Today’s vote strong evidence of Socialist Party’s commitment to stand at Albanians’ side regardless party and political affiliations

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s address to Parliament at today’s plenary session:

Renewing the appeal to everyone watching us now on the indispensability of wearing face masks in the indoor spaces and by expressing regret over those who reacted to protest, of course digitally, against the latest measure taken by the Ministry of Health to close nightclubs, discos, lounge bars, where music was played, a move which was a must at a time when everything else is questioned, when people gather and crowd around tightly just like sardines into tins in those closed indoor and noisy venues – I would like to say some words about the today’s vote that turns the June 5 agreement reached outside this Parliament between the Socialist Party in majority and the Democratic Party and its allies in opposition.

I would like to start by thanking the parliamentary opposition groups, the chairs of parliamentary groups and Mrs. Hajdari specifically, since she has played her role and has resisted being declared a traitor by you and has contributed together with you towards signing the agreement between us and you in Parliament, paving the way for a vote today by a majority larger rather than just arithmetically.

Of course, it would have been great if Mr. Murrizi and other lawmakers like him were to sign without hesitation the agreement between us and vote the agreement we will adopt through a overwhelming majority today here, sending a very clear message to every Albanian without distinction, including those whose representatives are today outside the parliament, because we are aware of the political reality and this Parliament doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity to such this reality, but on the contrary expresses through vote the readiness to grant equal opportunity to everyone in the next elections, by accepting an election administration, where the Democratic Party and its allies are not excluded, on the contrary they are equally involved with the ruling majority.

It is not a secret, but quite the opposite, because I have already stated in this very hall and I have consistently reiterated anytime I have talked about this topic, that I personally will not vote the June 5 agreement from my heart, but from my mind to turn it into law. I vote it from my mind in the sense that I am aware of its value vis-à-vis the party that has been self-excluded from Parliament and not those who made this catastrophic decision, but their voters. Therefore, I would like to tell all those, who still trust Lulzim Basha, the Democratic Party or everyone else in that party’s ranks – though I don’t actually know what they really believe yet they have joined DP – that this is the Socialist Party of Albania and this is the governing majority which has nothing to do with the accusations and legends over alleged dictators and dictatorships and so on and so forth.

Because, if these accusations were to be though little relevant, then we wouldn’t have been doing what we are doing today, although we enjoyed full institutional legitimacy not to do so. If these accusations, legends and fairytales were to be relevant, then not only we wouldn’t think to include the DP, which is our main political opponent, but on the contrary we would have thought this is the golden opportunity for us to trample on it. This is what dictators do. This is what dictatorships do. It is impossible to liken us with dictators and dictatorships, especially given the fact that our political culture fostered in the 30 years is a culture based on reasoning rather than on force; it is a culture based on  readiness to engage in dialogue and to agree, not to reject dialogue and hurt the sense of agreement; it is a culture based on a journey, where DP was never there in any of its stations, either when it was in opposition, or in government, but it was SP, whether in opposition or in government that was the tolerant side, understanding, making concessions to the point of self-harm, for the sake of truth, that only a political force like ours could sustain self-injure as it was the case when we agreed on the abolition of the second round.

If we were to look at it logically, one would find out that it is suicidal for a ruling majority to give up the second round opportunity at a certain moment and in the case of a certain electoral reform.

But, if we are to look at through the viewpoint on which I am seeking to focus this message, the opposition would have been quite weird, so to say if the Socialist Party were to stick to its refractory position and say no, no and only no.

There are things that seemingly relate us to DP in terms of conduct in behaviour in the history of the past 30 years. For example, the boycott of the parliament. We too have boycotted parliament in the past. But, if we were to recall the reasons why, then we would again see the big difference between the two political parties.

Imagine just for a single moment – I am telling this you and Albanian citizens – if DP was to ask us open the ballot boxes after the elections we won, not to change the election result, but to see through a parliamentary commission and recommend parliament due changes to improve process, and we were to reject it to the point that DP was to be forced to stage a hunger strike. This is unimaginable! We have abandoned parliament – yes it is true – but we have done so when we were denied something which today is an elementary thing. Do you know why it is elementary? Because it is us the ones currently in government, it is us the ones holding the governing majority, as many things that the SP has done in the majority over the last 30 years have seemed elementary, as they seemed to be indisputable elementary obligations and surprisingly never the indisputable elementary obligations of a majority and a government were such when the PD ruled. Never! We had to do absurd battles for elementary things.

