Published on : 04 May 2017

Press conference of Prime Minister Edi Rama

Press conference of Prime Minister Edi Rama:

 

Thank you for being here today. I think it is a good time to make a summary of the situation and to give you some information, which I think is necessary, by sharing what is of interest nowadays also with those who are following us on Facebook.  

With a year-end decree the President of the Republic decreed the elections on June 18, and in order to give you an idea of how the preparation for an election battle works allow me to take you a bit in our world, in the world of political parties and political leadership.

The moment the election date is announced, at least in our party, in our party leadership, a special effort is being made to build the strategy. This work is based on public opinion polls, on various focus groups, where voters of the Socialist Party, left-wing voters, right-wing voters, Democratic Party voters, swinging voters or non-voters are enquired.

When focus groups are built, those who talk are not aware of who is enquiring, and a rather extensive material is gathered to understand public sensitivities about various issues related to political characters, political parties, and expectations. On this basis and by interacting with the strategy-building group, the strategy, the messages, the escalation calendar of political action up to Election Day, and the way how messages and the different blocks of strategy emerge one after the other are defined.

So, we’ve done our calendar and started our work for the elections of June 18. Everyone did their job.

I had a strong feeling, which I shared with our friends and partners when the justice reform was being voted, the fundamental part of its constitutional changes, and it was that the part related to the Vetting would bring us problems. Specifically, at all election levels related to the parliament, of the individuals who become part of the new justice system, there is a fifty-fifty parity between the majority and the minority in the Assembly, but in all cases there is no possibility of blocking because there is an unlocking mechanism which is the draw.

The only item in this list of the Assembly’s works to select people in different constitutional institutions of the new justice system where the unblocking mechanism does not exist, is the Vetting, and I have shared the concern that the Democratic Party would latch onto it in order to block the implementation of the judicial reform.

As far as the strategy is concerned, it has two sides. One is what we will do, and the other one is what the opponent will do, and of course you try to figure out what the adversary will do by analysing the opponent, trying to understand where he can surprise you.

Although I expected somehow the Vetting blocking surprise, I didn’t expect, we didn’t expect the boycott of Parliament, and the fact that this problem, hence the fear of the Vetting which paves the path to the implementation of justice reform, is related to the elections. Which means that the opponent, namely the Democratic Party, made a surprise move and undertook under its own strategy a very dangerous action for itself, but not without any chance of succeeding. We all know that the chance to succeed was the potential opportunity to destabilize the coalition, trying to split the majority and persuade Ilir Meta and the SMI.

To tell you the truth, and I have people who can witness this, I have never believed that it would work because, since I know very well both Ilir Meta and the way the SMI works, I have been convinced since the first second that all the efforts made by Ilir Meta were a natural part of his philosophy and of the way in which the SMI is set on the political chessboard; but not as they were usually read or commented by all those who wanted to the coalition to split, as an attempt to break the coalition.

Actually, the president elect has made every effort, even by crossing a line which, according to me and according to us, should not be crossed by anyone in our coalition. His efforts culminated with his addressing – taking also advantage of his personal relations with the People's Party President – with a letter to the President of the People's Party and to some other personalities and inviting them to make the last attempt to attract the Party Democrats back on the path to reason, and find a reasonable compromise that could end this surreal situation of the DP, that could unblock the Vetting, and could provide a guarantee basis for the elections.

Meanwhile, our coalition burned three rounds of election of the new president, even though we had the votes, which was confirmed by the election of Ilir Meta as president in the fourth round, with virtually 100% of the coalition vote present in the room. But we continued to try to convey the voice of reason through the absurd wall that the Democratic Party has established between itself and the democratic system in Albania. We did not succeed in this endeavour, although when the People's Parties sent here one of their major European figures, Lord McCallister, the opportunity was still on the table, and the first point of the compromise platform proposed by Lord McCallister with the support the EU and the US was the opportunity to have an as much consensual figure of the President of the Republic.

