Election Watch Albania: Preparing the Debate 

Albania's longterm rivals for power, prime minister Fatos Nano of the socialist party (PS) and former president Sali Berisha of the democratic party (PD) are preparing a televised debate at the height of the electoral campaign for the general elections on 4th July. While they are both keen on having such a one-on-one debate to suppress the challenge of socialist anti-Nano maverick and former prime minister Ilir Meta with his newly founded "LSI"-party (seen at 18% in polls), the two sides are still negotiating over a suitable format and topics.

Nano, in power for the last 8 years, hopes to focus on Berisha's period of rule in the 1990s, which was brought to an end by an anarchic revolution in 1997 over a pyramid scheme scandal of epic proportions. With all the talk of arrangements and conciliatory gestures between Nano and Berisha, electoral rhetoric is still resolute, as in the following Nano-excerpt translated from an article in the newspaper Shekulli [AL]:
"We are all convinced that these elections are as important for Albania as those of 1997, therefore on the 4th of July we will liberate ourselves for good from the political power of Berisha, who tried in vain to kill your future", said Nano. "You know this enemy and opponent of freedom well, he is the opponent of development, of integration, he is the opponent of education, of welfare, of employment, of caring for the poor. I invite you to send him home on the 4th of July, so that he can enjoy his freedom. Listen, Mr. Berisha, to the sophisticated and powerful voice of the people of Elbasan, so that you walk out of the life of these people, out of the life of all Albanians who love the future. So that you climb down from the pedestals of primitive wildness, so that you don't threaten everybody's freedom."
Popular daily Koha Jone, which can probably be attributed to the camp of challenger Ilir Meta, expresses doubts [AL] about the viability of Nano's campaign tactic:
...Nano forgets that even the year 97 doesn't make him the winner of the debate. His sense of security that Berisha can be damaged in this field is illusory. It derives from the fact that the PD and its leader avoid this period. But in reality this is part of their opposition strategy to focus on the current problems and to propose solutions to come out of the crisis, since this is perceived as the the way to reach as many people as possible in a direct manner. Yet even if we are stuck in 97, this cannot be seen as a drama for Berisha. He needs to convince the public that he is ready to confront the facts. And in this sense he, but not Nano, has already expressed his mea culpa. In his public statements, Berisha has accepted his responsility for the events of the time, for the pyramid schemes and everything else that can be brought up against him as head of state at the time.

Meanwhile Nano, the inspiration of the revolts of the South, and the direct beneficiary of the fall of the state, has still not given any explanations for his role and his guilt. By now public opinion has slowly become aware that the head of the socialists does not come out of this story without getting wet. They said about him that he was an angel, but in his own camp they don't know him as such. Later everybody realised that he was a satanic machiavellian, a fact that was clearly visible especially after his second appointment to power.
Further reading: Albania! at Fistful of Euros

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