How come that an opposition is told “you have not the right to set up an inquiry parliamentary commission to administratively verify  a process in order to improve relevant legislation”? How can this possibly happen? So, the opposition can be told that only if DP is in power. DP has never enjoyed the backing of the majority of the Albanian people, except the case when it was not because of the Democratic Party, but it was a regime-change matter, and I mean normal election when voters have been called to decide through their vote since the referendum in 1994. Since then, DP has always been a minority. If they have succeeded in seizing power this has happened because of the divisions and infighting in the Socialist Party. This is a fact.

We have already overcome that stage today and that’s why we are a solid majority and we have nothing against the system, the coalitions or anything else! This is because we enjoy the support of the majority of the people and this majority cannot be won by forfeit, through electoral codes and amendments, but through vote. It is as simple as that!

Today I am convinced we will adopt the June 5 agreement, not because I like it, quite the contrary I don’t like it, because the agreement doesn’t provide for the depoliticization of the election administration.

It is insulting for Albania, for tens and thousands of people, teachers, and in other professions and jobs to be considered potential vote thieves and meanwhile the political administration is still considered as a guarantee for the integrity of the electoral process.

This is insulting.

But, this is a big and totally undeserved concession we have granted to Lulzim Basha and for the leadership of the extra-parliamentary opposition, but a deserved concession for their voters, for the democrats who cannot stand me, who do not want to see our government in power, they do not want to see SP in government, because giving the message of equality in the process is important to them.

For us, of course we don’t emerge hurt in a party sense. I understand Myslym Murrizi, when he says this is scandalous. It is a scandal that Albania in 2020 cannot trust election administration to teachers, people who work in the public administration, because of the idea that they can steal. In the meantime, I have repeatedly stated that there could not possibly exists a person stupid enough to end up in jail, lose job position by counting incorrectly the ballot papers in our favour or in favour of anyone else. I don’t know any. I tend to trust the election administration process to the most firebrand DP supporter if he works as a teacher or in any other government job and this is for a simple good reason, because he would be a direct subject to the Electoral Code and the law. There is no party that would be able to defend him or her. But this is not the case when it comes to the party militants and supporters, who feel it is their task to involve in political battle instead of administering the election process. And I mean the militants of any party and I don’t exclude our party.

The idea about their exclusion and the idea about an election administration comprising individuals who are neither at work, nor members of a political party are absurd. First, it would take thousands of people. Second, what is the legal duty a lawyer, a veterinary, an architect or a nurse working in the private sector would possibly face if they refuse to join the election administration? Not a single consequence. Nobody can force them. It is as simple as that.

Whereas those in the administration can be obliged by law to take up the job, otherwise, based on the law, they would lose their job. However, to sum it up, we made this concession to Lulzim Basha and the opposition, but the suggestion that Socialist Party did so because it had no other choice is simply ridiculous.

Nobody but the people it represents and the obligations it has towards this country can force Socialist Party. Like it or not, this is a fact! Unfortunately for the Democratic Party, we can find a series of moments when DP has hurt the national interest in the past 30 years. We can find a lot of these cases. It was the Democratic Party, to put it bluntly, when DP publicly appealed not to sign the Rambouillet Agreement, for example. Such an appeal hurts the national interest.

There are many other cases, but I am not going to count them.

One can question the Socialist Party about many things, one can criticize it a lot about certain moments in the past 30 years, when the party has not lived up to its commitments, especially when in power, but one can provide no facts to show that when making a decision or expressing an attitude it has hurt the national interest. Whoever can provide such a fact I would invite to present and discuss it. I don’t know any cases like this.

Why am I saying this? To underscore that nobody can force us. I have heard people repeatedly saying that the Political Council was established by a global alliance among the United States, the European Union, the OSCE/ODIHR or I don’t know who else.

This is not true!

The Political Council was established thanks to our will.

It was thanks to the readiness of the Socialist Party, which is today a ruling majority and has the responsibility to look beyond this very room in every respect, including the political aspect, because, beyond the rhetoric and natural political debate, the one we call “a street opposition, we often forget that it is a political reality.

The U.S., EU, OSCE/ODIHR and anyone else, you name it, have provided a precious contribution to the process for a simple reason, because DP, which is seeking to seize power, has yet to learn how to speak Albanian with Albanians. No matter whether we agree or not, but I can’t accept the fact that now in 2020 we still need to communicate with each other in English and this was one of the things I asked from Lulzim Basha in 2017. We no longer need to communicate in English with each other, with the political parties and the political representatives of Albanians. It is shameful. Our international partners and friends won’t respect us more if we so generously assign them tasks which are actually tasks we should accomplish ourselves. And on the other hand, as I already stated in an earlier statement, when we are convinced and aware that we are doing the right thing for Albania and Albanians, then we should be ready to discuss disagreements also with our friends and partners without backtracking if they really don’t convince us.

