The Albanian government is currently at a standstill leading up to the June 18 national parliamentary election. The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) has boycotted parliament since February, blocking votes and stalling justice reforms approved last year that are crucial in starting EU accession talks.
In its February announcement, the DP demanded “free and fair” elections and the resignation of Prime Minister Edi Rama, and the coalition grew especially angry when Rama’s Socialist Party (SP) used its majority position on April 28th to elect Speaker of Parliament Ilir Meta as the new president. Meta, leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), joined forces with Rama in the prior June 2013 election, and both politicians have been involved in past corruption scandals.
The opposition plans to continue its boycott through the June election, contending the current government is corrupt and rigged recent local elections. The group will be holding its next rally in the capital of Tirana on Saturday, May 13th which is “expected to be the biggest that the opposition has yet held.”
Protests and demonstrations
On February 18, 2017, opposition members pitched a tent in front of Rama’s office, and thousands of protestors demonstrated to replace Rama with a technocrat/caretaker government.
DP opposition leader Lulzim Basha said, “Let us stay together to have free and fair elections which we can only achieve by kicking out this government of crime and (replacing it with) the technocrat government of free elections […] Free elections, or no elections at all.”
The opposition claims that Prime Minister Rama supports known criminals in mayoral elections and does dirty dealings with corrupt judges.
History repeats itself
Four years ago, the Democratic Party was in power. Rama beat them. Ironically, while Socialists were in the minority, they also boycotted Parliament. They even accused Sali Berisha, who was the prime minister at that time, of electoral fraud.
Four years ago, the political dynamics were the same, just reversed.
This year on February 22, Basha publicly announced the DP's boycott of parliament.
On April 25, European Union officials sat down with Albanian leaders with the goal of brokering a settlement.
The OSCE mission, US and EU experts required “free and fair” elections, decriminalization, a real fight against narcotics, technical measures for improving conduct of elections, and political confidence-building measures.
Meanwhile, on May 13, the opposition Democrats said they would organize "the biggest protest ever seen." DP opposition leader is Lulzim Basha said "We are going to conduct a peaceful war to stop the country from being taken hostage by crime and drugs."
Rama and Meta: alleged past corruption
In 2015, an internal OSCE report that was leaked to Albanian news sources said Rama obtained €200 million through corrupt means and then put the money in offshore bank accounts.
In an April 2017 article, Forbes said “Prime Minister Rama now presides over a criminal enterprise that has transformed Albania into a center for European drug trafficking and organized crime.”
Former speaker of Parliament Eli Meta has "a long career in politics has been dotted with allegations of corruption, abuse of power and voter fraud. In 2011, he was indicted on corruption charges after he appeared in a secretly filmed video, apparently discussing bribes with former economy minister Dritan Prifti.”
He was cleared of all charges by the country's Supreme Court.