Albania

Last update: 5 months ago

The last Albanian parliamentary elections took place in April 2021. During the elections, the Socialist Party (PS) managed to maintain its majority in parliament. The party gained 74 seats once again, which secured the third consecutive term of former major of Tirana and PS leader Edi Rama as Prime Minister. The Democratic Party (DP) became second, winning 59 seats. The Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), which lost the largest portion of its votes. Its number of seats decreased from 19 to 4.  The minor Social Democratic Party of Albania (PSD) won 2 seats. Since the PS won a majority there is no government coalition. During the election campaign for the 2021 parliamentary elections confrontations occurred between Albania’s president Ilir Meta from the LSI, and incumbent Prime Minister Edi Rama. Meta repeatedly accused Rama of trying to steal the parliamentary vote and referred to Rama’s government as a ‘’kleptocratic regime’’.

Albania gained EU candidate status on 24 June 2014 after reform efforts and encouragements were agreed by the EU's Enlargement Commissioner. This was a key step in the right direction for a country that still has to deal with major corruption and crime issues. On March 25, 2020, the European Council decided to greenlight the opening of accession negotiations with Albania if they had fulfilled 15 conditions that were set up by the European Union.     

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Map of Albania

Short facts

Population:
2,878,052 (2020)
Governmental Type:
Emerging democracy
Ruling Coalition:
Socialist Party of Albania (PS)
Last Elections:
25 April 2021 (parliamentary elections)
Next Elections:
May 2023 (municipal & mayor elections)
Sister Parties:
Socialist Party of Albania (PS)
Image of Ilir Meta (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilir_Meta#/media/File:Ilir_meta.jpg)

Ilir Meta

President

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Image of Edi Rama

Edi Rama

Prime Minister

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Political Situation

For the last decade, Albania has been plagued with several crises where the opposition boycotts the parliament.  This happened again when the opposition parties Democracy Party (DP) and the Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI) boycotted the parliament in 2019. However, this boycott was ended after an agreement on electoral reforms was reached in June of 2020.        Nevertheless, tensions remained throughout 2020 and led to confrontations between Albania’s President Ilir Meta from the LSI and Edi Rama. In 2019, the parliament started an impeachment procedure against Meta. As a protest against this action, Meta actively organized antigovernment rallies and accused Edi Rama of attempting a coup and accused him of having links with international organized crime.

During the election campaign for the 2021 parliamentary elections confrontations between Rama and Meta continued. Meta repeatedly accused Rama of trying to steal the parliamentary vote. The pre-election period was also marked by protests and violence. The incendiary rhetoric coming from both sides led the European Union to issue a warming that parties should uphold mutual respect, dialogue and refrain from hate speech. In April, the pre-election atmosphere turned deadly when a shouting outside of Tirana left one person dead and four other injured. The incident occurred a few hours after President Meta intervened in the pre-electoral debates and called the government run by Rama a ‘’kleptocratic regime’’. He also accused Rama of inciting violence against opposition members.

Opposition protest regularly occur in Albania around election period. The corona pandemic and its restrictions have also led to protests in Albania. In December of 2020, a man was shot dead after he violated the country’s overnight curfew. This led to nationwide protests during which the police clashed with protestors for several nights in a row. The protests eventually resulted in the resignation of Albania’s Minster of Interior.

EU accession process and protests

On March 25, 2020, the European Council decided to greenlight the opening of accession negotiations with Albania if they had fulfilled 15 conditions that were set up. In October 2021, the European Commissioner for Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, presented the European Parliament’s progress report on Albania. The report stressed that Albania is ready to sit in accession talks with the EU. While there is still progress to be made in certain areas such as civil society and freedom of expression, the report commended the administration of the 2021 elections and the electoral reforms of 2020.  However, regardless of the positive progress report, Albania’s start of accession negotiations has been delayed because it’s accession path has been coupled to North Macedonia. Bulgaria is has been vetoing the start of the accession talks with North Macedonia due to cultural, language and human rights issues. A veto for North Macedonia has meant that Albania has also been unable to move forward. However, this might change in the near future. In December of 2021 Bulgaria’s EU Ambassador stated that Bulgaria would be in favor of uncoupling Albania and North Macedonia and assessing Albania independently. Bulgaria’s new Prime Minister also pledged in December of 2021 that there would be an U-turn on its stance towards North Macedonia’s EU ambitions, signaling Bulgaria would end its obstructions of Macedonia’s efforts to join the EU.

