Europe

Learning from past mistakes and moving ahead in the wake of the Albanian elections

In the first days of this week after the election results were announced, I conducted a computer exercise, dividing the result of each subject in each county and listing the quotients who correspond to the MP mandates won. In other words, I applied the D’Hondt formula, which was named after a 19th-century Belgian mathematician, and is commonly used around the world to distribute mandates. (I was not doing what was on every portal)

I was imagining what if the electoral code had not been changed unilaterally by Edi Rama last autumn and that the Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration were both competing within the United Opposition coalition, but each with its own list. The result of this exercise surprised me. In five constituencies the opposition received one more mandate than it currently has in Tirana, Durres, Berat, Vlora and Gjirokastra. With this result, the Socialist Party received only 69 seats and the United Opposition, 68. The kingmaker remained the Social Democratic Party, which in September would likely do what its chairman said on April 26.

Personal and collective responsibility

In February 2019, the parliamentary group of the Democratic Party discussed and approved an unusual proposal that the MPs heard a day before on TV – the definite leave from the assembly, or as it is also known “the burning of mandates”. Two months later, the National Council of the Democratic Party discussed and approved another unusual proposal “to commit to preventing the holding of façade elections” or as it is already widely known, the boycott of the local elections of June 30, 2019.

The decision-making took place in an atmosphere influenced for months by a popular superstition that such extreme measures would automatically bring about a change of government. But even those members of the group and of the council who were little influenced by superstitions faced a difficult dilemma; to reject the proposal also meant public delegitimization of the leadership. All this was before local elections were to be held,  followed by those for the parliament.

Seen in retrospect, both the proposal and the decision were wrong. Perhaps the goal would have been achieved if it was consciously acknowledged that the costs of a “color” revolution, like in Ukraine and Georgia, one would have been worth it and the will to get things done would have been hardened, even when the end was near the extreme. But, however, that did not happen.

It is true that the public inside and outside became aware of Rama’s bandit oppression and some internationals began to open their eyes to him. But since the two opposition acts did not bring the promised political change, the neutral part of the public began to see them as a problematic venture.

As for the internationals, both big and small, the concern that such recklessness was becoming an opposition practice in the Balkans, the Caucasus and beyond was much bigger than the internal problems of Albania. That was enough and more for them to become aggressive with the opposition.

I have to take responsibility for my vote regarding the wrong decision; perhaps even to apologize to those who voted for me as a Member of Parliament and a member of the Council.

If only I could turn back time

Looking in retrospect does not mean practicing hindsight bias. This self-critical analysis helps to understand what happened and serves us all as an experience.

If the Democratic Party, and the whole opposition, had not “burned the mandates” then Rama would not have been able to abrogate the pre-electoral coalitions that were practiced in the last two decades and would not have been able to take 2.8% of parliamentary seats just with this trick; or even five of them as the exercise above showed me. Those who remind me that the fault can be found more to the thief than the guard can have an answer which explains that you don’t have to leave everything before the predator as a gift. 

Boycotting the local elections, I predict, was not a path to triumph for the Democratic Party and the whole of the opposition. The Democratic Party alone won 1/4 of the municipalities in 2015. The opposition could have realistically hoped for more four years later. Rama took all the municipalities in the country without competition and misused them for elections, thereby massively increasing electoral employment. I would not recommend that the missing Democratic Party municipalities do the same.

It is clear that they would greatly help with campaign canvassing, especially in three or four constituencies where the d’Hondt formula for two or three hundred votes sent the last mandate from the opposition parties to the ruling Socialist Party.

Epilogue

If the opposition did not venture off track in the spring of 2019, most likely it would manage to win at least 70-71 seats. If the Rama government in the campaign would not buy votes, abuse the state and call on bandits for help, control the media and so on, the victory of the opposition would be deeper. But the opposition could not stop the latter. I could go further and speculate about ‘what if?’ the opposition had not made certain mistakes, but this seems unnecessary now.

This is not about crying over spilt milk. Political life goes on, as well as the need to learn lessons and not repeat mistakes.

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