Wednesday, 28 June 2017

On the Albanian Parliamentary election of 2017

The most recent parliamentary election in Albania, which took place three days ago, has just seen the first single-party majority for any Albanian government in

The Socialist Party of Albania, descended from the former Party of Labour in Albania (the dominant communist party from 1941 to 1991), managed to gain an outright majority, winning 74 seats. This is only the second single party majority in Albania in 16 years, and the Socialists won all but the two northernmost counties in Albania, which were won by the opposition Democratic Party of Albania. This sweep happened even though the Democratic Party only lost 7 of its 50 seats, making it still the clear opposition in Albanian politics.  Despite the existence of proportional representation by county, with a 3% threshold for single parties and a 5% threshold for alliances, Albanian politics is still almost entirely dominated by two parties, the Socialists and Democrats. The Socialist Movement for Integration, which split from the Albanian socialists in 2004, is in reality little different from the Socialists in terms of policy and direction.

In the last Albanian elections of 2013, alliances were led by each main opposition party, and the Socialist-led alliance won a total of 83 seats. These alliances were not repeated this year, but due to the requirement to focus on county performance as well as national performance, since this is how seats are allocated, the effects were not significant. The only other party to obtain a respectable performance in this election was the populist right Party for Justice, Integration and Unity, which is essentially an Albanian equivalent of such parties as Alternative For Germany and which fights for a solution to the 'Cham Issue'. This relates to Cham Albanians having been expelled from Greece at the end of World War II because many of their number collaborated with the Nazis during World War II; Greece considers the matter closed but many Albanians still want a solution. They achieved 4.8% of the vote and 3 seats, a decrease of just 1, showing that their core rural support is still holding.

The vast majority of other parties achieved less than 1% of the vote apiece, which can be considered pretty typical for Albanian politics, although the Social Democratic Party gained one seat. Libra, a liberal pro-European party, obtained a better national result (1.25%) than them but did not win any seats at all, which can be explained by poorer vote distribution and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama's own pro-EU stance; with a single party majority he will be able to push Albania's case for joining the EU further, but this will be a slow process. The Republicans and Christian Democrats lost the seats they held in the last Parliament.

Whether Albania joins the EU during the course of its next Parliament is still debatable, especially since several other Balkan countries, such as Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, are still not members of the EU, and Albania may end up feeling economically and socially isolated within the EU.

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