'Electoral Silence' before Albania's Sunday Poll Amidst Tension Climaxing with Meta-Kim Clash

Editorial note

Albania is in 'electoral silence' on Saturday as its citizens will cast their vote in a general election on Sunday (25 April). Will it be a third mandate for the current government of prime minister Edi Rama, or he will be replaced by opposition nominee Lulzim Basha? This is the question and the reason why this election, which is the 10th since the end of communism in 1990, is widely-seen as the most important.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) has registered 46 political entities and three coalitions to run, including the 12-party Alliance for Change led by the Democratic Party, with 3,588,896 Albanian citizens eligible to vote, while 107,024 citizens vote for the first time.

In the meantime, the international election observation is in Albania on a joint mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). The mission totals 122 observers from 20 countries, including 37 ODIHR-deployed experts and long-term observers, 62 parliamentarians and staff from the OSCE PA, and 23 from PACE.

A struggling campaign ends in bitter taste

On Friday PM Edi Rama closed the campaign in Vlora, his stronghold in southern Albania, while the DP Head, Lulzim Basha finalized it in the Capital Tirana after a one-month campaigning marathon which was one of the harshest ever against the two camps. More than alternatives and solutions especially when the country is still gripped by the deadly pandemic and its economic and social repercussions, the campaign was mainly characterized by personal curses and offenses between the political opponents and President Ilir Meta was involved as Rama made him the main target of his attacks warning him from Vlora that the head of state would be taken home on Monday after elections.

But it was obvious the spirit of grotesque glorification of Vlora by PM Rama as surrounded by his family pleaded in the city's main square that if voters gave him and the SP 9 mandates, he would do 12 times more for the city than he did in these 2 mandates!!!

"12 times more for Vlora… When I say Vlora, I say Albania," Rama said. This will be remembered long as a heinous appeal of a PM carrying the spirit of national split in Albania between South and North, a bitter wound of the past communist regime which discriminated against the North for 5 decades. In the meantime, it is obvious that Rama did not mention at all the EU integration of Albania which seems a deviation from the standard policy of this country which aspires to join the Union.

While the DP head Basha called on Albanians to end an arena of conflict and division that serves only one man- Rama, who for 8 years in a row did nothing but get rich and accumulate more power than anyone else before him these 30 years. "We are with you, we are together, on April 25 our vote is for number 9," he said in the concluding rally in Tirana.  Differently from Rama, DP’s head said that after 100 days in power he would succeed to launch the first intergovernmental talks with the EU.

What happened after 9:52 PM of Apr 23, 2021

Like never before, internationals got involved not simply looking carefully at the normal process of the campaign but interfering in technical issues and taking sides sometimes in favor of the majority. It can be distinguished the US Ambassador, Yuri Kim who kept that momentum until Friday evening.

It was 9:52 PM of Apr 23, 2021 when Ambassador Kim did not hesitate to violate any diplomatic status getting into polemics with Albania’s President Ilir Meta as he was live in an interview on a local TV declaring that he had told internationals during a meeting in presidential premises to react today because tomorrow will be too late.

"You should not have tolerated Edi Rama when he broke the June 5 agreement, which was signed at the US Embassy headquarters. If you reacted after the event in Kavaja, the event in Elbasan would have been prevented," Meta said, adding that Edi Rama will be responsible for every drop of blood shed in Albania if it's not reacted to bring the culprits to justice.

In a tit-for-tat reaction as the interview of Meta was going on Kim broke out with a warning note on Twitter saying the following: "It is unacceptable for anyone to threaten that citizens will take up “pitchforks” on April 25 or if they don’t like the result of elections. These threats deserve condemnation. Those who incite violence will be held responsible for the results of their words and actions. Stop."

President to Kim: Stop protecting Rama!

The reaction of President Meta was immediate replying live to Ambassador Kim, telling her not to defend Rama anymore.

"Ambassador Yuri Kim just wrote to me live not to mention the forks. I tell the American ambassador not to defend Edi Rama anymore. Since she sent me a live ‘sms’, I told the American ambassador not to support Edi Rama anymore.

Since I am transparent, I am telling you the fact that the American ambassador asked me as President one day before the KED meeting to accept Adrian Dvorani and to appoint him again in KED and she told me that “we know some things about you". I immediately went out and pulled out the letter and told her to pull out what she had for me. I told her clearly. Madam, you are here for the relations of Albania and America and not of Serbia. Do not continue to support Edi Rama," said Meta in high tones.

"She demanded this not on behalf of America, but on behalf of Edi Rama. I embrace the American ambassador and tell her you have intervened enough in the internal affairs of Albania in this one-sided way," said Meta.

During the interview, Meta invited Ambassador Yuri Kim to join him live in the ongoing interview to confront him.

"Yuri Kim's statement is a shame and I invite the ambassador to come live to the studio now together with Edi Rama to face Albanians," said Meta.

It would be a miss not to bring to attention that Kim, as a representative of US democracy, has kept silent on what happened in Congress when premises of Congress were stormed last November.

But Kim used to comment daily on 'wrongdoings' of Rama's adversaries saying not a single word on the so-called "patronozhists" - the SP spies - assigned to steal voters' personal data, a scandal which has got local and international condemnation.

Joining this front of denouncement Ambassador of Croatia, an EU country, Zlatko Kramaric, did not stay silent declaring publicly on Friday that it is not possible and inadmissible for any political party to have access to the list and data of any citizen, voters.

"This is unacceptable and in that sense we have an understanding of the President's letter warning of this incident, a phenomenon that will surely generate new conflicts in Albanian society. The ability for anyone to have insight and someone’s private information is against democratic standards. It is an open threat to democracy, to all its values. It’s a bad replay of Orwell’s lyrics; it's even worse than his imagination, since his 1984!

All this calls into question the election process itself. More precisely, it unnecessarily contaminates it. It should be repeated once again - the state is not the same as society, just as it is not possible to put a sign of equality between society and the state. Likewise, it is inadmissible for any party to have a monopoly over the state.

Such behavior is not the right path in the process of building a democratic-liberal society, then in that context it makes sense and the question that was asked the other day at a forum whether democracy in Albania will survive on April 25.

At first it seemed to me and my colleague Japelj, the Slovenian ambassador, that the thesis was too pessimistic, but in light of all these events, intrusion into the citizens' data system, a wave of violence before the elections, vote buying, then it no longer looks like that unreal ... it is, unfortunately, a harsh Albanian reality," said Ambassador Kramaric of Croatia, NATO member country in strategic partnership with Albania.

Nothing can be added more on the tense atmosphere in which Albanians are going to cast their ballots to elect the 140 – member Parliament starting to cast their ballots from 7 o’clock in the morning on April 25: a harsh Albanian reality!