 

Human rights

Domestic and international human rights groups are generally able to operate without government restrictions and government officials are generally cooperative and responsive to their views. However, Albania does have significant human rights issues. These issues include problems restrictions on free expression and the press, corruption in all branches of the government and failure to enforce child labor laws. The independence of the judiciary also remains a problem in Albania. While individuals and organizations will try and seek civil remedies for human rights violations, courts were susceptible to corruption, inefficiency, intimidation and political tampering. Albanian law guarantees the political rights for citizens regardless of ethnic, lingual, racial or religious identity. However, Roma and other marginalized people remain vulnerable to political exploitation.

Women’s rights

Domestic violence is widespread in Albania. According to a UN Women survey from May 2019, 27 percent of the respondents experienced domestic violence from intimate partners in their lifetime. While the parliament has adopted some measures to combat domestic violence, few cases are prosecuted. Sexual violence against women also remains a problem in Albania. Rape, including spousal rape, is criminalized. The law also includes provisions on sexual assault. However the government fails to effectively enforce the law. Overall, the police is poorly equipped to handle cases of domestic violence or spousal rape, which is often not understood to be a crime.

The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. However, the government does not enforce the law effectively. Women are underrepresented in many fields at the highest levels. Furthermore, the law mandates equal pay for equal work, but this is not implemented by many private employers.   

LGBTI rights

Violence and discrimination against LGBTI people is an issue in Albania. In 2019, 65 cases of sexual violence and 152 cases of physical violence were reported to a national NGO. With regards to psychological violence 232 cases were reported. Only 34 cases were reported to the police due to a lack of trust in the institutions, fear of coming out or negative experiences with the police. Of the 34 cases that were reported, the authorities only took measures in one case. Hate speech incidents also increased in 2019.

Same sex marriage is not recognized in Albania. While the Albanian NGO the Pink Embassy has requested the government to eliminate legal discrimination against LGBTI persons and allow for LGBTI persons to get married and adopt children, there has been no progress regarding the issue.  However, a positive development with regards to LGBTI rights is that Albanian psychologists have banned the practice of conversion therapy. It is the third European country to ban the practice.  

Elections

Electoral system
Albania is a parliamentary republic with a unicameral parliament: the National Assembly. It consists of 140 members elected for a four-year term, and, under the constitutional guidelines, a government can be formed if a party or a coalition of parties gathers at least 71 seats in the National Assembly. The head of state in Albania is the president, who is elected for a five-year term by the parliament. The president has no legislative or executive power, but represents the state in foreign relations, and is the chief commander of the army. Since 24 July 2017, the President of Albania is Ilir Meta, leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI). He was elected by the National Assembly by a vote of 87 to 53.

Albania has a regional proportional voting system divided into 12 electoral regions. Capital Tirana, which is the largest region population-wise, elects 34 MPs. Political parties nominate an MP list for each region for the total number of seats. According to the electoral code, 30 per cent of the candidates in the top tier of the lists should be women, a rule that few parties respected in the June 2013 parliamentary elections. The prime minister is approved by the president with the approval of the parliament.

The 12 electoral constituencies correspond to the country's 12 administrative regions. Within any constituency, parties must meet a threshold of 3 per cent, and pre-election coalitions must meet a threshold of 5 per cent. This is a consequence of the new electoral code introduced in 2009. The threshold has been largely criticised, because of the obstacle that it presents to smaller parties. In fact, of all the political parties in Albania, only the PS and the PD favoured the new electoral system. Smaller parties contended that the reform served only the interests of those two main parties, while largely, if not entirely, excluding small parties from entering the parliament.

The centre-left coalition headed by the PS declared after the June 2013 elections that all cabinet ministers will resign their parliamentary seats to provide for a better separation of power and checks and balances between the government and the legislative branch.


