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After the January 21 riots and a prolonged power struggle that has hampered its EU aspirations and strained the country’s fragile institutions, Albania’s political parties head to the May 8 local elections, considered as key to the country’s democratic credentials.
Democratic Party, PD
The Democratic Party of Albania is a centre-right political organisation and the main governing party since 2005. It is an observer member of the European People's Party, EPP, the European umbrella for centre-right parties, and a full member of the Centrist Democrat International.
The party was founded in 1991 following student demonstrations that brought down the communist regime and was the first opposition party to be formed after the fall of the one-party system. The party has been controlled since 1991 by Albania’s current Prime Minister, Sali Berisha.
PD first took power in 1992 after winning the general election under the leadership of Berisha and Aleksander Meksi who governed as president and prime minister. They lost power in 1997 when snap elections were called to pacify a civil unrest that broke out following the bankruptcy of a series of pyramid-style investment schemes.
In the 2001 elections, the party received 37.1 per cent of the vote and gained 46 of the 140 seats in parliament. In the July 2005 parliamentary elections, the Democratic Party won 56 of the 140 seats and its allies won 18. A coalition it had built with several minor parties won a majority of 70 seats in the 140-member parliament in the 2009 election, with PD itself winning 40. 2 percent of the popular vote and 68 seats.
Socialist Party, PS
The Socialist Party of Albania, a centre-left, social democratic party, is currently the leading opposition party in the country with 65 of the 140 seats in parliament.
The Socialists first took power in 1997 following the unrest over the collapse of the pyramid-style funds. It won again four years later with 73 seats in parliament, enabling it to form the government.
In the July 2005 general election, the Socialist Party lost its majority and the Democratic Party of Sali Berisha took over, heading a centre-right coalition. In the June 2009 elections, it won 65 seats in Parliament.
The Socialist Party of Albania is the legal successor to the Party of Labour of Albania, PLA, which was once the Communist Party of Albania.
It was formed after the dissolution of the Albanian Labour Party at the Tenth Congress of the party in June 1991. Fatos Nano, a reform Communist, was elected first chairman. Nano controlled the party until 2005 when he resigned following the election defeat that year, and was succeeded by Tirana mayor Edi Rama. The party is a member of Socialist International.
Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI
Formed in 2004 as a splinter group of the Socialist Party of Albania, PS, the Socialist Movement for Integration, joined the Democratic Party in a coalition after the 2009 general elections.
LSI won four seats in Parliament after the June 2009 election, down one from the previous poll in 2005, but it holds several key government posts including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Economy and that of Health as the main junior partner in the government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha.
Purportedly a centre-left political group, the LSI is gathered around the strong personality of its party boss Ilir Meta.
However, the party has been swept recently by allegations of corruption, following the indictment of Meta and former Minister of Economy Dritan Prifti on corruption charges.
The indictments follow the publication of a video tape in January, where Meta then deputy prime minister and Prifti are heard discussing alleged corrupt deals. Both Prifti and Meta have denied any wrongdoing.
Union for Human Rights Party, PBDNj
The Union for Human Rights Party is a political grouping that represents the ethnic Greek minority in Albania.
It was formed in 1992 as an offspring of Omonoia, the organisation representing ethnic Greeks, when the Albanian parliament barred organisations from running for elections, and allowed only political parties and independents to do so.
PBDNj has been led since its founding by Vasil Melo, and by Vangjel Dule since Melo's death in 2002. It has been continuously present in the parliament with three seats in the 1997 election, two in the 2005 election and one in the 2009.
An ally of the Socialist Party, it has held the ministries of health and labour in the previous Socialist-led governments.
Democratic Alliance, AD,
Liberal Democrat Union, BLD,
Christian Democratic League, LDK,
Agrarian Environmentalist Party, PAA,
Alliance of Macedonians for European Integration, AMIE,
Nationa Front Party, PBK,
Democratic National Front Party, PBKD,
Legality Movement Party, PLL,
Party for Justice, Integration and Unity PDIU,
Republican Party, PR,
Movement for National Development, LZhK,
Christian Democratic Party, PDK,
Social Democracy Party, PDS,
G 99 Party,
Social Democratic Party, PSD.
After two decades in politics, divided between the president’s and premier’s offices, Berisha is already Albania’s longest serving leader since the collapse of the Communist regime.
Now seeking a fourth term as Tirana’s mayor, the Socialist leader is hoping that a strong showing in the May local elections will hasten the political demise of his archrival, Sali Berisha.
The controversial ex-minister, who has strong ties to the Berisha family, is bidding to take over the capital - but even if his gambit fails, it’s unlikely to ruin his political career.
On May 8, 3,186,569 Albanians 18-year or older will have the chance to cast their ballot in the local elections, choosing the new mayors and head of communes in 384 municipalities.