Albania is a country located in the region of Southern Europe. Since the fall of the Communist regime in 1991, Albanian politics has been characterized by bitter struggles between two major parties: the Conservative Democratic Party, which has sought to obliterate the Communist legacy, and the Socialist Party, which emerged from the old Communist Party. For as long as Albanian membership in the EU has been a comprehensive political goal for both parties. The Socialist Party has ruled the country since 2013 and gained renewed confidence by voters in the summer 2017 elections.
The two dominant parties regularly accuse each other of both electoral fraud and corruption, and boycotts of Parliament are common. In early 2019, the opposition led repeated demonstrations outside Parliament, demanding the departure of Prime Minister Edi Rama. The opposition with the Democratic Party (PD) leader Lulzim Basha at the head arranged the protests which several times degenerated into violence between protesters and police (see Calendar).
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Albania, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
The Democratic Party ruled Albania between 2005 and 2013, but in the June 2013 parliamentary elections, the Socialist Party (PS) with allied government resumed. PS leader Edi Rama, former mayor of Tirana, became new prime minister. Four years later, PS strengthened its position and gained its own majority. Thus, the opposition boycotts of Parliament are not particularly effective.
Prior to the 2013 election, political tensions had escalated and when voting lengths were published too late (and according to the opposition with major flaws), doubts arose as to whether the election would be conducted properly, which was considered crucial for Albania’s ability to prove politically mature for a rapprochement with the EU. Political power struggles within the electoral commission contributed to voluntary organizations questioning the electoral process. Information on voice purchases also appeared.
The contradictions were stepped up when the government’s support party Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) in April 2013 interrupted the collaboration and instead allied with the Socialist Party. In the same month, two criminal investigations were initiated against Edi Rama: one related to abuse of power and one abuse.
Two major alliances were formed before the election: PD collaborated with 24 smaller parties and PS with 36 parties. The election gave a clear victory to the Socialists.
The European Commission congratulated Albania for a well-executed election and the European Cooperation Organization, the OSCE, described the election as “free and fairly fair”. Prime Minister Sali Berisha acknowledged being defeated and resigned as leader of PD. New party leader became Tirana’s mayor Lulzim Basha, who was previously Minister of Transport, Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs.
Socialist leader Edi Rama became prime minister for a government of 21 ministers, including six women. In addition to the Socialist Party, the coalition partner LSI was included in the government.
Reform of the judiciary
In June 2014, after several previous refusals, Albania was approved as a candidate country for EU membership, which in principle meant that membership negotiations could begin. However, the EU first wanted to see a series of reforms, mainly in the administration and the judiciary, as well as further measures against corruption and organized crime.
In the summer of 2016, Parliament adopted a comprehensive judicial reform to put an end to corruption and organized crime’s influence in the justice system. A number of constitutional amendments and new laws will ensure that judges and prosecutors are appointed on legal merits, without the influence of politicians. The judicial reform was another step towards a start of negotiations with the EU on membership.
The June 2017 elections were also preceded by strong contradictions. For a while, the opposition boycotted the work in Parliament, demanding that the socialists hand over power to a temporary government that would guarantee fair elections. By mediating the EU, the boycott was interrupted since PD was given the right to appoint several ministers and gained dominance over the election commission. The elections were then conducted under fairly calm conditions and resulted in a convincing victory for the socialists, who became strong enough to be able to form government without any support party. For the first time, Albania got a government with as many female ministers as male.
Shortly before the election, Parliament had succeeded in appointing a new president, after several unsuccessful attempts. The new president Ilir Meta was prime minister for the turn of the century and then belonged to the Socialist Party (see further Calendar).
However, the political contradictions between the two dominant parties continued. In early 2018, thousands of PD supporters in Tirana demonstrated demanding the resignation of the government.
At the end of the year, PD interrupted an ongoing boycott of Parliament, but instead several tumultuous situations arose within the House. Just two months later, a new boycott was launched and the opposition has subsequently held repeated protests on the streets demanding the resignation of the government.
In the summer of 2018, the long-awaited message from the EU came that membership negotiations with Albania – and Northern Macedonia – could begin in 2019, although the EU Council of Ministers made it clear that the fight against organized crime and corruption must continue. The decision was then delayed when some countries with France at the forefront stopped, but in March 2020 came a clear sign for negotiations. However, no start date has been set.
A powerful earthquake that shook Albania in November 2019 focused on widespread cheating in the construction industry. The quake claimed the lives of 51 people while 17,000 became homeless when nearly 90 buildings were totally destroyed and over 80,000 damaged. In many cases, it was clear that the houses were built without regard to existing laws. Dozens of people were arrested as a result of the earthquake, including builders, engineers and former mayors.
Just months after the earthquake, the corona crisis came. The government introduced restrictions on operations and closed operations. The country managed without any major contagion, but the pandemic beats tourism.
Follow the ongoing development of the Calendar.
READING TIPS – read more about Albania in the UI web magazine Foreign
magazine : Political crisis lengthens Albania’s path towards the EU (2019-06-03)
FACTS – POLITICS
Republics of the Republic / Albania
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Ilir Meta (2017–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Edi Rama (2013–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Socialist Party (PS) 74, Democratic Party (PD) 43, Socialist Movement for Integration 19, Others 4 (2017)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Alliance for a European Albania (PS et al) 83, Alliance for Work, Welfare and Integration (PD et al) 57 (2013)
45% in the June 2017 parliamentary elections
2021 parliamentary elections