On the occasion of the June 23 elections, the electoral message must be read on two levels. First, in relation to Albanian democracy in general. Secondly, in relation to political parties in particular.
In relation to Albanian democracy, the result of 23 June constitutes a moment of hope. In fact, he has shown us that the real engine of Albanian democracy is not the local elite nor the international elite, but the Albanian people itself.
Instead, in relation to political parties, the electoral message is full of shadows. While we have a suspension of governing, which is demonstrated by the profound loss of PD, we do not have a suspension of mal-governance, as demonstrated by the growth of LSI.
Let's look at these two moments in more detail.
As for the Albanian democratization, the 23 June elections undoubtedly mark a more than positive step. The voting and counting process was one of unprecedented serenity. Acceptance of the final result and rotation of the government in a quiet and democratic way. All this is certainly not due to electoral institutions, much less to the presence of the international factor. This exemplary process is due solely to the result, being this very clear paralyzed any attempt at manipulation.
Another moment that pours light and hope is the rejection of political regionalism by the electorate. Regionalist politics is the fruit of the Albanian political elite, both right and left.
The right wing of Berisha, though rarely using regionalistic terms, has increasingly inserted its own loyal militants into various institutions, which often corresponded to their northern ramparts. This was a direct consequence of a reduction in the representative dimension of the PD, which increasingly followed a regional clientelistic policy. At the joint level, this policy also benefited from the fact that Berisha continued to invite the people not to vote for Rama representing him as an anti-northern, or even the arrogance with which Josefina Topalli marked her northern identity, often refusing openly standard Albanian.
The left of Rama, often tended to see the north as a bastion of the PD, as an electorate immobilized in its primordial identity. This logic was often identified with the prototype of the northern mountaineer who, while drowning in the water, raises on his two fingers (gestures often used by Berisha).
On the other hand, Tirana was compared to a small America compared to the people of the north who had descended there, comparing them to foreigners, to Italian refugees in America or to Albanians in Greece or Italy. Moreover, during the electoral campaign, the fact that Rama and his wife were of urban origin, from Tirana, was repeatedly highlighted.
The result of Berisha's policies that created increasingly regionalist institutions, pushed the supporters of the PS to look with suspicion on the North.
The result was a political articulation that was based less and less on ideological and social divisions, but increasingly on regionalist ones.
In this respect, the Albanian political elite (with some exceptions such as the LSI) played a rather regressive role in relation to the country. Instead of contributing to overcoming these regional divisions, it often fed regional fragmentation.
In this respect, the result of the 23 June was somewhat emancipatory, regardless of the winner or the loser. First of all, the result has shown that the electorate cannot be treated as a regional bastion. Second, the result has given a low blow to regional political mobilization. The vote of the left in the north indicates that the electorate seeks integration and not the divisions between regions. Since the problems faced by the Albanians are always the same both in the North and in the South. The fact that this result took even the left by surprise shows just how unprepared a large part of it was in seeing the north in non-regionalistic terms.
So we can say that, after the June 23 elections, it is up to the political elite to show themselves up to the electorate. This must be highlighted because our model of democratization is beyond elitist and tends to see problems among the people, while solutions at the local or international political elite. Albanian politicians, analysts and intellectuals have taken an elitist approach, on the one hand inspired by the Faik Konica model, on the other hand it is reinforced by the elitist process of EU integration.
In this type of approach, the elite often complains of ignorance of the people against which it raises and differentiates itself.
It is a problematic approach not only because it is based on cultural racism or because it is of oriental character, going far beyond Konica. The problem is that such an approach completely ignores empirical reality. In these 20 years of democracy it was the people who brought change, both in the case of the fall of the communist regime in the 1992, and during the popular uprising of the 1997, both during the 2005 elections and finally now. The elite was too tied to power and the status quo to be the engine of change; consequently, it served more as a guide. Therefore the current elections can serve as a sort of corrector of the dominant elitist perspective that believes in democracy coming from the top down, namely Europe - Albania, elite - people, city - country.
So far we have dealt with the positive potential of the June 23 elections in relation to Albanian democracy in general. Now we will try to read the vote of the electorate in relation to existing political forces. In this respect the lights intertwine strongly with the darkest shadows.
There are two moments that must be taken into consideration in the current result. First, the loss of PD. Secondly, the significant growth of LSI. These are also the two exclusive new features of this campaign. Very few expected such a profound loss of PD and such drastic growth of LSI.
As for the loss of the PD, I believe that current analysts are right when they say that it was a vote clearly against Prime Minister Berisha.
However, we must not overlook the fact that the loss of the PD must also be read as a consequence of Berisha's refusal to make the 2009 vote public. Also in the 2009 the Albanian electorate voted against Berisha as prime minister. In the 2009 elections, PS and LSI together got more votes than the PD coalition. This was a blatant anti-Berisha vote.
Later, after the coalition with LSI, Berisha began to behave as the prime minister of a political majority and not a mere mathematical majority. Despite the electorate's verdict, he increased his power by putting under his control even the "natural" parts of the state, such as the President. This was somewhat arrogant political behavior. Intertwining in addition to the economic deterioration, it has led the electorate to reaffirm even more strongly the message of the 2009.
However, the anti-Berisha vote should not be interpreted simply as an idealistic vote that condemned the current bad government. In the June 23 elections, the "idealistic" vote of the protest was closely intertwined with the pragmatic vote of labor. Otherwise there would be no other explanation for the spectacular growth of LSI. And here we enter the dark parts of the electoral message.
The real winner of the 23 June was the LSI party and its clientelist political model: I work in exchange for the vote. No coincidence that the main slogan of this party was work. Of course, even the great organization on the ground of this party should not be denied. Yet the LSI cross-stitch remains the guarantee of work for its members in a society where unemployment is one of the most serious social plagues.
The "work in exchange for the vote" model is typical of all parties. But, during these elections, LSI had two advantages. First of all, the LSI party had already secured its presence in the government regardless of who won the election. Secondly, she had acquitted herself morally from the moment Rama decided to join forces with Meta.
In fact, after this coalition, the moral card has been canceled from the dictionary of the electoral campaign.
In short, voting for Meta was no longer a fault and he was not at all worse than Berisha or Rama. LSI was in a position as comfortable as it was privileged, before and during the election campaign; he was no longer criticized by either the right or the left. On the other hand, a vote in favor of LSI brought greater and safer advantages than a vote in the PD or the PS.
At the LSI the size of the party is still smaller than the size of the power that this force possesses.
Therefore, beyond the light, the result of 23 June also represents a moment of shadow. It demonstrates the survival of the political clientelism model. The model in which party militants prevail in the central or local administration at state institutions or companies. The model in which the State is at the service of political customers and not as a function of society in general. Perhaps the PS clientelistic model will be wider than that of the PD.
However, we are dealing with the same model that weakens the public administration, which promotes a state at the mercy of private interests, and consequently makes it difficult to govern according to public interest.
In this context, the 23 June has once again demonstrated the increasing influence of businessmen, the strongest, or rather the strong-businessman in the electoral process.
The regional proportion has not yet managed to "clean" the parliament. The Parliament that emerges from this election will be full of strong businessmen. Often, rather than defending the interests of citizens, these individuals see Parliament as a protective shield for themselves. This is another shadow that weakens but still does not completely obscure the light of the electoral message of 23 June.
Article of Blendi Kajsiu. Published in the Panorama 28 June 2013 newspaper. Original title "Dritëhijet and mesazhit të 23 qershorit".
Translated by AlbaniaNews from Daniela Vathi.
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