I believe we had the President of the Republic with the votes of our majority, yet while respecting at maximum the Democratic Party's need to have a consensual president. The DP could find neither on earth nor on the moon a more consensual president, a more DP-supporting president, although not a DP member, whom we could vote 100%.  In this respect, we have totally fulfilled our task for having a president who does not represent the Socialist Party, does not represent the majority of the 87 cards in the room, but who represents the entire Albanian political spectrum. And let’s be honest, a president who has been more of convenience for the DP, which he has handled more tactfully than he has done with the SP or his own party when it was about chairing the Assembly of Albania.  

At that moment, the DP strategy wasn’t holding water anymore. Whereas our strategy to go successfully towards the elections of June 18 has worked and is working.

Let’s come to the moment when our friends tried to find a compromise through the friends of the Democratic Party who came here. We had a platform on the table, which was closed by us in the span of 30 seconds. Both by Ilir Meta and by me. Another meeting followed between the DP with Mr McAllister and Mr Flickenstein, and the famous or notorious meeting of the Palace of Congress was organized. Notorious because, to tell you the truth I have never felt worse that two political representatives of the two largest parties in Albania reach  a building and go to different rooms, each of them with a German envoy. This was certainly the choice of Lulzim Basha who refused to sit at the table without having there already my resignation signed. However, in addition to the platform we had agreed, there were also two points as an opportunity of compromise.

One point was the opportunity to postpone the elections by July 16. The next point was the opportunity to make some changes to the government with some technical figures who would give the opposition more guarantees, in the view of those who had formulated this proposal.

Ilir Meta accepted immediately, while I said the following: I neither accept nor reject them, but I am ready to discuss them on condition that the Democratic Party votes the Vetting. If the Vetting is voted, we can discuss these other things as well. Of course, I stressed that there can be no election postponement beyond what the Constitution and the Code allows today, hence June. However, it was not necessary to discuss it anymore because at that moment Lulzim Basha rejected this compromise and left the Palace of Congress.

Politics is a chess game. It is not a checker which you can play like poker. Of course everyone chooses to play as he or she sees it fit, but if you play politics as a checker and use the poker method, playing bluff, like the bluff Lulzim Basha played for 2 months, you should also take on the cost it has, if the bluff is called. I don’t know the game, but those who play poker say that playing bluff can make you win a lot, but you might also lose everything.

Meanwhile, for me politics is chess, and chess has its own rules, there is a whole strategy, and the plan begins to unfold move after move, and when the plan is unfolded by the opponent, the opponent is checkmated. Which means that today we are in the conditions when we cannot forget that in the end we are not here divided between one party who, among other things, should also babysit the other party, and a party who says wait a second, I’m here, too. Wait, for I’m here too, and we have to start the game over because I didn’t know it was chess, and I played poker. It does not work!

I know that this adventure and this bluff definitely have serious consequences for the Democratic Party, but it's not my issue. The Socialist Party and the Democratic Party are opponents. I haven’t heard of any kind of sport or any kind of political match at any moment in the human history where one opponent comforts the other opponent, and where the other opponent tells the strongest opponent "you are not here to defeat me but you are here to make me win." I don’t know where this happens and how it works.

I know that in the capacity of the Chairman of the Socialist Party I can say that our strategy has been perfect up to date, and the strategy of the Democratic Party has failed successfully. The Democratic Party went on an adventure to take hostage the government of the country, the government elected with 1 million votes, to take hostage the Justice Reform, a reform required by 93% of Albanians indiscriminately, to take hostage the electoral process with the idea that the only alternative where the Democratic Party could reconcile with us is chaos, because the Democratic Party has no chance of defeating our coalition in a normal election process.  

Today is the day to look at the reality. Obviously, as Chairman of the Socialist Party, I feel very good that we have fully called the bluff of the opponent. As Prime Minister, I definitely have the obligation to do everything to have the best elections Albania has ever had. We haven’t organized any elections, as a government, to this day. Our government was elected in the elections organized by the Democratic Party in the government.

