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Kamëz Part 3

For those who want a lengthy detailed report into the election there will, undoubtedly, be a range of them to chose from. In the meantime, here are my brief reflections on the last few weeks.

At the heart of the problems around this election is the unwarranted influence of political parties on all aspects of the electoral process. Every institution responsible for organising and facilitating the election is under the control of political parties.

The Electoral Code itself was heavily revised only days before the original date for the elections and only weeks before the actual date (Law 9676 13 January 2007). It was these revisions, specifically Article 181/2, that created the overly complicated identification requirements that caused so much confusion, and undoubtedly disenfranchised some voters.

Let's be clear though: these revisions were not designed to protect the interests of the electorate. They were drafted primarily because the political parties do not trust each other.

The Central Election Commission - the full-time body responsible for managing all elections in Albania - is largely made up of members nominated by the parties affiliated with the two main political groupings. The actual process is complicated so I won't go into detail but you can find it in Article 22 of the Electoral Code.

The process for choosing the ninth member of the Commission, the fact that members are appointed for seven years, and the requirement that members must not have been on the local or central steering bodies of political parties in the previous five years, means that the CEC does have some measure of credibility.

From this point on, however, the political parties are in total control. The Local Government Election Commissions, the Voting Centre Commissions, and the Counting Teams each have 13 members and one secretary, all of whom are political appointees.

(For those who are interested: LGEC Article 40; VCC Article 45; CT Article 95/2)

The problem with this whole system is that the bodies charged with administering the election are not interested in the process, merely in the outcome. As a result, the process was incompetently and carelessly managed. They also bring to the process the same suspicion, distrust and hostility that is a hallmark of Albanian politics.

One person left a comment on a previous post suggesting that a little chaos in the administration is not that important if the election is fair - if the voting has not been manipulated. But the point is that citizens can only be sure that the outcome is fair if the process has been scrupulously observed.

In an electoral system that has the general confidence of the people a little chaos might be forgiven; in a system dominated by political parties whose relationship is utterly dysfunctional the process is crucial. Every oversight, every careless implementation of procedures, every failing whether with malicious intent or not, has the potential to give rise to accusations of corruption and manipulation.

Albanian politicians like to tell themselves that Albania is a European country - geographically, yes; culturally, no. It sounds more glamorous to define Europe - or the Euro-Atlantic community - as a zone of freedom, opportunity and wealth. But these things don't come out of nowhere; they don't happen by accident. They are built on and sustained by much more mundane realities.

Process matters, details matter, a functioning bureaucracy matters, good management matters, an independent civil service matters, an engaged body of citizens matters. Without these, Albania's road to Europe is going to be a lot longer than its leaders would have its citizens believe.

GNow, since my Albanian readers - if they are still reading - are probably totally pissed at yet another lecture by a useless greedy 'international' I think I should stop. Since I can't end on a song, I'll end with a dancing Tony Blair. I don't think they do a dancing Berisha or Rama yet, but it's only a matter of time. Enjoy.


Anonymous said…
thank you for your report our man. As albanian, I can't but fully agree with you.
Anonymous said…
Alwyin, I have been checking your site since sunday, just because I knew yours would be the best commentary and observation. Thanks for the insight. Keep it up!
Ll.T. said…
OMIT, don't forget that we can distinguish between the eternal, useless internationals and the new ones. We're merely pissed at the eternal types; the ones who have had a finger in the pie for a long, long time.

P.S. According to Balkanweb, the DP candidate won in Kamez by 2,000 votes.
james said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
james said…
As I am new to all things Albanian, I appreciate your posts. Once I find motivation, good internet, and time, I will do some of my own digging. Until then I'll just mooch off your efforts.
As for offending Albanians, it's more important to speak freely, assuming you don't act like an self-righteous, arrogant prick (which you aren't so no worrie),than worry about overly sensitive people who find you regardless of your topic.
olli said…
Thanks for the comments and the news from Kamez.

James, glad you don't think I'm a prick. You can come back for dinner.
Anonymous said…
Thanks so much for the insight OMIT! It's such a pleasure to read your (very informed) perspective. At a time like this, where almost everyone is so passionate about their party or their candidate, it is refreshing to hear about your experience. You are definitely the coolest international in Albania :-)
olli said…
Thanks vloraboy. If you could see me I'd be blushing.
Anonymous said…
thnx ourmain in Tirana. I'm not at all pissed at you. You are very objective and right about what you say. We should only but listen to your advice. Thank you!
The PC said…
"At the heart of the problems around this election is the unwarranted influence of political parties on all aspects of the electoral process. Every institution responsible for organising and facilitating the election is under the control of political parties."

On this, I agree with you completely. I have been arguing this point for years.

As for Albania not being part of Europe culturally: You are right, but that is not because the "euro-atlantic community is a zone of freedom, opportunity and wealth".
That was very condenscending and I understand why people were pissed off. I would have been the first to tell you to get over yourself, but maybe we can discuss why albania is not part of europe some other time.

that said, you are absolutely the bestest foreigner living in ALbania and I would be completely lost without your site.
olli said…
Thanks Lolers. I would love to know why you as an Albanian think that the country is not part of Europe culturally.

Regarding 'freedom opportunity and wealth' - I am only summarising the kind of attitude that I hear from people in this country and was not suggesting that these are cultural factors.

