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Party Rebels Undermine Opposition Boycott of Albanian Parliament

Albania's two main opposition parties are struggling to maintain a united front in boycotting the country's parliament, and so bring down the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama.
The mostly empty section for the Albanian opposition in parliament on March 5, 2019. Photo: LSA

A drive by the main opposition parties in Albania to bring down the government by boycotting parliament appears to be failing, as more and more candidates from the parties agree to replace the absent MPs.

Four candidates from the opposition Democratic Party and three from the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI, have now broken ranks and defied their respective parties’ decisions to boycott parliament.

They agreed to serve as MPs for the next two years after taking their oaths on Wednesday. Four more election candidates from LSI took their oaths last week, bringing the total of those defying the boycott to 11.

The two main opposition parties quit the Albanian parliament in Tirana in February, aiming to create a political crisis and bring down the Socialist Party-led government of Edi Rama.

But, under the country’s system of closed party lists, vacancies in parliament are automatically offered to the election candidates next in line in their respective parties.

After about 41 of the 43 Democratic Party MPs resigned last month, their mandates are being duly offered to the next candidates in the last election. The party fielded about 190 candidates in the last general election.

Many of LSI election candidates have already agreed to replace the absent MPs. Of the 17 or so of the party’s 19 MPs who resigned last month, six have been replaced. The LSI had 146 candidates in the last election.

Albania’s Western allies have criticized the opposition boycott as undemocratic and have urged individual MPs to defy their leaders on the matter.

Meanwhile, while Rama has called the new replacement MPs “the new opposition”, their respective parties have called them traitors.

The government claims the parliament is fully functional now. But the opposition claims money has changed hands to get the new MPs into the parliament.

One of the new MPs has issued a grandiose declaration, saying “he will decide [matters] after consulting with Western partners”, and claiming that he will work “to preserve the country’s stability”.

The decision to quit the parliament has created family conflicts.

Rudina Hajdari, daughter of legendary Democratic Party leader Azem Hajdari, who was murdered in 1998, has refused to resign as an MP and been banished from the party. Her brother, Kiri, has supported the decision of the party to relinquish its mandates.

Albania introduced a closed list system back in 2008 following a political agreement between the Socialist and Democratic parties.

The decision has been widely criticized for giving party leaders too much power, and for weakening representative democracy.

Gjergj Erebara