I don’t know for how long the DP has been crying over the loss of the elections that have not taken place yet, and it has a mountain of accusations against elections that have not taken place yet. Its stories about the narco-republic, about Noriega, about criminals, and this and that, are the DP’s strategy, translated into messages for those who want to listen to them and believe them. They have nothing to do with me. The DP can even publish on the front page of the Fahri of Serbia’s newspaper that I lead the narco-republic. It’s its business.   

What has to do with me and with us is the part related to the objective reasons to be addressed in order to have free and fair elections, the best that Albania has ever had. This is the part that interests me of everything the Democratic Party says. For this reason, I as the Prime Minister, and we as a ruling majority must answer positively to some questions.

Is there a problem with the elections in Albania, in terms of the relationship between those in government and those who are in opposition when it comes to the advantages of being in power?

Of course there is. There has always been. You remember, for example, how in the last moments Sali Berisha was trying to open a tunnel which fell after the elections. The government has a number of instruments the opposition doesn’t have. These instruments have been regularly used for elections in Albania. We were addressed a concrete criticism in the 2015 local elections by the OSCE/ODIHR regarding the use of the legalization activities during elections. Those in power have logistics, cars, assets that have been used historically in elections in Albania. This is an objective point and here, despite the fact that the worst example of the use of state assets was given by Sali along with Lulzim when they were in government, this is objectively a problem.

Are there any reasons to worry about the use of students and teachers, as a huge body of people and voters in the elections?

The history of Sali, when schools used to be locked down and everybody, teachers and students, not only those who were old enough to vote, but also children, would go and cheer Sali and Jozefina cannot be repeated. It will not be repeated anymore!

The history of Sali going to school yards to talk to children and ask them to tell their parents how dangerous Edi Rama was will not be repeated anymore. You are witnesses that we don’t do such things.

But it is hard to change habits, and it would be hypocrisy saying that despite our absolute will to not have schools involved in politics, and to not have students involved in politics against their will, such things can still happen. There was a case in Kavaje, a teacher who told her students to attend an Edi Rama’s rally. This teacher was fired on the same day, as the minister’s order is clear and real.

Is there any reason to be concerned about the use of prisoners in the elections?

There has historically been, and we cannot say that this is not an issue because it’s us in government today.

Is there any reason to be concerned about the police?

I do not think there is because there has been no reason to worry about the police either before. We had elections in 2009, and you know very well that they calved a tent, but the police was not part of our complaints. We had elections in 2011 in Tirana, and you remember very well that there were some police exponents involved in unpleasant episodes, but the police as a whole was not part of our complaints. Let alone in 2013, and much less in 2015. So the police as a troupe has already been disconnected from the elections in Albania. There is, however, a reason I cannot deny, and I cannot say that it should not be taken into account, that it is this whole story of cannabis and the police that has been pointed at as a complicit. A typical hyperbole for Sali, but however an issue to be addressed also in the view of the elections.

Sali and Lulzim, Sali first of all, as he is an old chess player, must realize that what was on the table a week ago will not be always on the table. This is chess. If you refuse to take a piece the moment you should take it, don’t kid yourself that the piece will be still there waiting for you to take it whenever you want, while you’re focused on the queen. We’re opponents, we’re not here to show the DP the next move. 

On the other hand, given these elements I mentioned, I’ve made a proposal, which I believe is very realistic and very much guaranteeing, and which is above all a proposal which I assure you I wouldn’t have dared even in my most beautiful dream at the time I was the leader of the opposition, to see as possible guarantee for us.

I have proposed a mechanism of guarantee of the opposition within the government, to closely monitor in real time the development of the process in all these directions: in administration, teaching bodies, police and prisons. Have a deputy prime minister, nominated by the Democratic Party, but not a member of the Democratic Party, take charge of a Task Force to guarantee non-inclusion in the process, in favour of the majority, of all these parts of the state body. This Deputy Prime Minister, together with a representative from the European Union, a US-appointed representative, a representative appointed by the OSCE, will have the task of fully monitoring the state's behaviour in the campaign on the basis of an agreed regulation, where all the binding points for the government and state agencies will be clearly defined and which should not be violated, ranging from the oil used by state vehicles. The people involved in the campaign have historically used state money to go around the country. No oil drop paid with the taxpayer's money, will go to the campaign. The vehicles that will travel during the campaign will be funded by the parties in the government, not by the government.

