Albania gained EU candidate status on June 24 2014, after reform efforts and encouragements were agreed by the EU's Enlargement Commissioner. This is a key step for a country that still undergoes major corruption and crime issues. On Sunday 23 June, the 2013 parliamentary elections took place in which the Alliance for a European Albania won convincingly by obtaining 57.7% of the votes (84 out of 140 seats). This left wing coalition – united under the name Rilindje (Renaissance) – was headed by the Socialist Party of Albania (SP). Left wing Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), that was part of the former conservative led government, was part of the Alliance for a European Albania as well. Former major of Tirana and SP leader Edi Rama is the new Prime Minister.
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- 2,889,167 million (World Bank 2015 est.)
- Governmental Type:
- Emerging democracy
- Ruling Coalition:
- Socialist Party of Albania (SP), Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI)
- Last Elections:
- 23 June 2013 (parliamentary elections)
- Next Elections:
- 2017 (parliamentary and presidential elections)
- Sister Parties:
- Socialist Party of Albania (SP), Social Democratic Party (PSD)
Albania gained the EU candidate status on June 24 2014. Its application for membership to the European Union on April 28 2009, was an important landmark for a country that 20 years ago had emerged from a communist rule as one of the poorest, most isolated, most repressive and most inscrutable in Europe. Moreover, Albania’s transition to a 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.
Nevertheless tremendous roadblocks still lie ahead for Albania on its road to full membership of the EU. For instance, the country shows some severe internal problems that could slow down the process of modernisation. Corruption is, for example, 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 the international democratic standards according to the OSCE.
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 were on and off boycotting the parliament as a protest against the election result. The Socialist Movement for integration (LSI) joined the DP led coalition but withdrew in April 2013, a month ahead of the June 2013 elections, to join the Socialist coalition. The local elections on May 8 2011, could have broken the political deadlock, if the elections would take place smoothly. However, when the preliminary results showed that the SP received the highest number of votes in most municipalities, the race for the votes in Tirana became crucial. The preliminary results showed SP leader Edi Rama as the winner in Tirana, but after a controversial recount of lost ballots, the Democratic candidate Lulzim Basha was named as the winner of the local elections.
The Socialist Party started again a parliamentary boycott, 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. Holding elections in accordance to democratic standards is seen by many observers as crucial to the country’s EU accession hopes. Most elections that Albania has held since 1991 have failed to meet international OSCE election standards, which is a stumbling block on the country’s road to EU integration.
With the win of the left-wing Alliance for a European Albania at the 2013 parliamentary elections, 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 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 June 27: “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.
President and 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 chief commander of the army. Since July 2012, the President of Albania is Bujar Nishani, who was member of the Democratic Party (DP), MP and Minister of Interior before being elected president. He was elected by the National Assembly with a simple majority (73 out of 140 votes), not being supported by the opposition.
Albania has a regional proportional voting system divided into 12 electoral regions. Capital Tirana, which is the largest region population-wise, elects 32 MPs. Political parties nominate a MP list for each region for the total number of seats. According to the electoral code, 30 % 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 President of the Republic is elected by the parliament to serve a 5-year term. 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%, and pre-election coalitions must meet a threshold of 5%. 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 SP and the DP favoured the new electoral system. Smaller parties contended that the reform served only the interests of those two main parties, while largely if not totally excluding small parties from entering the parliament.
The centre-left coalition headed by the SP 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.
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 2013 parliamentary elections. According to the electoral code, 30% 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 gender less 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 recognized 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 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.
On June 23 2013, the parliamentary elections took place in which the Alliance for a European Albania won convincingly by obtaining 57.7% of the votes (84 out of 140 seats). This left wing coalition – united under the name Rilindje (Renaissance) – was headed by the Socialist Party of Albania (SP). Left wing Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), that was part of the former conservative led government, was part of the Alliance for a European Albania as well. Former major of Tirana and SP leader Edi Rama will be the new Prime Minister. Despite 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".
|Coalition/party||Votes||% of the votes||Seats|
|Coalition 'Alliance for a European Albania'||993,904||57.63||83|
|Socialist Party (SP)||713,407||41.36||65|
|Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI)||180,470||10.46||16|
|Unity for Human Rights Party (PBDNJ)||14,722||0.85||1|
|Albanian Christian Democratic Party (PKDSH)||7,993||0.46||1|
|Coalition 'Alliance for Employment, Prosperity and Integration'||680,677||39.46||57|
|Democratic Party of Albania (DP)||528,373||30.63||50|
|Party for Justice, Integration and Unity (PDIU)||44,957||2.61||4|
|Republican Party of Albania (RPA)||52,168||3.02||3|
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 chief commander of the army. Since July 2012, the President of Albania is Bujar Nishani, who was member of the Democratic Party (DP), MP and Minister of Interior before being elected president. He was elected by the National Assembly with a simple majority (73 out of 140 votes), not being supported by the opposition.
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
OSCE Election Observation Mission Report
OSCE Presence in Albania
United Nations Development Programme
Human Development Report
Wikipedia on Albania
Wikipedia Parliamentary elections 2009
Wikipedia Local elections 2011
BBC Country Profile Albania
International Crisis Group: Albania page
CIA World Factbook – Albania
Transparency International CPI