My point was the opposite - that these things do not define what Europe is. What differentiates Europe from Albania is more clearly seen in attitudes to the kind of things I was talking about - the importance of process, of independence and of engagement.
Anonymous said…
My dear loyal Queen's subject. As an Albanian loyal to the Queen as well I wish to say something about a little commented observation of yours:

"Albanian politicians like to tell themselves that Albania is a European country - geographically, yes; culturally, no. It sounds more glamorous to define Europe - or the Euro-Atlantic community - as a zone of freedom, opportunity and wealth. But these things don't come out of nowhere; they don't happen by accident"

Do I sense a hint of agreement with Sam Huntigton's definition of what Europe/the West is?

Let me just tell you something: learn the words "Albanian exceptionalism".

We're neither European nor anything else. We can teach the world a lot and that is why we deserve to be heard, and united so that these scumbags that run these rotten elections can become finally extinct
olli said…
Huntington's thesis is rubbish. I don't have any sympathy with it at all.

All I can say regarding Albanian exceptionalism is 'not another one'. Every nationalist thinks his nation is exceptional - this is rubbish too.

Presumably given your final comment, the actual Albanians who ran the elections - 'the scumbags' - don't belong among the 'exceptional' Albanians. I wonder who decides?

You 'can teach the world a lot' - care to offer some specifics?
Huntington is a scare monger. His thesis stinks and he should, hopefully rejoin the Gobineau and others in the trashcan of History...
Anonymous said…
Well, if you think Huntington's view of things is rubbish (it's really not his view. It's Bernard Lewis'), then you have not been a keen observer of the Balkans.
olli said…
Attributing Huntington's daft ideas to Bernard Lewis doesn't make them any more credible. Lewis's recent theorising about the Middle East and Islam is at least partly responsible for current US policy in the region which should give some idea of just how realistic it is.

There is no point rehashing pro- and anti-Huntington arguments here. For me the most convincing refutation is the historical fact that almost every human conflict - past and present - has been a conflict within the cultural monoliths he describes, not between them.
Anonymous said…
One cannot afford to ignore "Bernie" when it comes to the post-Ottoman fiefdoms in the Balkans.

However, my interest was piqued by your comment that Albanians are not culturally European. Heading down that way takes you straight to Bernie's house in Princeton.

Now, regarding this election thingie and Albania and Albanians in general. The political class in Tirana is a strange chimera composed of the worst elements of Albanian society: namely the opportunists.

The Ottoman-Albanian aristocracy has been efficiently wiped out, and even clan mores have been muddled by the 45 years of war waged on them by the 'internationalists' communists founded by Belgrade and financed by London (initally)

So, this chimera must DIE. The only way I see this possible is to get back to the beginning starting with the 'out of this world ideas' of one Girolamo de Rada.

Bernie will make sure his profecy is self-fullfilling. If my people are to survive they need to smarten up and accept their 'exceptionalism'. If Americans can have theirs, by god, so shall we.
Anonymous said…
here's a little info regarding de Rade. I suspect that, just as the Britt who wrote this 100 years ago, you will dismiss him like those 'Lost Tribes enthusiasts in England'

However, his belief truly 'animates' all Albanians, and gives rise to their 'exceptionalism'.
Ll.T. said…
AO mos e tremb mikun :)
Anonymous said…
As someone with 27 months of recent, on-the-ground experience working with local government in a Central-Eastern Albania city, I completely agree with your observation that the lack of process keeps Albania and Albanians from moving forward. In fact it's the appreciation for process that really keeps the country in the muck.
I was reguarly thwacked across the head when confronted with yet another circumstance where the parties' strongarm control of politics and candidates prevailed over what was fair/right/necessary/obvious and met the citizens' majority needs. Without the construct and confidence that things can be done 'rightly', skepticism and paranoia (sometimes rightly so I do admit), often prevail. When the people feel their power and are ready to exert it, real change will come. Real change will never come from the same old leaders from the same tired parties.
Yes, I probably sound like one of the self-righteous American volunteers, but, whatever. I love Albania and have a part of me that lives there even today. Mos mendoni qe jam shume e kece. Falemenderit.
olli said…
Anonymous, We had plenty of lost tribes types and exceptionalists in Northern Ireland too. I had my fill of them there.

So, no harm to you and no offence intended but your man De Rade sounds like a complete wacko to me.


Thanks for the information on your experience with local government anon. I've met a few other expat folks here doing similar work in Tirana and some US peace corps people doing it out in the sticks. Your experience sounds just like theirs.
Anonymous said…
No offense taken mate. You couldnt have reacted otherwise. Now, how do you propose to deal with the fact that Girolamo de Rada is Albania's most revered national poet? I dont suppose the World Bank would ever dish out the money necessary for a lobotomy:)
olli said…
Not sure in what sense you mean 'deal with the fact'. So what if he is a famous poet?

In Ireland there is a famous national poet under every stone. Lots of them were romantic nationalists as well, especially during that late 19th century era.

Some of them even wrote great literature, but that didn't mean that their other ideas about the nation or identity weren't completely off the wall.

While they were dreaming all this stuff, other people were out killing and being killed for it.
Ll.T. said…
What "Anonymous" is trying to say Alwyn is that DeRada is untouchable in our minds, smth not to be toyed with for he belongs to the Albanian Rilindja movement.

He might not be perfect but we love him nontheless :)
olli said…
And the Irish love Yeats, but they also understand how dangerous and irrational his obsession with 'blood sacrifice' was.

Still, since DeRada's untouchable I'll say no more about him.
Anonymous said…
No no you can touch 'im:)

My point was about 'european' comment you made. If we aint European then we are 'exceptional':)
olli said…
I understand, but I think using a word like 'exceptionalism', given how it has been used by nationalist movements is misleading. Also, from what I have read of DeRada on the web it seems to me that he is saying a lot more than this.

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