This is the first time in Albanian democracy that a party has been at the helm of the country for three consecutive terms. At a time when everyone thought that a political rotation would take place, the Prime Minister Rama received great support not only from the local electorate, but also from international officials.
During these years, Edi Rama made many friends and enemies around him. It is interesting that he managed to establish good relations and get support from countries that have "fair" relations with each other. It is very simple when your friends' friends are your friends, but in the case of Edi Rama, his friends are not friends with each other. However, when it comes to Albania, they all harmonize their 'interests' together.
Rama wins his third term
The Socialist Party won third consecutive term, and her followers are in euphoria. The opposition condemned their vote buying and manipulation and claimed that it would not recognize these elections. Instead of opening up and asking why it failed to come to power after eight years, the opposition fell silent. In the Democratic Party, which is the largest opposition party, internal elections were held, which were debatable due to lack of transparency. In these internal party elections, Lulzim Basha was elected leader for a third time. Large part of the electorate, but also many of the democratic officials, asked him to resign and not to run anymore. His election demoralized the right-wing voters, who expected a new spirit in the party and a leader who could win the power.
International officials who play a very important role in Albanian political life have said that there have been problems and incidents. They are concerned because the entire state apparatus has been made available to the Socialist Party, but according to the OSCE-OHDIR report, the elections managed to meet most of their mission.
It is very contradictory that the Albanian electorate does not believe that the Socialist Party will bring Albania into the European family, but when the time comes for elections, they vote for him and his party again. The Albanians are quite disappointed with the public appearances of the Prime Minister, who always blames Brussels for the unfulfilled promises of the European Union.
In 2013, Edi Rama was elected for the first time as Prime Minister and he found the country in rather warm relations with the missions of the foreign countries, Albania was a member of NATO, the visa regime with the Schengen area for Albanian citizens was abolished and the country fulfilled its tasks set by the European Union to continue the integration process. The wind was blowing towards the West, and the European direction followed by the country could be clearly seen in every political decision.
In the second term of Edi Rama, we see that his personal relations with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and with Aleksandar Vucic are increasing. It was exactly during the second term when Edi Rama managed to strengthen his position in a personal and political aspect with the international representatives, but also to create mainly internal conflicts and to lead the country in an authoritarian style. At this point he needed his friends to help him. For any problem or natural disaster, Prime Minister Rama sought out President Erdogan, and the latter has a magic wand that pulls Rama out of any helpless situation.
The earthquakes in 2019 brought to the fore the immediate assistance in material goods and human resources that the Turkish government brought to Albania. Many Turkish associations raised significant donations as President Erdogan formally promised to rebuild the devastated settlements, and most of the injured were evacuated to Turkish hospitals. During the strike of the air traffic controllers from "Albcontrol", some of the employees were fired, and others were arrested. Edi Rama again addressed Erdogan, who provided Turkish air controllers, so as not to close the only airport in the country. The story does not end here - in April the Turkish government finished the construction activities of the new hospital in the city of Fier, the construction of which was shown during the election campaign as an achievement of the Rama government.
The unexpected friendship with Serbia
In his second term, Edi Rama strengthened his personal and professional relations with Aleksandar Vucic and Serbia. The relations between the two countries have significantly improved with the signing of a visa waiver agreement between the two countries, and official Tirana is also a staunch supporter of the Balkan mini-Schengen (“Open Balkan”), which Albanian and Kosovo political analysts describe as a project contrary to the national interests of Albania and Kosovo.
The improved Rama-Vucic relations were evident in the support that Vucic gave to Rama during the election campaign. Aleksandar Vucic went to a press conference where he asked the electorate to vote for Edi Rama. This statement was long commented not only in the Albanian media, but also in the regional media. Turkey has always been a great friend of Albania and ready to help in any situation, but the immense support from Serbia is something new. From a historical point of view, it seems impossible for Albania to establish such good relations with Serbia. The Serbian idea of an “Open Balkan” is strongly supported by official Tirana, as if it were a project for development of our country.
Both Serbia and Turkey are two countries with fragile democracies and with authoritarian Eastern-style governments, which the European Union and Western countries view with skepticism. In both countries, leaders hold power with an iron fist for more than two terms, as in the case of Albania, where Rama won a third consecutive term.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Rama has excellent relations with the US Embassy and Western missions accredited in Tirana. The US Embassy, as the institution that supported and invested the most in judicial reforms, respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, congratulates Rama's cabinet on its achievements so far, stressing that the country is moving in the right direction. The relations are warm from a personal aspect as well, where the American ambassador Yuri Kim, organized a meeting with Prime Minister Rama two days after the election, expressing her full support.
Will Prime Minister Rama be able to continue to have such good personal and institutional relations with countries that have nothing in common with each other, and at some point Albania will have to take a side. But are Turkish friends in favor or against the warm Tirana-Belgrade relations, and what if the US is against strong Turkish or Serbian influence in Albania?
With his re-election, Edi Rama wants to take over all the power. Recently, the Parliament voted in favor of dismissal of President Ilir Meta. President Meta accused the activists and the Socialist Party of illegal wiretapping of Albanian citizens, thus violating basic human rights.
Where will the wind blow?
The latest moves by the ruling party, such as wiretapping of citizens and implementation of a system of party activists collecting citizens' personal data, are old policies, unacceptable in any European and Western country, and this will significantly affect the country's path to membership in the European Union. If the ruling party continues on this path and does not heed criticism of human rights and democracy violations, we will be moving further and further away from the country's western perspectives.
The Socialist Party's third term and Edi Rama as Prime Minister will show which geopolitical party Albania will join.
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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute of Communication Studies or the donor.