Ruling and Opposition parties reach agreement
Albania's ruling leftists and opposition rightists have at last signed an agreement on the June 2001 general election, the first such agreement to be reached without international mediation.
Representatives of the Socialist, Social Democrat, Democratic Alliance, and Human Rights Union parties, known as the "Alliance for the State," met for five hours with their counterparts from the Democratic, Republican, Right Union, Liberal, and Pro-Monarchist parties, known as the "Union for Democracy." The ruling parties said they hoped the roundtable would institutionalize the dialogue between the two groups, which should serve to improve the political climate and encourage a free and uncontested electoral process.
Socialist Party (SP) General Secretary Gramoz Ruci told reporters that other meetings would follow. Ruci said that these talks would initially help establish a better knowledge of the election infrastructures, and that expert groups would continue the process: "We guarantee openness in order to prevent any disruption of the electoral process in Albania. We also accept the Democrats' proposal to establish a Parliamentary Commission to review voter rolls."
Jemin Gjana, the Democratic Party (DP) vice president, replied that the DP thanks the Socialists and the rest of the ruling majority for organizing the roundtable. "It is important," said Gjana, "that there is a common will for reaching a solution. Changes must be made in order to avoid a repeat of the mistakes of the last local elections."
Berisha does 180-degree turn
Last week during a meeting of the Democratic Party (DP) National Council, Sali Berisha, former Albanian president and current DP leader, appealed to former pluralist allies who have left the party during the last 10 years. The appeal to the defectors appears to be an effort to deal with one of Berisha's gravest leadership problems. It also served to confirm the serious haemorrhaging of support the party has been suffering during the last decade.
Berisha declared that the party has made it a priority to persuade the dissenters to return to the DP. If they succeed in reuniting the right wing, he said, the Democrats would be demonstrating their ability to unite all Albanians.
Saying the DP should join forces with the Albanian intelligentsia in a commitment to provide Albania the best governance ever, Berisha declared that the intellectual elite—and not what he termed "smugglers" (referring to the Socialists)—deserves to rule the country. The DP leader also said that achieving social peace was a precondition to real progress in the country.
Berisha's radically new position has taken center stage in the commentary of political analysts and his former allies, who were totally unprepared for such a move. His appeal threatens to eclipse the activities of the New Democratic Party led by Genc Pollo, once a Berisha ally and now a Democratic Opposition challenger to Berisha's leadership.
Pashko and Ruli ignore Berisha appeal
According to the newspaper Shekulli, two founders and former senior leaders of the DP, Gramoz Pashko and Genc Ruli, have rejected Berisha's invitation to rejoin the party. Pashko, a former deputy prime minister, and Ruli, former finance minister, stated that his invitation lacks sincerity.
Ruli, who has a long experience as a close associate of Berisha, appeared to be very sceptical of the DP leader's latest move. While acknowledging that Berisha is certainly free to change views, Ruli considers this latest appeal from the very man who caused the current divisions in the party as unreliable: "To trust that Berisha will liberate DP politics and change its strategy is the same as believing that Hitler would de-nazify Germany!"
In Pashko's opinion, no invitation issued by Berisha in the last ten years of Albanian political pluralism has been sincere. Observing that Berisha has taken no follow-up actions to his verbal statement, Pashko said that he would respond to the DP leader's invitation once he has reason to believe in its sincerity.
Limprecht visits Korca
US Ambassador Joseph Limprecht visited Korca last week, where he met with Mayor Gjergji Duro and with local leaders of the Democratic and the New Democratic parties. Fredi Olli, chairman of DP's Korca branch, briefed Limprecht on the party's position on the October 2000 elections, including the "unilateral" actions of the police in the elections, and told the ambassador that officials had been dismissed from local government after the elections.
Limprecht also met with two leaders of the New Democratic Party in Korca, who said that the party would put forward candidates for deputy throughout the entire zone of Korca in the next parliamentary elections.
Jupe attacks politicos on Çamëria issue
In an open letter, Hamdi Jupe has charged that: "The petty interests of someone who considers Saranda's sea coast an electoral property have inspired this change, which presents a very delicate political problem." Jupe, a Socialist member of parliament and general committee member, sent the letter to the president of the republic, the president of parliament, the president of the Electoral Zones Commission, the president of parliament's Foreign Commission, and the Socialist and Democratic party leaders.
Jupe's letter accuses politicians of ignoring the national case of Çamëria by changing the Saranda electoral zones. The SP deputy is disturbed that about 5,000 voters in the Çamëria Konispol region have been added in with about 20,000 Greek minority voters in rural zones. "The electoral campaign and its political interests have caused the parliamentary parties to forget that there is something more important than the question of which political party will govern Albania—and that is the nation's history."
Following the 1913 Ambassador's Conference, the Çamëria region was allotted to Greece, leaving only seven Çamëria villages in Albania. Between 1921 and 1926, the Greek government set about trying to expel Albanian Muslims from Çamëria in order to allot their lands to Greeks who had been deported from Asia Minor.
After World War II the official Greek position-which still prevails today-was that the Muslim population of Çamëria had collaborated with the German occupation forces during the war and should therefore be considered war criminals and sentenced according to Greek law.
In fact, Greek authorities approved a law sanctioning the expropriation of Çamëria properties, citing the community's collaboration with the Germans as justification for their actions. Since that time, the ownership of former Çamëria lands has been a central issue in Albanian-Greek relations.
Artur Nura, 5 March 2001
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