This is the reason why we are friends. This is the reason why we are partners. We are nobody’s servants. But we are aware that we are neither the US, nor the EU, nor any nuclear superpower, nor any energy mini-superpower. We are a small country and we are here where we are thanks to our friends and partners.

We never question our obligations in the framework of alliances of various natures, from military alliances to other alliances, on issues that arise in international institutions and organizations. We never question our tasks here in order not to backtrack on our priorities, but also of our partners, from terrorism to organized crime. But when it comes to deciding whether we will open or not the lists, I’m sorry, but we are the ones to decide on that. It is us the ones who decide about this and it is not a problem at all to discuss and tell them just like we have already done and as we will continue to tell them, not for so long, I believe, because this parliament will open the candidate lists on July 30 and this is the deal reached also with the opposition here since day one. Lawmakers Hajdari and Murrizi have been insisting on the open-list system.

Is this our honour, or is it our weakness that, also due to the circumstances, we started listening to this “drum”.

Is it our honour or our weakness that we first said “No” to the open-lists system and we are now saying “Yes” to it? Why are we saying “Yes” to it? This is not because lawmakers Myslym Murrizi, Rudina Hajdari or Edmond Stojku, Nimet Musai or everyone else here persist on that, but we are saying yes because we have found that this is what the overwhelming majority of Albanians want. We have done our job and we have delivered on our obligations. Of course, I don’t hide the fact that the circumstances after the June 5 agreement, which sparked confusion among you and because of the lack of the required majority of 84 votes, as well as because of our readiness to agree with you instead of seeking to convince any of you to secure the overwhelming majority of 84 votes, forced us to think deeper about this issue and based either on the findings of our surveys we conduct normally, or the communication with our supporters and party base, we realized that the majority of people want open MP candidate lists. Then what is the problem we should say no to this? Is it a problem that we said first no and should stick to it? No! Churchill has said: “A fool is one who can’t change his mind.” We certainly have our own deficiencies, yet nobody can fool us and whenever one has sought to fool us, that has come to a cost for them.

Let’s now comment about the Political Council.

I am personally engaging with the Council, not for any reason, but simply to raise the representation to the highest level and the need to be open and inclusive, not only us, but others as well. This is because the discussion taking place here goes over “what one won, what the other got,” but the Socialist Party has just given away in this process and it has gained nothing in return. We, for example – since someone asked me but what we could get – we could have got it pretty easily from Myslym Murrizi and from you, the bonus for the first party in exchange for a positive answer to your requests, if we were to seek to exclude those who are outside. Of course, they would never admit it because everyone knows which one will emerge a winning party.

We didn’t ask for it!

Why didn’t we? Because this would have been a grave offence for the political establishment and it would have really been a move to take advantage of the circumstances in this parliament, which are temporary circumstances, and everyone knows it, because Democratic Party enjoys the support of a significant part of the electorate and it will certainly be in Parliament after next elections and we wouldn’t want to take advantage of this situation, even though we could have done so based on the law, the constitution and the procedure. We wanted to depoliticize the election administration. If we are to vote the opposite, then this is a vote in favour of the Democratic Party and not in favour of the Socialist Party. I will be voting today for Lulzim Basha and not for myself. All SP MPs will press that button to vote on behalf of those who are absent in this session – and they chose to do so –  but they won’t do so because this is what we are interested in most and this is what we gained from this negotiation. No! We gained nothing. In this negotiation, the way how the process took place, we have done just one thing. We have told them two propose and include in the Code whatever they want. And not in the way how the DP used to say when it was in power. That is not true. This has never been the case. Never before has an opposition been granted the opportunity to overturn a whole process, just to leave everything the way they were prior to the process. And one should not forget that it was exactly this the reason they abandoned parliament, took the streets and the Molotov cocktails and did that entire imaginary revolution, lost also the municipalities and now they want things to remain unchanged or they used to be. Of course, they fare worse than they used to fare in the past, but this is not because of us and by refusing again to talk and discuss the issue of the agreement between the parliamentary forces and keep levelling accusations and insults. This is what they have actually always done and they have always emerged weaker. Is there any chance for the result to change if you keep doing the same thing? You will get the same result. You won’t receive a different result by always doing the same thing.

