Albania

Last update: 4 months ago

After reform efforts and encouragements were agreed by the EU's Enlargement Commissioner, Albania gained EU candidate status on 24 June 2014. This was a key step in the right direction for a country that still has to deal with major corruption and crime issues. On 25 June 2017, parliamentary elections took place in which the Socialist Party of Albania convincingly won by obtaining 48.3 per cent of the votes (74 out of 140 seats). Since 71 seats are needed for a majority, there will not be a parliamentary coalition. Former major of Tirana and SP leader Edi Rama will remain as Prime Minister.  

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Map of Albania

Short facts

Population:
2,878,052 (2020)
Governmental Type:
Emerging democracy
Last Elections:
25 June 2017 (parliamentary elections)
Next Elections:
2021 (parliamentary and presidential elections)
Sister Parties:
Socialist Party (SP)
Image of Ilir Meta (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilir_Meta#/media/File:Ilir_meta.jpg)

Ilir Meta

President

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Image of Edi Rama

Edi Rama

Prime Minister

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Political Situation

Since December 2018, Albanian students have been organising protests to oppose the controversial law on higher education, the quality of teaching and corruption. The nationwide protests of thousands of students were sparked by a 4 December boycott of lessons in Tirana at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanistics of the Polytechnic University, after which thousands of students marched towards the Ministry's office. The peaceful protests mark a new standard outside of the political sphere, where former protests were mainly organised by political parties.

The 2018 report by Reporters Sans Frontiers shows that Albania is now classed as partly free, with the state of the media labelled as highly problematic. Censorship is widely present and journalists have expressed to be working in fear and uncertainty. The overall media of the country is dominated by wealthy businessmen who are linked to main political parties.

Albania gained EU candidate status on 24 June 2014. Its application for membership to the European Union on 28 April 2009 was an important landmark for a country that had emerged, some 20 years ago, from a communist rule as one of the poorest, most isolated, most repressive and most inscrutable countries in Europe. Moreover, Albania’s transition to democracy and a market economy had been launched under challenging circumstances during a period of extreme instability in the Western Balkans. The conclusion of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU in 2006 showed that Albania is willing to move to “Brussels”, and since then progress has been made on many fronts.

For the last decade, Albania has been plagued with a political crisis which is characterised by blocking of the parliament by the opposition. After the parliamentary election of 2009, the Socialist Party (SP) refused to acknowledge the official results due to the alleged fraud by the ruling Democratic Party (DP). However, the Central Election Commission – that is internally divided among political lines – rejected the request from the SP to do a recount in some smaller regions. Consequently, the SP started a parliamentary boycott, and for nearly two years the Socialist Party was periodically boycotting the parliament as a protest against the election results. The local elections on 8 May 2011 could have broken the political deadlock if the smooth elections had taken place. Although the SP won in most municipalities, it lost in the capital Tirana after a controversial recount of the votes.

The Socialist Party started a parliamentary boycott again, but in September 2011 the SP decided to return to parliament because the party did not want to block the European integration process of Albania. The SP is needed in parliament for a two-thirds majority that the Albanian constitution demands for several important judicial reforms. Socialist leader Edi Rama declared that he does not wish to block the entry of the country into the EU.

With the win of the left-wing Alliance for a European Albania during the 2013 parliamentary elections, PM Sali Berisha’s longest rule since the collapse of the Communist regime in Albania ended. During the 2013 parliamentary elections, the left united into a single alliance in the hope of defeating the long rule of Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s Democratic Party. The alliance led by SP leader Edi Rama won the election by securing 65 seats against the 50 seats obtained by the Democratic Party, thereby securing a comfortable majority in parliament. The new government reformed certain key area’s to meet the standards for EU accession. Generally, Albania is considered to be moving into the right direction: it became NATO member in 2009 and is expected to open EU accession negotiations in 2018. Many challenges remain, however, such as judiciary reform and the fight against organised crime and corruption. In the run-up to the 2017 elections, the Democratic Party called a boycott of the elections and the parliament, raising concerns over the electoral process. A wave of protest began in early February. The demonstrators called for the removal of the "autocratic regime" of Edi Rama. In May, the opposition and the government compromised on certain issues, promising that the upcoming election would be as fair as possible and securing future dialogue between the two parties.

The second term of Rama has proved to be more difficult than the first. With opposition boycotting the parliament, Rama has a hard time trying to reform the country. In addition, the Prime Minister is criticized for the increasingly authoritarian rule of the party and the country.   

