Rama and COVID-19: The Death of Albanian Democracy

by Bjorna Hoxhallari

Albania and democracy are two words that are usually never linked together in any reports. The country has managed to go as far as a hybrid democracy, but recent events have caused a rise in authoritarianism or perhaps the destruction of the façade. During this time Edi Rama, the prime minister of Albania, has turned the governance of the country into a one-man show from his living room couch. His long dream of having absolute power over the Albanian citizens has been achieved. 

Last week, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation claimed that the coronavirus crisis had allowed Rama to take more political power and institutional roles. He has been the communications chief, personally announcing any action taken. He has used social media to convey messages that threaten, secure, inform, intimidate, and confuse everyone else. He took on the role of head of state, father of the nation, judge, jury, and executioner through hundreds of hours of live broadcasting since the pandemic began. Rama and his police regime are putting up a great fight against this invincible enemy and the visible suppressed masses of Albania.

The characteristic of authoritarian regimes is that they acknowledge great successes until the day they fall. The victory brought by the so-called great leader is surpassing the knowledge of every other doctor in Europe. Though this victory is not stable because the great leader changes his mind and also laws in a heartbeat. All the important decisions concerning people’s health and life change so rapidly just like the kid who owns the ball changed the rules of the game.   

Covid-19 gave the golden opportunity to Rama to own an entire country and therefore demise the freedom of speech by vigorously attacking every media that dared to criticize him and overall created his special, ex-judicial police and intelligence unit. He even tried to oust the President. During the past two years , he has been working hard to destroy the juridical system and the process of free and fair elections, causing freedom to be just a political illusion. 

Amid this political mess, the economic downfall has been inevitable especially with the freedom of the market being at high risk. The government has ensured that corruption has been planted throughout the country by massive propagandistic state employees who have close relationships with organized crime. Albania’s economy is not yet productive, but it is a trade economy, and as a result, depends heavily on human relations. Since they have been discontinued these days, then it is well understood the difficulty it will have. The country’s economy relies strongly on tourism. So, after the earthquake in November and now Covid-19, the economic situation of Albanian citizens is getting worse day by day. 

The future of Albanian politics and economy seems darker than the other countries in the region especially when it’s noted that the economy has decreased by 9%, lower than the rest in the Balkans. On the other hand, the juridical, legislative, and executive powers are all concentrated into the hand of one person. This great power that he currently possesses like the villain in a Marvel movie won’t be easy to be taken away. 

Another characteristic of authoritarian regimes is that they don’t live long. It is also essential to emphasize that the Albanian citizens must fight against a government that left the country without a court, without democracy, with 61 municipalities filled with criminals, with a paralyzed economy and a population that is suffering from poverty. It is also their right to seek prosperity and dignity in their own country. 

The political and economical situation in Albania has taken a negative turn considering that neither of the institutions are functioning or following a proper agenda. It is really important to emphasize that corruption has become the political norm in Albania, following an inherited communist tradition. The European future that many Albanians dreamed of having in the 90s has been seen as really distant by its citizens who face injustice every day in various forms. It is necessary to emphasize that we should have hope. This is because hope gives us the courage to liberate ourselves and seek solutions that bring prosperity to a country with a lot of possibilities. For this to be a guarantee, we need to speak up about all our issues and better understand what Milton Fridman once said: “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”

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