Albania

Last update: 1 month 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 mayor 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), 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 Ilir Meta, Albania’s president at the time 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’’. Meta was succeeded by Bajram Begaj of the Socialist Party. He became the 9th president of Albania on 24 July 2022.

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. However, the start of accession negotiations was stalled due to a Bulgarian veto as the candidacy was linked to that of North Macedonia. On 24 June 2022, Bulgaria lifted its veto and after North Macedonia accepted a revision of the French Proposal on 16 July 2022, accession negotiations with Albania officially started on 19 July 2022.

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Map of Albania

Short facts

Population:
2,811,666 (World Bank 2021)
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 Bajram Begaj (Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/98/Major_General_Bajram_Begaj.png)

Bajram Begaj

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 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. On 16 February 2022, the Constitutional Court of Albania overturned the impeachment against Meta and ruled that accusations of the parliament against him were not in violation of the constitution.

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 warning that parties should uphold mutual respect, and 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 others 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.

In January 2022, the headquarters of Albania’s Democratic Party, a main opposition party within the Albanian political landscape, was violently stormed by protesters. The event followed an internal power struggle between former president Sali Berisha and the Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha. Protestors were on the side of Berisha, who was thrown out of the party in 2011 and accused Basha of being a traitor and a “hostage” of current PM Edi Rama. Albania’s Democratic Party condemned the storming of the headquarters. Basha stepped down after following defeats in local elections against Berisha’s newly formed House of Freedom coalition. However, the disputed party leadership is now between Berisha, who is a persona non grata in the USA., and newly installed party leader Enkelejd Alibaej. As a result, political unrest remains and Berisha remains to push parts of the opposition to rally and protest against the government, with the most significant protest on 7 July 2022.

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 its accession path has been coupled to North Macedonia. Bulgaria 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 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 a U-turn on its stance towards North Macedonia’s EU ambitions, signaling Bulgaria would end its obstructions of North Macedonia’s efforts to join the EU.

However, the start of accession negotiations was stalled due to a Bulgarian veto as the candidacy was linked to that of North Macedonia. Eventually, Bulgaria lifted a veto against the accession of North Macedonia and Albania after French President Macron brokered a deal called the French Proposal. On 24 June 2022, Bulgaria lifted its veto and after North Macedonia accepted a revision of the French Proposal on 16 July 2022, accession negotiations with Albania officially started on 19 July 2022.    

Cyberattacks and Albanian-Irani relations

On 15 July 2022, Albanian digital governmental services were temporarily shut down due to cyberattacks, which are believed to be originating from Iran. Albanian-Irani relations are at an all-time low as tensions between the countries are running high since Albania decided to host the Mujahedin-e-Khalq organization (MEK) in 2014. MEK is considered to be a cult-like revolutionary group with a tumultuous history. Both the USA and the UK have determined the group as a terrorist organisation in the past but delisted the group in 2009 (UK) and 2012 (USA). Approximately 3,000 MEK supporters reside in Camp Ashraf 3 in Manez, roughly 30 kilometres west of Tirana. On 7 September 2022, Albanian authorities ordered all Iranian diplomats and staff to leave the embassy.

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 with 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 of citizens regardless of ethnic, lingual, racial, or religious identity. However, Roma and other marginalized people remain vulnerable to political exploitation.

In July 2022, NGOs in Albania warned that arbitrary restrictions imposed by the Albanian government are affecting the media’s ability to function as a watchdog. In an open letter to Edi Rama, they warned about decisions that obstruct free and independent journalism in Albania. On the RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, Albania is ranking 103rd and is dropping annually by 20 places. The deteriorating press freedom in Albania is a big concern to civil society and the democratic process in Albania.

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 for sexual assault. However, the government fails to effectively enforce the law. Overall, the police are 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.

LGBTQ rights

Violence and discrimination against LGBTIQ people are issues in Albania. In 2019, 65 cases of sexual violence and 152 cases of physical violence were reported to a national NGO. With regard 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. In 2022, a nationwide questionnaire revealed low acceptance levels among Albanians regarding interaction with LGBTIQ people in their daily lives. There were no significant differences in rural-urban division or age among the results. The results confirm that homophobia remains an important issue in the country.

Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Albania. While the Albanian NGO the Pink Embassy has requested the government to eliminate legal discrimination against LGBTQ persons and allow LGBTQ persons to get married and adopt children, there has been no progress regarding the issue. However, a positive development with regard to LGBTQ rights is that Albanian psychologists have banned the practice of conversion therapy. It is the third European country to ban the practice. In October 2020, Albania expanded its anti-discrimination law which included prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sex characteristics and HIV status. However, an additional challenge to the amendment is to spread awareness among the LGBTQ community about the existence of this law and to institutionalise protection from discrimination. 

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.

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 percent 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. Though the DP was the election's 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 OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) published a final report on the observation mission for Albania’s 2021 parliamentary elections. The report stated that the elections offered a legal framework that supported the inclusiveness of campaigns and fair participation. . The pre-election environment did deal with partisan acts of localised violence according to NDI. Furthermore, there are several allegations of voter-buying and intimidation, as well as the SP’s alleged misuse of public resources and personal data to benefit them in the elections. There was also a relatively large number of invalid votes compared to previous elections according to NDI.

The ODIHR stated that in Albania’s crowded media environment, electoral campaigns are not proportionally broadcasted due to the owner’s interest and self-censorship. This limits voters in their ability to make an informed choice. There were no televised debates between political leaders. According to ODIHR, voting was smooth and calm, with preventive measures of the COVID-19 pandemic being respected, as well as the secrecy of voting and a largely transparent process. Some 30 criminal investigations of vote-buying and some 50 criminal cases on other irregularities were initiated in relation to the 2021 elections. Nonetheless, the ODIHR concludes that the election is considered an open and transparent process where parties’ procedural rights are respected and where decisions are reasonably justified.

Aftermath

The Albanian parliamentary elections of 2021 brought an end to the political crisis that started with the organisation of protests and rallies by opposition parties in February 2019. Rama’s Socialist Party won the elections and he personally claimed a third term as prime minister of Albania. Three days after the elections, 10 members of the Democratic Party called for Basha’s resignation as the leader of the party. He stayed on only to resign later after another defeat in the local elections of 2022. 


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 June 4, 2022, the President of Albania is Bajram Begaj, who was the army's chief-of-staff since 2020. He was elected by the National Assembly by a vote of 78 in favour, four against and one abstaining. Most of the opposition boycotted the vote. Begaj succeeds Ilir Meta, who had frequent quarrels with PM Edi Rama, and it is expected that he will keep more of a low profile than his predecessor. 

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 (PD)

Party Leader: Lulzim Basha

Number of seats: 50

http://www.pd.al/

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Biographies

Image of Edi Rama

Edi Rama

Prime Minister

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Image of Lulzim Basha

Lulzim Basha

Former leader of the Democratic Party of Albania

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

Ilir Meta

Former President

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Image of Bajram Begaj (Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/98/Major_General_Bajram_Begaj.png)

Bajram Begaj

President

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