EU accession process and protests

Recently Albania and North Macedonia were barred from opening EU accession talks after a high-level meeting of the European council. France and the Netherlands opposed the opening of talks with Albania. The Netherlands cast their doubts about the progress made on judicial and rule of law reforms, while France blocked the talks citing dissatisfaction with the enlargement process in general. Albania has intensified its efforts to reform its judiciary but corruption, for example, is still a big challenge and is damaging the country’s economic potential in a serious way. Also, the elections in Albania still do not meet all international democratic standards according to the OSCE. The need for judicial reforms through a vetting process has left the country's high court unable to function after only one judge remained in office following the vetting procedure. The EU acknowledges the progress made citing the establishment of new institutions for the self-governing of the judiciary, such as the High Judicial Council, the High Prosecutorial Council and the Justice Appointment Council, as good examples of this progress. Albania still has high hopes in regard to starting accession talks in 2020, with the EU promising to reconsider its decision in upcoming meetings. On the 1st of April 2009, Albania became a full member of the NATO alliance, having already received a Membership Action Plan for its accession into the military alliance in 1999.

Meanwhile, Albanian politics have been characterised by division and boycotts from opposition groups. The parliament, as well as local elections, have been boycotted by opposition groups, with many opposition MPs resigning. The opposition began their boycott after the so-called student protests started in December 2018, with students expressing their anger over high tuition fees. As a result, Prime Minister Edi Rama reshuffled his cabinet after which many opposition parties returned to the legislative chamber in January. On 16 February, opposition supporters called for a nationwide protest, most of them gathering in Tirana to demand new elections and the resignation of the government. The demonstration turned violent and, subsequently, opposition parties announced that all their MP’s would resign. Following a protests march led by opposition leaders on February 22nd, 40 MPs handed in their resignation, with Central Elections Commission replacing the vacated seats with unknown and inexperienced candidates from the 2017 election. In the buildup to the local elections of 30 June, the two main opposition parties refused to enlist for the elections, signalling a boycott. The EU has condemned the boycott of the opposition, citing them as counter-productive.   

Gender and minority political participation

The situation concerning women’s issues remains worrisome. Despite the considerable number of women’s NGOs, their political influence continues to be restricted. Some improvement has been seen in the lists of the 2013 parliamentary elections. According to the electoral code, 30 per cent of the candidates in the top tier of the lists should be women. Article 175 of the electoral code spells out that when a political party does not meet gender quotas, the Central Election Commission (CEC) sanctions that “any replacement of a vacancy in the party’s MP list will come from the genderless represented”.

Political participation of minorities is not high on the agenda in Albania, perhaps because Albania - in contrast to neighbouring countries - has not encountered any ethnic, racial or religious problem or conflict. Officially recognised are the Greek, Macedonian and Montenegrin national minorities, while the Roma and Aromanians are recognised and respected as linguistic minorities. However, in the 2009 electoral process, minority populations, notably Roma, continued to be marginalised and were subjected to election intimidation and attempted ‘vote-buying’. According to the OSCE, minorities generally enjoyed the respect of their rights in the run-up to and during the elections. National minorities are guaranteed equal rights under the Constitution. While no reliable official data on minorities is available, it is widely believed that the Greek and the Roma communities are the largest.

In May 2014, the Council of Europe adopted a resolution calling on Albania to implement the Framework Agreement for Protection of Minority Languages and provide education in these native tongues throughout the country.

Elections

Electoral system
Albania is a parliamentary republic with a unicameral parliament: the National Assembly. It consists of 140 members elected for a four-year term, and, under the constitutional guidelines, a government can be formed if a party or a coalition of parties gathers at least 71 seats in the National Assembly. The head of state in Albania is the president, who is elected for a five-year term by the parliament. The president has no legislative or executive power, but represents the state in foreign relations, and is the chief commander of the army. Since 24 July 2017, the President of Albania is Ilir Meta, leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI). He was elected by the National Assembly by a vote of 87 to 53.

Albania has a regional proportional voting system divided into 12 electoral regions. Capital Tirana, which is the largest region population-wise, elects 34 MPs. Political parties nominate an MP list for each region for the total number of seats. According to the electoral code, 30 per cent of the candidates in the top tier of the lists should be women, a rule that few parties respected in the June 2013 parliamentary elections. The prime minister is approved by the president with the approval of the parliament.

The 12 electoral constituencies correspond to the country's 12 administrative regions. Within any constituency, parties must meet a threshold of 3 per cent, and pre-election coalitions must meet a threshold of 5 per cent. This is a consequence of the new electoral code introduced in 2009. The threshold has been largely criticised, because of the obstacle that it presents to smaller parties. In fact, of all the political parties in Albania, only the PS and the PD favoured the new electoral system. Smaller parties contended that the reform served only the interests of those two main parties, while largely, if not entirely, excluding small parties from entering the parliament.

