Letter From America

Published:  12:20 AM, 16 May 2019

Albania's night sky is red!

Albania's night sky is red!

This morning I woke up to some disturbing news. It is the fragile Balkans again, where Albania, is on fire! Balkan Peninsula has been known as the 'combustible barrel' of the European continent. In Albania, this unstable barrel seems to explode quite often, due to frequent, internal frictions.

To a foreign observer, this ongoing, political crisis in this country, may seem unusual, but for the Albanian people it is an everyday grind. The effect has ripped through the nation's social and economic fabric. And, the tremors have been felt all over the European continent. Today, the shockwaves threaten to jeopardize this country's integration, with rest of Europe. Are the Albanians doomed for history's isolation?

What is really happening in Albania? Why has this gunpowder 'barrel', exploded again? And, why are Albanians so frightened, in believing that the continuing political conflict may well escalate into a dangerous, civil war all over the peninsula.

Two years ago, parliamentary elections were held in the country. In the polls, the following parties had achieved prominent results:
*     Socialist Party of Albania - 764,791 votes - 48.34% - 74 seats
*      Democratic Party of Albania - 456,481 votes - 28.85% - 43 seats
*      Socialist Movement for Integration - 225,975 votes - 14.28% - 19 seats
The Socialist Party had secured enough seats to form a majority, and a legitimate government. Unfortunately, the election process had been called into dispute by the Democratic Party, and the Socialist Movement for Integration, for a good reason: adverse impact and exposure of investigating agency's files 339 and 184, in which ministers, mayors and other key important figures of the Socialist Party were accused of collaborating with organized crime......in order to intimidate the voters and manipulate the election results.

As the approaching local elections of June 30, 2019 draw near, the opposition parties have withdrawn from their mandates obtained in their parliament, (60 out of 140 seats letting the majority Socialist Party), to form their government and rule the country. The two opposition parties, which represent 43% of the voters, are already out of parliament.

Albania's opposition leaders are seriously asking for the resignation of the Albanian premier, Edi Rama. The accused Prime Minister, has preferred to defend himself in the developing mayhem, yet failed to offer his resignation, in the milieu created by unrest.

His response has been less than responsible! He had failed to invite the political parties to sit together and resolve this political impasse. Rather, he has called for the replacement of the vacated parliamentary seats, with independent candidates, the bounty hunters, who had earlier rushed to seize such an opportunity. This has created a new precedent, and an opposition block with new members, handpicked by the premier himself.

Despite the addition of the new MPs, the Albanian Parliament is still not in its full quorum, because there are many vacated seats, in the Albanian Parliament--a fact that had legally raised several constitutional issues.

Furthermore, in order to avoid or delay the imminent collapse of the forthcoming local elections, or creating a questionable legitimacy, Rama has helped create, small political parties, which are aimed to aid the ruling party after their registration into the Electoral College.

With such an unprecedented political maneuver, in the absence of a viable opposition, the SP will ensure that this party wins every single constituency and municipality in the country. With the central and local government under Roma's total control, and a parliament under his belt, premier Rama might well enjoy the attributes of a traditional European monarch! At least, this is what the Albanians are saying.

Unfortunately, in the recent weeks, thousands have rallied in the streets of Tirana, particularly in front of the office of the Prime Minister. Members of the parliament were forced to ask for the resignation of Edi Rama. This appears to be the only solution left...free and fair elections, to elect a new Parliament with fresh mandates.

During the first tenure of the Edi Rama premiership, Albania had received frequent negative citations from the US State Department, and also several international institutions, regarding the high level of corruption, organized crime, cultivation of cannabis and smuggling of illegal, powerful drugs from this country.

The global media had raised several alerts about this nation's indulgence in the spread of cannabis cultivation. Like most corrupt societies, the politicized police has been allegedly involved in all such criminal activities. Currently wanted for indictment, several district heads of police have fled the country, and are still at large.

In 2016 two reports one Italian and the other German, were made public. These documents had raised grave concerns indicating that there existed 363 cannabis cultivation areas, secretly managed by narcotic barons, in the country. This report was immediately hushed up, and placed in the freeze by the corrupt government. After this was leaked by few independent media houses. it was officially denied.

The former Minister of Interior, Saimir Tahiri is currently investigating those people, accused of drugs trafficking and alleged collaboration with organized crime. The purported income from the cannabis activity has been estimated around 5.0 billion euros, which is roughly, half the country's GDP. The opposition parties had claimed that this money was largely used for crime and also to ensure victory in parliamentary elections as well as for money laundering.

It was this past bitter experience that had forced the opposition parties to undertake the radical decision of boycotting the parliament, and sabotaging the forthcoming local elections.

Albania seems to be heading towards a bloody civil conflict. In June, the European Commission is expected to refuse once again, re-opening the negotiations for the Albanian membership into EU. This will be certainly inflame the present situation. The international institutions are observing patiently, awaiting the Albanian political storm to cease. This indeed is an upheaval that is likely to end only, by the decision of one person to step down -the Albanian premier, Edi Rama!

A scared European Union, and Albania's neighbors are watching closely, whether the unrest would escalate to engulf other nations, to repeat the casualties and history of 1998.
Good luck to Albanians!


The writer is a former educator based in Chicago.

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