In Albania, the opposition led by the Democratic Party is trying to gain territory by organizing a nationwide protest on 16 February in the center of Tirana. The opposition is hoping on having as many people as possible in this protest, in an attempt to overthrow the government which, for the past six years, has been led by Prime Minister Edi Rama . In an interview for Albanian Free Press democrat MP, Prof. Dr. Tritan Shehu, former deputy PM and minister in several right wing governments, comments these efforts of the opposition. He also comments other social and political developments in the country
What is the scope of the protest that the opposition is planning to hold on 16 February in Tirana?
The protest will take place at a delicate moment for the country. It will be a big protest because the country is facing so many big problems. Currently, the country is facing a high level of unemployment, poverty and government arrogance. This will be the biggest political action that opposition parties will launch along with disgruntled people. This protest will lead to a new initiative which will aim to overthrow this government that has brought so much misery for people of this country.
Do you think the government will be overthrown with protests?
Peaceful and well-organized protests are a very democratic instrument which could lead to fresh developments in the country. Protests are never accidental and they are not held just because the opposition wants to hold them. They come as a result of the numerous problems that were mentioned above. Nobody holds protests if things are going well. No protests are organized without a real cause. The government is overthrown through elections, but protests give way to elections.
On the other hand, Rama made some big changes in the government. How do you view them? Were they done at the right moment and do they offer hope for the improvement of many things in the country?
The new changes that this government made marked the end of this government. There’s nothing new in this government besides numbers. These are people who can bring nothing to a government which has degraded completely. The only thing that the government wanted to do was to cover up its failures through these recent changes. What’s more, these people have no experience in how a country is governed.
The students’ protest has entered its third month. What is your opinion on them?
Students are the most important part of the population, the youngest and the most active part which will take the country forward. On the other hand, it’s not only students who are protesting. We also have people protesting for their properties, oilmen, etc. All of these protests and the students’ protest in particular, offer a clear message for society. The students’ protest is being countered by the government’s attempts to lower the intensity of the protest or to deceive the students. This shows that the government has not recognized these problems and it is unable to solve them. Judging by the students’ protest, I would say that time has come for all protests to come together into one in order to bring positive developments in the country.
The situation that you describe looks pretty gloomy. Do you think Rama has the support of the international community?
Absolutely not. It’s been a while that the international community has abandoned Rama. Everyone can see that he’s been isolated. In the past 6 years, no serious investors have come to the country. What’s worse, investors are leaving. increasing crime rates, drugs and trafficking have made us look bad in the eyes in the international community. We have also seen big mistakes in foreign policy. This government has not only lost credibility abroad, but also in the country.
A probe launched by prosecutors suggests the involvement of organized crime in vote buying in Durres, Kavaja, Lezha and Dibra in 2017. What’s your opinion on this?
This government’s problems have crossed the country’s borders. The abuses that this government is involved in have to do with criminality, drugs, cannabis, arrogance of the state, stolen elections and many other negative elements, which have also been reflected on international media.
Let us go back to the developments within the Democratic Party. Will the new elections make this party more active?
I can tell you that these elections show that the Democratic Party has a good process going on. This process is not a simple one, because it includes all party’s structures. So, it’s a dynamic process which should continue. The new structures were set up in order to be closer to people and their problems. The new structures are there to support them and help them. So, I can say that the DP has entered a new phase which will bring new developments.
Do you think that there will be early elections?
With all the problems that the country is facing and all the protests that we’re seeing, I would say that early elections are the only way out to this crisis. There’s no other way out. Elections are unavoidable; they’re a necessity.