The persistence of the extra-parliamentary opposition to claim that everything ends here and that you here in Parliament do not exist is indeed nothing else but what will again lead them to the very same conclusion, if they will keep sticking to this position. But they will not. You will see it for yourselves how they will become more energized and self-aware that something has happened, the basis has changed,  the Constitution of the Republic of Albania has changed an article that forces us to reflect the implementation mechanisms on the electoral law. If they still want to stay outside, I want to assure you that we will make no efforts to bring them in here, because this is not the time to embark on an educational process, I and the Socialist Party have been forced to embark on previously, but yet failing to yield encouraging results.

Today we will vote on the June 5 agreement.

The agreement between our parliamentary parties will definitely be adopted on July 30. They claim that the Political Council has yet to accomplish its mission, because, as they say, there are other issues that need to be addressed. Ok, we are inviting them to discuss these other things. But in the meantime there is also this other thing we should discuss with you. Neither you, nor we or they can change now what has been written there. We will simply adopt it on July 30 with no changes whatsoever as the procedure clearly stipulates. However, there are things that need to go through discussion, because they keep saying that pre-electoral coalitions will be banned as if we are forcing them to break up. We don’t want them to break up, but stay united.

In this case, it is a purely political interest.

It is not in the best of the country. It is absolutely not in the best interest of the DP voters since they will be forced to vote for the new “company” expanded with new shareholders, with the DP itself being one of them. I haven’t branded it as “a company”, but the leader of their party himself. However, the formula how the political parties run in the election will change from a formula applied by no one into a formula applied by everyone. It is as simple as that.

Our current coalition formula is to be found nowhere else. It simply doesn’t exist. It is nowhere to be found. The question I have asked Damian Gjiknuri and everyone else on our side working in this process was where else is this kind of coalition found, because it doesn’t exist in some of the countries I follow for my own professional reasons. They failed to find any. The searches on Google to find one have all failed. Such a formula of coalition to run both together and separately simply doesn’t exist. A formula with parties on a joint and a separate list exists only here. It exists nowhere else, but it is a typical locally developed formula. We asked the other party, where else does this formula of coalition exist? The answer we received was found in a book.

It could be theoretically found in a book, but, do we have only one theoretical opportunity?! And voters in Albania vote for a train, where the locomotive is visible.

They vote a train where the locomotive and its colour are visible, whereas wagons have all their windows closed and nobody knows what is to be found inside them and the votes then move from the last wagon to the first one, from the next to last wagon are moved to the second wagon and for years now there are parties in Albania that receive one fourth, one fifth, or one tenth of the votes compared to the signatures they have secured to be founded. How many signatures are needed for a party to be founded? 3000 signatures? Yet there are parties that receive just 300 votes in elections and they receive state budget funds for taking part in the polls.

You Kujtim have received just 30 votes,  I think. But you are forgiven, because those who would vote for you, whose number is certainly much higher, decline to do so because they know they are not voting in a referendum to send you to the throne, since such a referendum is no longer allowed in our country, because Albania is a Republic.

But most importantly, such issues deserved to go through discussion. And what did we want to do in the Political Council where they failed to show up? We just wanted to discuss and clarify these things. Will the coalitions be banned? Not at all!

The electoral subjects will be clearly determined on the Electoral Code.

To conclude, I would like to add something else. They claim that the time when this is taking place violates the code of the best practices. It is true that there is a code of best practices set in 2002, if not mistaken, and it contains an associating declaration by the Venice Commission in 2005, but everyone has interpreted it in various different ways and I will not go over the technical details. It is considered a good practice, as it stipulates that changes to the election law are made and adopted no later than a year before the elections. I am not going to point out the delays and the time we wasted in this process due to the lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but I would like to ask, is June 5 a date not later than a year before the next elections? It is the same thing! So they claim the June 5 agreement is a good practice, whereas the July 30 vote in parliament is a bad practice, although the two concern the elections. And not only that, the June 5 agreement was reached outside parliament, whereas our agreement is reached here in parliament. This is reached among lawmakers, whereas that agreement is reached with political groups that state they not only do not recognize parliament, but ask us to rent a hall because they do not even know the building of the parliament.

Yet, what they are doing actually does a favour to the Socialist Party.

Ralf, if SP has gained nothing from this process, if DP has gained significantly from it, if you, too, have gained a lot compared to what you have asked for in this process, this should minimally make you reflect  and figure out that you can ask about nothing when both SP and DP are not asking for everything.

You should at least understand that voting for the June 5 agreement, from logic and not from heart, is an obligation. However, it is precisely because you do not understand this that you will remain small, and it is precisely because we understand this that we will remain great.