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Election Controversy Arises in Albania

Posted July. 06, 2005 00:37,   


Albania has constantly suffered from foreign invasions and occupation except for a short period in the mid-15th Century when Scanderbeg, the country’s legendary hero, blocked the invasion of the Osman Turks and achieved national integration. Albania is a small country of 3.5 million people, which is still the poorest in Europe.

The general elections held on July 3 were supposed to decide whether the country would become a “member of Europe”. The election process was marred by various violent instances and controversy over irregularities, which is not so surprising since Albanians have the famous tradition of “bloody revenge” dating back the Middle Ages. Tirana, the capital city, appeared peaceful on the election day.

There were lines of posters of candidates in every street while noise were coming out of street tea shops, perhaps because there were heated debates on politics going on inside. But it was not very different from a regular Albanian street, according to “Ben,” a hotel employee. Even Scanderbeg Square, which had been crowded by massive election campaigns as recently as a few days earlier, was quiet with wandering jobless people and beggars.

The elections were not free from incidents. A staff member of the Election Management Committee was shot to death. Another was killed at a rally held to congratulate the victory of the opposition party. Morten Ostergaard, head of the election inspection delegation of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said, shaking his head, “Although we have watched this country’s elections over the past decade, we didn’t see the results we wanted,” adding, “This election has only partly met the international standards of a democratic election.”

The focus of the election was not the direction of the government. The real issue is how the U.S. and Europe evaluate the outcome of the Albanian general elections.

This is because only after the U.S. and Europe “approve” that a legitimate government was created by a democratic and fair election will Albania be able to join the EU and NATO. More than a decade has passed since the Communist regime collapsed. But the country is considered slower than any other Eastern Europe countries in making a transition of system. The country’s process is slower than the former Yugoslavian countries. There is also chronic poverty as a result of decades of Communist authoritarianism.

It seems inappropriate to call Albania a “sovereign country,” since its unemployment rate is at well over 30 percent, according to unofficial statistics, and it should get assistance from international organizations to conduct border control, the most basic responsibilities of a nation. The “overseas escape” of Albanians is continuing. Systemic illegal migration brokers are prevailing and even human trafficking rings are actively in operation, explain officials of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The country desperately depends on an EU membership, saying, “The membership is the only way to survive.” But there is prevailing pessimism among the people that the country’s sad journey will continue for a considerable period of time, considering the EU countries’ rejections of a European Constitution and the EU’s movement toward a veto on Turkey’s joining.