Opposition MPs are continuing to absent themselves from parliament as they conduct roadshows around crime-hit town in the country – but have refused to declare their boycott formally.
By Gjergj Erebara-BIRN/ It was expected to be an eventful political season when Albania’s parliament reopened earlier this month, with an agenda of reforms needed to open the way for the start of EU membership negotiations next June.
After the Council of Europe postponed a decision on this issue last June, reforms that need cross-party agreement, such as electoral reform, have become a matter of urgency.
However, the main opposition parties have refused to take up their seats in parliament and have instead held what they call “parallel meetings” in various towns that have been hit by gang violence.
On Thursday, while ruling Socialist party MPs attacked the opposition in parliament, opposition MPs held a meeting in Durres, claiming the town is under the control of gangs and not of the police.
The head of the Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha, said they had come to Durres “to announce our national platform to extract the country from the emergency situation created by [Prime Mnister] Edi Rama, co-ruling with crime”.
He took his MPs to the northern city of Shkodra two weeks ago and to Elbasan, in central Albania, last week.
The opposition claims the violence that took eight lives in Shkodra in the last few months is the result of government “co-ruling with crime networks”.
Elbasan and Durres are notorious for organized crime networks that allegedly control local administration and businesses thanks to their connections with politicians.
They are home to numerous “businessmen” who appear to have friendships with politicians while being on the run from the authorities in various EU countries.
Officially, however, the opposition claims it is not actually boycotting parliament. Petrit Vasili, head of the parliamentary group for the Socialist Movement for Integration, has called it a “conditional relationship with parliament”.
The Socialist Party is meanwhile trying to put on a show of “business as usual”, announcing a vote on the President’s decision to refer a proposed law change that cuts the taxes for gambling for further discussion.
President Meta returned the law by decree last month, urging parliament to fight against the growing number of gambling shops across the country.
Announcing the vote against the decree, the Minister of Finance, Arben Ahmetaj, claimed the President “has been misinformed” and added that the law “doesn’t cut the taxes for gambling”.