I took as an example the most elementary issue, but there is a range of activities which the Prime Minister and the ministers are not allowed to use for the campaign. Of course, the activity of the government cannot stop, but for example, we have decided to interrupt legalizations. I stated that after May 1, which is practically the official beginning of the election process, there will be no more legalizations with cameras and speeches. There are other activities which the Prime Minister is not allowed to use during the campaign, or which he can perform without publicity. These are listed, and this Task Force monitors them.

Meanwhile, in the Ministry of Interior, a deputy minister nominated by the Democratic Party, not a party member, along with the head of the US mission and the European mission chief assisting the Ministry of Interior and the State Police, as well as an OSCE representative, will govern the whole process for monitoring the behaviour of the State Police across the 28 thousand square kilometre-area of our country.

A Deputy Director General of the Police and 12 deputy directors in the districts are subordinate to this Deputy PM and Task Force, who are also accompanied by a representative of the missions we mentioned. You have experience of the elections, and you remember very well that there is a party representative who says every day that a pandemonium has broken out, there is police everywhere terrifying people, etc. Such things are said by parties in press releases, they write them down and send them to the ODHIR, and eventually a report is drawn up. What I propose is to address all these in real time. The moment something happens or is supposed to happen, it is immediately addressed, it is verified, and if it is proved to be true, immediate action is taken on anyone who has violated the State Police ethics. 

The same applies to education. A deputy minister nominated by the Democratic Party, not a party member, accompanied by foreign monitors and with a representative, either of his/her own or foreigner, in each regional education directorate, will receive complaints in real time. If a student complains that the teacher has pressured him or her, and such thing proves to be true after verification, this teacher will be fired. Or if a digital tent occupier says that this or that schools has been closed down, verification is carried out – usually the tent occupiers don’t ever lie, especially digitally – and action is taken, the school principal and all those responsible get fired in real time.

The same applies to prisons. A deputy minister nominated by the Democratic Party accompanied by foreign monitors, will go to every prison in Albania only to follow the electoral process and not to allow that elections in the prisons are organized they used to in Enver Hoxha's time, and as they have been organized historically. Those who had the power have organized them just like in Enver’s time, which means that in 99% of the cases there have been no elections.

This is what I have proposed and still propose to Lulzim Basha and the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, I would like to ask you not to repeat the story of "they gave us less than we had". The idea that you can play bluff and the "you already have what they gave you, now fight for more" story is a kids’ game. This phenomenon usually occurs in kindergartens.

As for the rest, the electronic voting, I listened to a technology lecture yesterday. I'm an active user - you remember when Sali used to “twitter”. Sali has become so much digital that now he “croaks” 7 times a day. But that does not mean I'm a technology expert. Luckily, I have a team that has things ready for me.

I said yesterday that the Democratic Party could elect tomorrow a political minister, whoever he or she is, - I have no reservations, - provided that he or she should at least know the internet, not the revolver. This would be the only condition, and we will appoint him or her for the elections as State Minister for Technology. He or she will have his/her own team and budget, and will prepare a government project for electronic counting, electronic voting and the electronic life of the DP.

If the project is reliable and enforceable, of course certified by those who know how this work, and by the OSCE/ODIHR, we are ready to fund and implement it in the local elections of 2019. Stories about postponement of elections, so that we get ready to have electronic voting, are of course stories that sound real when told in a tent, but they don’t work outside the tent. So we are ready for this as well. So, let’s move immediately today, let’s not waste no more time because we don’t want to find ourselves listening to the same old story in the next local elections. 

Personally I am not a partisan of the electronic voting. As you can see, everyone around the world is going back to manual voting. But, if that's possible, why not? Let’s fulfil this wish of the Democratic Party.

These were the things I wanted to tell to you, and I hope they have been clarifying and helpful enough to put a frame on which we can talk.

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