At this moment, after the multidimensional Tahiri scandal, it is very easy for anyone to understand what has happened in Albania during the Rama government. But it is very difficult to build a project to leave this situation behind. To explain as succinctly as possible what has happened and to end with several propositions as to what should be done, I will refer to the metaphor of the three-storey building with basement, that I have now used for some time to describe the structure of power in Albania.
According to this metaphor, the first floor is occupied by the oligarchs, who have enriched themselves over the years, corrupting the political power. The second floor hosts the media structures built by a part of the oligarchs, and sponsored by the rest. On the third floor we find politics, the offices of the majority and the opposition, as well as the rooms linked to those offices, most importantly justice and civil society. Finally there is the basement of the building, occupied by organized and disorganized crime.
The basement and the three storeys have for a long time built symbiotic connections with each other through an elevator and stairways that go up and down. Once every eight years there is a change of offices on the third storey, when the majority moves into the opposition offices and the opposition in those of the majority, while the lower storeys simply grow and get stronger.
What is the dramatic worsening brought by Rama’s Renaissance government? Because of the tendency of this system, a reduction of the legal money circulated through remittances, the foreign debt policy, as well as the fact that the government was headed by someone who has no moral scruples to reach his personal goals, the Renaissance opened the doors of the basement like never before. The strengthening of the links of the basement with power allowed a thug closely connected to a dangerous drug trafficking gang, such as Tahiri, to rise to the top of the Ministry of Interior, who has put, afterward, the entire structure of the police in the service of drug trafficking.
Taking into account also the number of criminals put into Parliament and as mayors of several municipalities, it becomes clear that this is a strategy to capture and hold on to power conceptualized with a criminal sangfroid.
It would be too much to speak about the consequences and irreparable damage that this system of power has brought. People want to leave this country by any means possible and criminals who kill each other daily on the streets of Albania are the most extreme and visible symptoms. Between these extremes there is a large mass of people that have become increasingly submitted, alienated, and collaborative with this state mafia, in a way that reminds you of the former regime.
But owing to the fact that Albania is generally much more connected with the world than back then, with all the propagandistic isolation wrought by Rama by buying off journalists and foreign diplomats, the Tahiri scandal that came from Italy has finally cast a ray that illuminates us, and reminds us of the words of Falcone: “the mafia is a human thing and as all human things it will have an end.” Today people are speaking about the inevitable end of this way of governance. The opposition that seemed destined to simply act as democratic façade of this mafia in power became active again.
But the game is not yet over and before us a large question arises. Even though the denunciation of this reality, which is now clear to everyone, would be enough to put an end to this government; even though the explanation of the foreigners would be enough to do so, is that enough to fight the evil that has plagued us? I don’t think so. I consider the mother of problems to be how to build a credible alternative that has to replace this government, which according to me means to construct a project that will destroy the three-storey power structure that I described above, in such a way that each of its storeys will function separately from the others, in the place that belongs to it within a democracy.
I don’t claim to offer a program in this text, but just list some points that seem crucial to me.
The transformation of politics
The first thing that needs to put on the program is the destruction of the stairways and elevator that link the political storey to the lower, criminal floors. In order to do so we need to change the people that lead politics and the arrival of those who have the political will to cut those criminal ties.
A politics that is liberated from those ties would help the further demolitions and replacements. It seems that the opposition parties are hardly worried about this. It seems as if the same protagonists that yesterday were linked to the basement and the other floors, today have taken up the role of denunciator, aiming for a change of offices on the third floor.
The destruction of organized crime
If the people in the basement of politics are isolated, which implies the protection that’s been given to them, the possibility of investing dirty money, connections with the police, etc., it is much easier to put them where they belong: in jail. Is anyone thinking of how to accomplish this isolation?
The transformation of the economy
This is the most difficult challenge, considering the intertwinement of the narco-economy of the basement with the corruption economy of the oligarchs on the first floor, as well as with the healthy part of the economy. This challenge needs to be addressed on two levels: One level is precisely the separation of the criminal economy from the healthy economy by combating the first and supporting the second. The other level is the transformation of the corrupt and monopolistic economy of the oligarchs, who cannot do business without the favors and collaboration of politics or without the abuse of the media, in an economy in which the competition of the free market determines success and survival in the economy.
Naturally this also implies the total change of economic stimulus policies, and the transformation of a money-laundering economy focused on construction and betonization projects into an economy based on honest labor.
The transformation of the media
The transformation of the economy is difficult to accomplish without the transformation of the media, which function to serve the oligarchs and the mafia state captured by them in the media that serve the public. Had there not been the backward willingness of the political class, which has abused private media in collaboration with their oligarchic owners to misinform and manipulate the public (the champion of which is precisely Edi Rama), many of them wouldn’t exist because there wouldn’t be a market. The project of the transformation of the media, which cannot be built without political goodwill, should envision the creation of a truly public television that is not controlled by the government and honest competition between private channels to survive on the market.
The separation of justice from politics
The time has come that the offices of justice are moved to building of its own, without connections to the antechamber of politics. It may be understood that such a justice cannot be built without the support and genuine control of the free media in the service of the public and without the support and control of a civil society not captured by power, like the one that we have. Especially for this reason we urgently need to think about the separation of the offices of civil society from the offices of power. The duty of the opposition and each of its members, beside denunciation, information about what’s happening, and support for the prosecution to deepen its investigations into crime’s capture of the state today, is the drafting of such a credible project.
If we stick to denunciation and wait for the intervention of the foreigners against this government, there is a big chance that we are simply assisting in the next rotation on the third storey, remaining once again the victims of the inhabitants of the basement and the lower storeys of the same criminal building of power that I described.
First published by Panorama, translated by Exit.