Parliamentary elections

On 25 April 2021, parliamentary elections took place, in which the Socialist Party of Albania won convincingly by obtaining 48.7 per cent of the votes (74 out of 140 seats). Since 71 seats are needed for a majority, there will not be a parliamentary coalition. Former major of Tirana and SP leader, Edi Rama, will remain as Prime Minister for a third consecutive term. In the 2017 parliamentary elections, the PS also gained 74 seats. The unlikely opposition coalition of the Democratic Party of Albania (DP) and the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) was unable to gain a majority of the votes and topple Rama’s government. Thought the DP was the elections biggest winner, gaining 13, it did not matter. Most of its votes came from the LSI, which lost the largest portion of its votes. Its number of seats decreased from 19 to 4.  The minor Social Democratic Party of Albania (PSD) gained 2 seats as well. 

Election results 

 Parties

Votes 

%

Seats 

Seats in 2017

 Socialist Party (PS)

 768,250

 48.68%

 74 (0)

74

 Democratic Party of Albania (DP)

 622,265

 39.43%

 59 (+13)

43

 Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI)

 107,536

 6.81%

 4 (-15)

19

 Social Democratic Party of Albania (PSD)

 35,477

 2.25%

 3 (+2)

1




 

  

International observers
The joint observation mission from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE PA and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), observed the election. Their report stated that the counting process was accompanied by smaller incidents, with vote-buying remaining a significant problem. In a similar manner to 2017, the election campaign was marked by a gunfight, which left a Socialist member dead, with several others wounded. Some PS officials also seemed to have taken advantage of their governing positions, blurring the lines between the party and the government. During the heating campaign there were also concerns that the media failed to properly inform voters on the different political viewpoints of the parties, focusing mostly on the heated rhetoric between Prime Minister Rama, DP leader Basha and President Meta. However, observers also praised the “lively and inclusive campaign” and the “legal framework that helped ensure respect of fundamental freedoms”.

Aftermath
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing economic crisis, Prime Minister Rama faces a challenging task. Political stability seems to be in reach, with the opposition parties conceding defeat. Two years after the 2017 general elections the PD and LSI still boycotted parliament during the local elections, putting a strain on the legitimacy of Rama’s government. However, this does not seem likely to happen now. Although not in the most sincere manner, the opposition parties have conceded defeat. In his victory speech late on April 27 Rama claimed his most “most difficult but sweetest victory”. He suggested that he “broke the record” with this mandate for his “historic third term”. Rama vowed to make Albania the “Balkan champion, in tourism, energy, agriculture and in fast, qualitative, incorruptible digital services”. He also repeatedly promised government improvements as the country is dealing with an inefficient bureaucracy, high levels of corruption and high emigration rates. 


Presidential elections

The head of state in Albania is the president, who is elected for a five-year term by the parliament. The president has no legislative or executive power, but represents the state in foreign relations, and is the chief commander of the army. Since 24 July 2017, the President of Albania is Ilir Meta, the leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI). He was elected by the National Assembly by a vote of 87 to 53. In July of 2020, the parliament started an impeachment procedure against Meta for alleged constitutional violations. A special committee conducted an impeachment inquiry and concluded that Meta had overstepped his constitutional authority by postponing several local elections in June of 2019. However, this did not justify his impeachment.

 

Political parties

Social Democratic Parties

Logo of Socialist Party

Socialist Party (PS)

Party Leader: Edi Rama

Number of seats: 74

http://ps.al/

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Logo of Socialist Movement for Integration

Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI)

Party Leader: Monika Kryemadhi

Number of seats: 4

http://www.lsi.al/

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Logo of Social Democratic Party

Social Democratic Party (PSD)

Party Leader: Tom Doshi

Number of seats: 3

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Other Parties

Logo of Democratic Party of Albania

Democratic Party of Albania (DP)

Party Leader: Lulzim Basha

Number of seats: 59

http://www.pd.al/

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Biographies

Image of Ilir Meta (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilir_Meta#/media/File:Ilir_meta.jpg)

Ilir Meta

President

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Image of Edi Rama

Edi Rama

Prime Minister

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Image of Lulzim Basha

Lulzim Basha

Leader of the Democratic Party of Albania

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