By Eduard Zaloshnja
The expression “Catch 22” has long been part of the English vocabulary, thanks to the popularity of a satirical novel with the same title written by Joseph Heller. This expression is used to describe circumstances when someone loses, despite the choice he makes. Basha and Rama, who must make a very important decision in the days to come about the parliamentary elections, seem to find themselves in such situation.
Since 18 February, when he declared that the opposition would not leave the tent before the PM’s office, without the PM resigning, Basha has not budged even a single millimeter from his position. There cannot be elections with Rama as Prime Minister, Basha has declared, adding that the opposition will not allow the holding of elections on June 18, if Rama doesn’t resign and if a government of technocrats is not formed, with broad support by parliamentary parties. In case Basha withdraws from this stance, he would seem very weak in front of the public opinion, because these two months in the tent, have improved his image, at least in the eyes of the opposition’s supporters. And this damage to Basha’s image would also have consequences for the DP’s result in the elections. This would mark the start of the end of his political career.
On the other hand, if Basha doesn’t budge from the position that he has been holding for two months, he could face a very tough reaction by European People’s Parties and chancellor Merkel, who have invested a lot in order for political problems in Albania to be addressed within institutions and not on the street. In such situation, a big question mark would be put on the continuation of Basha’s DP leadership within the DP and in western right wing circles.
Basha could have used vetting as a negotiation card (given that the westerns want its application) to enable the creation of a technocrat government before the elections, but Berisha doesn’t seem to allow him to play this card. Berisha’s relations with Basha at the DP seem to resemble to the relation between Berlusconi and Milan’s delegated administrator, Galliani, in the past three decades. Galliani dealt with the daily administration of the football club, but he could not take important decisions without the approval of the owner of the club, Berlusconi.
Since the DP’s tent was set up in front of the Prime Minister’s office, Rama has reiterated in a stoic manner that the elections would be held on 18 June, with a government led by him, even if the DP or other parties (implying SMI) do not participate in the elections. According to Rama, the current government is legitimate and constitutional and there is no reason for it to be replaced by a government of “technocrats” or a government of “confidence”. He changed several ministers and is ready to discuss changes in the electoral law, but he doesn’t agree to resign prior to the elections.
In case Rama withdraws from this stance and agrees to resign and form a government of technocrats, just like Basha has demanded or a government of “confidence” suggested by Meta, then this means that he will admit all the accusations addressed to him by the DP in the past four years and the Socialist Movement for Integration in the past few months. And this would have consequences in the SP’s result in the polls. The Socialist Movement for Integration would have so much to gain from the weakening of SMI, which would hold the key to the Prime Minister’s office for both Rama and Basha.
On the other hand, if Rama doesn’t budge and the Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration do not participate in the June 18 elections, than Rama’s victory would be like Pyrrho’s victory. Berisha, Meta and Basha would start a wave of protests, at the end of which western chancelleries would intervene, as stability in Albania is a top priority for them.
Finding himself under pressure, inside the country and abroad and unable to govern without political and economic support of the West, Rama may soon be forced to hold other elections after June 18, but with a government of technocrats. In these elections, the SP’s defeat in front of an aggressive coalition between DP and SMI, would be almost certain.
In the days to come, it remains to be seen if Meta will stick to SMI’s decision not to participate in the elections without a government of “confidence”. Such decision would make the job of the German negotiator, McAllister in solving the Catch 22 riddle, with which Rama and Basha are facing, very hard to solve.
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Note: The stances expressed in the Opinion section do not necessarily represent the editorial line of Albanian Free Press