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News 25 Sep 17

Albania's Democrats Meet To Ponder Election Disaster

Members of the Democratic Party have gathered for their first party assembly since their shock defeat in the June general election, amid fierce arguments over the way head.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
The chairman of PD, Lulzim Basha. Photo: LSA/Malton Dibra

Albania's opposition centre-right Democratic Party, PD, is mulling how to revive its fortunes and win over the voters, following its disastrous defeat in the parliamentary election in June. Internal rifts have since further undermined the party's unity.

The first meeting of party assembly on Thursday saw heateds debate that almost turned physical, as members argued over who, or what, was to blame for the poor result.

Audio recordings of the debates leaked to the media showed a split deeply party, and revealed hostility between those who support the leader, Lulzim Basha, and others who consider him most responsible for the defeat in the election.

Afrim Krasniqi, a professor of political sciences and director of the Albanian Institute for Political Studies, told BIRN that the party faces multiple crises.

"The PD is in a crisis of confidence ... while three months after the dramatic [election] result, they still haven't analysed it or reflected on it," he said.

Internal rifts in the party deepened after Basha failed to include important party figures in the party's list of would-be MPs for the June election.

In the election, its coalition not only failed to win back power from Edi Rama's Socialists but ended up with 14 fewer seats than in the previous election in 2013.

Immediately after, the party reconfirmed Basha as leader for another four years, but many in the party had asked for more reflection and analysis before doing so.

On Thursday, the party assembly finally decided to undertake an analysis of the loss of the election, as well change the party's statutes, making it more democratic.

Krasniqi said Basha was still running things with a strong hand, although he warned that this might do further damage in future.

"The party has a vital need to open up and reform its program, as well as make structural and composition changes. Above all, it needs democratic training within its structures," he said.

Basha himself after the assembly said he would never accept factions growing within the PD, although he insisted that the party was open to criticism.

Astrit Patozi, former vice-chairman of the party, who was one of those left off the list of MPs in June, on Friday accused Basha of showing a bolshevic mentality while heading the party.

"We are going to put pressure on him through the party members to take another approach," he warned.

Nevila Xhindi, a member of the party assembly, told BIRN that the situation inside the party was still tense, and no meaningful analysis of its defeat had yet been done.

She said the party needed to rediscover its moral and ideological values in order to regain the trust of the voters.

"There is no more time for experiments and corrections. The times and people have to be assessed, with a new mentality in the party," Xhindi said.

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