The centre-left coalition headed by the PS declared after the June 2013 elections that all cabinet ministers will resign their parliamentary seats to provide for a better separation of power and checks and balances between the government and the legislative branch.


Parliamentary elections

On 25 June 2017, parliamentary elections took place, in which the Socialist Party of Albania won convincingly by obtaining 48.3 per cent of the votes (74 out of 140 seats). Since 71 seats are needed for a majority, there will not be a parliamentary coalition. Former major of Tirana and SP leader, Edi Rama, will remain as Prime Minister.

Election results 

 Parties Votes  % Seats  Seats in 2013
Left-wing 1,002,340 63.55 % 94 (+11) 83
 Socialist Party (SP)  762,280  48.33 %  74 (+9) 65 
 Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI)  225,073  14.27 %  19 (+3) 16 
 Social Democratic Party of Albania (PSD)  14,987  0.95 %  1 (+1) 0
Right-wing  530,144  33.61 %  46 (-11)
57
 Democratic Party of Albania (DP)  454,384  28.81 %  43 (-7) 50
 Party for Justice, Integration and Unity (PDIU)  75,760  4.80 %  3 (-1) 4


Observers

Despite there being a shooting on the day of the elections, which left one SP activist dead and a Democratic Party (DP) candidate wounded, international monitors noted overall improvements in Albania’s elections. The counting process took several days more than expected, and outgoing Prime Minister Sali Berisha of the Democratic Party of Albania (DP) disappeared for several days after the election before conceding his defeat. EU enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Füle and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton stated the elections took place in an overall orderly manner. According to the OSCE, "the June 23, 2013, parliamentary elections were competitive, with active citizen participation throughout the campaign and genuine respect for fundamental freedoms. However, the atmosphere of distrust between the two main political forces tainted the electoral environment and challenged the administration of the entire electoral process. Voting proceeded well, albeit with procedural irregularities, but counting was delayed in many areas".

Aftermath
With the win of the left-wing coalition, outgoing PM Sali Berisha’s longest rule since the collapse of the Communist regime in Albania has ended. Being active in politics for over 20 years, serving as President and Prime Minister, Berisha won the 2005 elections on a campaign promising to rid the country of corruption. In 2009, the SP did not recognise the narrow election win of Berisha’s DP due to alleged elections fraud. Consequently, Albania ended in a political crisis for most of the time between 2009 and 2013, characterised by a boycott of the parliament by the SP, mass street protests, further political and societal polarisation and standstill in the EU integration process. It took some time after the 2013 election results came in until Berisha conceded defeat on 27 June: “We lost this election and the responsibility falls only on one person, Sali Berisha,” he said. “I have decided to resign from all my leadership positions in the Democratic Party but stay on as a member and as an MP,” he added. 
 
It is now up to the new Socialist Prime Minister, Edi Rama, to boost the economy, fight the corruption and bring Albania closer to the EU. To achieve this, improved relations with the DP and its to-be-elected leader are needed. Rama stated that a huge task lies upon the new government but that he is confident that progress will be achieved. The new government took office in September 2013. 

Presidential elections

The head of state in Albania is the president, who is elected for a five-year term by the parliament. The president has no legislative or executive power, but represents the state in foreign relations, and is the chief commander of the army. Since 24 July 2017, the President of Albania is Ilir Meta, the leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI). He was elected by the National Assembly by a vote of 87 to 53.

Political parties

Social Democratic Parties

Logo of Socialist Party

Socialist Party (SP)

Party Leader: Edi Rama

Number of seats: 74

http://ps.al/

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Logo of Socialist Movement for Integration

Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI)

Party Leader: Ilir Meta

Number of seats: 19

http://www.lsi.al/

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Logo of Social Democratic Party

Social Democratic Party (PSD)

Party Leader: Skënder Gjinushi

Number of seats: 1

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Other Parties

Logo of Democratic Party of Albania

Democratic Party of Albania (DPA)

Party Leader: Lulzim Basha

Number of seats: 43

http://www.pd.al/

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Logo of Party for Justice, Integration and Unity

Party for Justice, Integration and Unity (PDIU)

Party Leader: Shpëtim Idrizi

Number of seats: 3

http://www.pdiu.al/

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Biographies

Image of Ilir Meta (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilir_Meta#/media/File:Ilir_meta.jpg)

Ilir Meta

President

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Image of Edi Rama

Edi Rama

Prime Minister

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Image of Lulzim Basha

Lulzim Basha

Leader of the Democratic Party of Albania

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