Where is Albania and Where is it Going?

By Teodor Keko


May 28, 1994

Albania! Quite near Italy and Greece. An ancient country but with very few ancient relics, it continues to remain a land unknown by most of Europe. Perhaps the famous Albanian writer Ismail Kadare explained the character of this people well in his books, where it is seen theoretically by the critics as an interlacing of the real and unreal, which practically is the complicated character of the Albanian.  It is separated in two parts – even in two different minds – Albanians are the people with the most meaningful symbol, the double-headed eagle on their flag.

For many people what we do is not understandable. On March 25, 1992, 75% of the votes were given against the Socialists, but exactly four months later, in the local elections, 50% of the votes were given to the Socialists. It was a victory that should have been deeper if we consider what was said about the July elections: that they were manipulated in Fier etc. It is difficult to understand what made people change their minds so soon, when the new government had no more than 100 days of existence.

It is said that Albanians have a sense of smell. There is even a proverb that says that rotten things smell soon.  Actually, they should have a sense of smell.  After two years of the governing DP under the flag of democracy, it does not seem like the staff of today’s politicians have many chances to remain on the political scene of the country. About the current politicians and ministers, the people of the capital do not speak well. The ministers are accused of embezzling large sums of money.  Some arrests have been made but silence and mystery shrouded these cases. Even when the freedom and independence of the press is in a desperate situation, RTSH, an institution dependent on the parliament, has become a spokesman of Berisha, and this is not noticed only by those who know Albanian. The opposition does not appear anywhere, even in the cultural programs.  Readers and viewers can easily notice that there are months during which the names of well known writers such as Neshat Tozaj, Dritero Agolli, A. Frangaj, N. Lesi… have disappeared. Pen names are being used in the most popular paper of the opposition, Zëri i Popullit.  The Albanian journalist calls this “creative democracy,” ironically comparing it with the “creative socialism” of Enver Hoxha. The fact that the press is not free shows that the DP does not have a pure democratic concept. Some ministers of the DP have ordered their staff not to give information to journalists without their permission.

Even in the street you cannot say your opinion openly because you may have to deal with the secret service or, if you are a state official, you may lose your job. It is painful to hear the deputies of the DP addressing this opposition with: Shut your mouth!  We saw you for 45 years in succession…  It is exactly like the dictator’s language right after the war.  Shut up!  We saw you during the war…

No one has learned the lessons of history. Very few politicians know that democracy is made by the twin of position-opposition. The power of justice does not have the slightest independence. Berisha is person number one of the country, in full meaning of the word “one,” and does not like very much the independence of powers. A general prosecutor who tried to be independent was immediately fired.

The same things Albanians have said about Ruli, the former minister of finance, who presented an unconvincing resignation.

Most of the other political parties do not agree with the DP privatization policy and have said that they will not accept it in the future.  They say there is corruption, and the DP is grabbing all the country’s valuable property. If we add the unconvincing imprisonment of Nano, the fact that the Communist Party is illegal, the fact that the PAD is not legalized, the future of the DP will be gloomier still.

Albanians have understood this.  Some of them who are against the DP say that, even in 1996, the power must be given to the DP so as to avoid revenge. Another part says that the DP will not relinquish power without bloodshed. It can easily be proven that in Albania there is corruption and there is no legal state. Special stories can be written about the violations of human rights and press freedom, foreign policy, the paralyzed economy or Albanians’ tendencies to leave the country.  All of these and other important problems lead to the question: Where is Albania going?  What shall the opposition do in Albania?

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About Fred Abrahams

Author of Modern Albania: From Dictatorship to Democracy (NYU Press, 2015)

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