed once again that this is the only way how its chairman, Lulzim Basha knows how to organize a protest, without a clear scenario and without assuming responsibility. The protest showed that everyone could do whatever they wanted. There was a better sense of organization in the students’ protest than the protest that was organized by the Democratic Party. At the beginning it was said that opposition leaders would hold speeches. Then it was said that citizens would speak. In the end, nobody spoke. We haven’t seen a more disorganized opposition in the past 29 years.
- The opposition’s protest showed that the demonstration cannot be led by hooligans. Around 30 protesters cannot represent 50 or 100 thousand others. It looked like the representatives of the Democratic Party Youth Forum were not present at all, while the protest was taken over by hooligans. However, the opposition has enjoyed confidence among the public only when it’s also been supported by intellectuals, professors and undecided voters. The February 16 protest did not achieve this.
- The opposition’s protest showed that its leadership should assume more responsibility. The DP cannot organize a massive rally and then declare that the protest belongs to the citizens. Opposition leader, Lulzim Basha and others around him should assume more responsibility about what happens in the protest. This is not the stature of a great leader.
- The opposition’s protest showed that the government cannot be overthrown through the use of violence. Power can only be taken over through votes and not violence.
- The opposition’s protest showed that the fact that PM Edi Rama and a part of the government left to attend a rally in Vlora, was a big mistake. Evading responsibility is never the answer.
- The DP’s protest also showed the relation of this party with the media. Many journalists say that they’re not happy with the way chairman Basha communicates with them. MPs from this party are not allowed to issue declarations until Thursday. But I’m convinced that this order will be broken, because Basha often changes his mind.
- The opposition’s protest showed once again the fact that political leaders tend to make these protests personal. The protest was identified with Lulzim Basha, Sali Berisha and Monika Kryemadhi. Where were all the prominent figures of the Democratic Party? Did anyone see Halim Kosova or Albana Vokshi? What about Nasip Naço and Edmond Panariti of SMI? Above all, a protest requires representatives of the people.
- Students protested for more than a month and the duration of their protest is something which needs to be admired. However, they did not destroy any trees or public properties. The destruction of public property shows an oriental mentality and has nothing to do with what we want to achieve.
- The opposition’s protest showed that State Police knew how to be professional. It’s so sad to hear the opposition claiming that “police opened the cordon” and the claims regarding teargas. When you attack state institutions, in a way or another, police needs to react.
- The opposition’s protest showed that the opposition itself is divided. Although we’re 4 months ahead of the local government elections, the opposition does not have a joint strategy.
- The opposition’s protest showed that the international community criticizes the side which makes a mistake. Foreign diplomats have never supported a violent protest.
- The opposition’s protest showed that Albania does have responsible Interior ministers, such as Sander Lleshaj, who always obeys the law. Although he has been provoked by the opposition, by demonstrating a high level of maturity and wisdom, he successfully managed to prove that he was different than any of his predecessors.
- The opposition’s protests showed that the slogans that demonstrators held in their hands were mediocre.
- The oppositions’ protest also showed the role of the president of Republic. A few moments before the government’s building was attacked, president Meta called for composure and restraint, in contrast to president Topi who issued his first statement regarding the 21 January protest 10 days later.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy