Press conference by Prime Minister Edi Rama:
Thank you very much for taking the trouble to attend this press conference in such a short time since the previous communication.
First of all, I would like to briefly comment on the completed registration in compliance with the legal deadline of our 61 mayoral candidates and the list of candidates for city council members. I believe we have managed to finalize a good team. I believe we have succeeded in providing a good opportunity to the communities set to vote on June 30 local elections, reaffirming a number of current mayors, who, in our opinion, have done a commendable job and proposing communities in the municipalities that have not been run by us, candidates with real potential to build a new local government according to standards that live up to our ambition and expectations, which I believe are obvious in the municipalities we have governed to date. I am also glad that we have again forwarded to citizens a team of city council members to obtain a 50/50 balance gender representation all over the territory of the Republic of Albania.
I am really pleased with Socialist nominee for the office of Mayor of Shkodra, an individual who deserves our and my full respect and appreciation, as he has accomplished a series of important tasks and assignments concerning Shkodra community as the representative of a young generation of a noble family in Shkodra and with a respectable family tradition.
I also believe we have named the right candidate to bring about the right change to the Kukes Municipality, a renowned individual in Kukes community who has been previously serving as Prefect of the norther-astern region and has produced sufficient evidence to show he is a skilled administrator.
Likewise, I am confident that our candidates for the mayoral elections in the country’s less developed areas, for 1001 known reasons, and the remote areas from Tropoja to Konispol in particular, are individuals who really deserve to be considered and elected by the respective local communities.
As for Durres municipality, we have decided to trust the woman’s power and nominate a female candidate who has been working at the regional tax administration in Durres for around six years and no complaint has been ever lodged against her, let alone essential reasons to question her integrity, as shown by the impressive results of that tax administration directorate. A renowned economy expert with a contribution to our political family for many years, but I believe she will become renowned and highly evaluated the most suburban areas of the coastal municipality.
Wishing that we have done the same thing with other nominees for the office of mayor in the municipalities we have been governing over the past four years and where tangible outcomes and accomplishments have been achieved, although nothing is perfect, yet results in every municipality we have been governing are really tangible. I believe we have made the right choice with the mayoral nominee for Devoll, a municipality traditionally associated with the right-wing parties, but with a tremendous untapped development potential. Without forgetting other municipalities that have not been governed by Socialist Party’s candidate to date.
Selenica is a small municipality in terms of its centre, yet covering an extensive territory, forming the so-called Vlora’s green pad where we are working intensively to develop proper infrastructure for the area’s sustainable and significant rural development. It is an area that until recently has experienced a great isolation, because it has historically suffered the lack of the Vlora River Road, now under construction. Or other municipalities like Cerrik, Belsh and Prrenjas, which are seen small territories that hold ample development potentials. These municipalities have been governed by mayors whom we have supported too, but who belong to a governing culture different from ours, and it would be enough to visit these areas to notice the huge difference between the municipalities administered by the Socialist Party and other municipalities administered by our former allies in the previous elections.
We have picked best possible candidates who really deserve the citizens’ consideration, support and respect.
Of course, you can help me with your questions to reveal more if there is an interest to reveal more details on this aspect, but of course the other aspect concerns the situation in the aftermath of the recent violent demonstration as the yesterday’s manifestation was.
I am not impressed by the fact that the number of Molotov bombs fell and the formula of fire attack on the state institutions changed, because the yesterday’s assaults, both on the General Police Directorate and the Parliament again put the policemen’s lives at risk as several of them were injured and, above all, the yesterday’s protest was a walk through the vacuum of despair of those who have been self-excluded from the elections, but which caused which caused considerable concern and a sense of unease among citizens and residents throughout the opposition’s absurd march trajectory that took place yesterday. It is worth reiterating that the government cannot be replaced or ousted neither by stands nor marches, let alone the Molotov bombs, the firecrackers or the fireworks, which are indeed the government program, or a ruling alternative of a party, but which help to injure Albania’s face in the eyes of the world and hit hard the country’s economy and the household economy of every citizen living in this country.
Prior to this press conference, I was meeting a group of tourism operators, who voiced their deep concern over the fact that following the spread of the protest images, a number of visitors have already cancelled their hotel bookings across the country. In other words, the economic potential of this key industry for the country’s economy is falling, putting many jobs in tourism industry at risk and forcing small and big enterprises directly and indirectly operating in tourism sector lowering their investment budget and this is a matter for real concern. So such manifestations are not doing any good to Albania and Albanians, on the contrary they do a lot harm to Albania and Albanians. I have stated and I want to reiterate it. The only thing that escapes unharmed and unaffected is the government and the ruling majority. Everything else is affected badly.
I would like to renew my appeal to all of people, who follow those leaders blinded by despair of chronic losers and inability to open their eyes and see the future, and tell them that it is not those blind leaders whose household economy become hurt, neither their summer vacation, it is not their deep pockets that become hurt, neither their children would suffer from the lack of money that this kind of approach and this destructive chain of manifestations bring about, but first of all, it is you who are watching and listening to me now and have the right to support someone else and seek something else in the form of government.
A number of protesters are standing trial today for the Saturday’s demonstration. They are all common citizens, who have been manipulated and prompted to exercise violence and they will certainly wonder: “Why and for whom did I do this? Whom I served? What did I gain?”
Others after them should also ask themselves, “for the sake of whom am I going to violate the law, set fire and face punishment as stipulated by law? Will my life improve? Will my household’s economy improve? Will my country where I live improve?
“Absolutely not! There is no chance of whatsoever! My position will get worse only, because by violating the law I risk to deprive myself of freedom.”
After delivering their hate speeches to out-pour their whole daily arsenal of hatred and violence inciting appeals they return home. It is a question everyone should make themselves. Of course, I reiterate, everyone has the right to think differently, but whoever goes beyond expressing his opinion or position and threatens other people’s rights in the territory where free people move then he goes on living a part of his life in the territory where the state isolates those who are sentenced to prison.
And for whom you do it?
For Lulzim Basha, Monika Kryemadhi, or Sali Berisha? Or other people who have absolutely no sense of history, no sense of the future, but the negative energy that despair and blindness, lack of vision and ideas furiously generate.
How on earth vision can be replaced by fire?
How ideas can be replaced by firecrackers and fireworks?
How on earth existence of a political party that is the future alternative for the country’s government can be replaced and instead turn into a kind of a headless body wandering aimlessly about Tirana in order to cause damages and threaten the others.
This is unacceptable!
Of course, as far as we and I are concerned it is time to express again deepest gratitude to the police officers for their sacrifices. Respect for every reporter and cameramen who, in order to do their job best, work in an area where they are threatened. The Molotov bombs are often used to blow up tanks. Molotov bombs are Span War inventions to blow up tanks. A Molotov cocktail can blow up humans if exploding on the body of someone. Such bombs are not funny toys, but fighter and combat weapons. The firecrackers too.
We all witnessed how young female police officer lost her fingers due to the firecrackers explosion. It could have been worse, as explosion could have damaged her head, but the firecrackers exploded on her hand. Imagine what a tragedy would have ensued for her family or for every family of the reporters, the cameramen, policemen, or the protester who was caught in flames.
This is a demonstration of irresponsibility shown by politicians, recently on yellow vests, and not frustrated, marginalized, vulnerable and unrepresented social groups, just like it is the case of the yellow vest protesters.
I want to express deepest respect for every police officer and wish quick recovery to all those injured in this absurd demonstration of blind violence and political barbarism.
-The opposition protests kicked off following the release of wiretaps, purportedly featuring Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako’s voice. Yesterday you submitted the mayoral candidates list and Vangjush Dako won’t be a candidate to seek reelection for a fourth consecutive mandate as Mayor of Durres. By not naming Mr. Daku, does it hint that you somehow acknowledge the Democratic Party’s allegations or the speculations suggesting that you have decided to give up running this Municipality are true?
On Sunday you said that no international partner would take over to negotiate a package aimed at resolving the crisis between you and the opposition. Yesterday, we have heard rumors suggesting that the Democratic Party’s sister party, Germany’s CDU was absolutely ready to undertake a dialogue initiative. Would you be ready to accept it? If there was an offer to postpone elections until October, would you be willing to accept it?
Prime Minister Edi Rama: Thank you for the question as you provided me the opportunity to express my gratitude also to the representatives of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, a major party in the European People’s Party (EPP), where DP happens to be a member, for stating an absolutely clear and correct position.
As for the dialogue, I personally need neither Germans, nor Americans, neither Dutch, nor French, neither English nor Norwegians to sit and dialogue. I have stated and I want to reiterate that dialogue is inalienable and irreplaceable in the political coexistence process in a normal country and society basing their choice on the vote. I have been asking for dialogue much earlier than firecrackers and fireworks started to explode, even when the other side probably had less need for dialogue.
The other party needs dialogue more than ever today and the country too needs dialogue more than ever before, because Albanians owe nothing to the Albanian politicians to trigger situation where instead of planning a beautiful weekend with their families or rest at home, they are forced to celebrate new year and see the fireworks display that is dreamed by the ridiculous imagination of the DP leadership and cope with an acoustic pollution they don’t experience even on the New Year’s Eve. So, as far as dialogue is concerned, I want to reiterate that dialogue on everything is always indispensable, let alone to establish communication among people and with people who represent others and share a heavy burden to represent them.
Secondly, in my opinion, the German friends have expressed readiness to help. They are welcome, but, to put it clear, no negotiations will be held in terms of a negotiations process over the June 30 elections, because we have no opportunity to negotiate the Constitution of Albania.
We reached an agreement in 2017, yet we didn’t negotiate the Constitution of Albania. Do you remember it? We didn’t accept and I flatly refused the postponement of the elections beyond the constitutional deadline and, if I am not wrong, the polls were delayed by a week back then. But it is impossible to postpone the June local elections as the President, between the June 23 and June 30 possible dates, has set June 30 as the date for the 2019 mayoral elections. So the June 30 elections will be held on June 30 and I have no real opportunities to fantasize because it is the Constitution of Albania that stipulates that date and, on the other hand, I have been given the honor and privilege to speak on behalf of majority both in the parliament and the people and that majority cannot negotiate the Constitution and its right to participate in an electoral process. It can’t negotiate.
You will come across many packages over the next coming days, including packages drafted locally for various reasons, packages that are drafted to tell the DP mayors that the temptation to register as independent candidates or to run under other political parties’ ticket is wrong, because there is a package in place. You would be hearing about packages to boost morale of the people who have started to abandon the opposition rallies, as you might have already notices, because the opposition actions of whatsoever could replace the government should they accomplish successful election campaigns, whereas the opposition marches marred by fireworks simply see the decimation of the number of people who join such marches, yet they can do no harm of whatsoever to the government. The government stems from elections and votes in the Assembly. No government can be produced through protests and is not replaced through violence. As for the other question, the wiretaps, to me it turns out that no of Vangjush Dako has been revealed. It seems to me that some unlawful interceptions have been released breaking of the investigation secret on a criminal group and among those wiretapping, there are one or two references between them and one or two communications that show nothing about Vangjush Dako and, strangely again, between the obligation towards the public opinion to provide any information because if it turns out that investigation secret is revealed – this is not the responsibility of journalists and the media – the media have this duty and the obligation to clearly distinguish between the show and the true information.
You are forcing me to return to the wiretap or the phone conversations among some scoundrels and bastards, on basis of the which prosecutors sought to arrest Saimir Tahiri just 24 hours after publication of these conversation. Did anyone draw a lesson from the fact all uproar regarding the person turned out to be null according to Italy’s anti-mafia prosecutor’s office? A lesson should have been learned from that. Just like the jurisprudence has learned the lesson that no eavesdropping is considered an evidence to sentence someone without a full investigation. Having said all these, the replacement of Vangjush Dako in Durres, and Qazim Sejdini in Elbasan, believe it or not, is a request they have made for times now. Three consecutive mandates, or 12 years as mayors of two big cities, are many and the need to bring fresh energies and push development projects further is evident now.
With regards to rumours suggesting that we have decided to give up governing Durres, I often engage in debate with the party’s leadership when insisting to win the 61 municipalities across the country, because when you enter a race you want to win. Secondly, who else might be better than us in this aspect? Well, for the sake of truth, we are not the best, but nobody else is better than us. Whom to trust Shkodra? Those who have been governing Shkodra for over a quarter of a century? Just compare Shkodra with Vlora. What did we do in Vlora in less than four years, what have they done in Shkodra for over a quarter of a century. Draw a comparison between the two cities. How we could possible give up from governing Durres?
Tropoja breathed for the first time as a city thanks to the urban renaissance program. Tropoja was nowhere to be seen prior to the implementation of the urban revival program. It has now started breathing. I have successfully collaborated with the Mayor of Tropoja. He is a DP representative, yet he is a hardworking man.
We of course intend to win all municipalities. This was our goal yesterday and it is yet our goal today and don’t say that this means taking over everything. I take over nothing but what voters decide and as for this issue, I am absolutely confident that it would be in the best of each community to back our mayoral candidates. It is in best interest of every DP supporter in Shkodra to back our candidate.
Mr. Rama, you affirmed your readiness to dialogue with opposition, but without negotiating the election date, while the opposition’s stance regarding the elections is well-known. What dialogue could you possibly have? You rightly say that June 30 is the last constitutional deadline for the local elections, yet the Constitution stipulates two electoral periods, that of summer and autumn. Does it sound a utopia to postpone elections until autumn?
PM Edi Rama: It is not a utopia, but a violation of the Constitution. It is as simple as that. There are 1000 of topics to discuss about, as I stated in our previous meeting. They keep saying that they are not seeking to seize power, but they want Albania to improve and become better. In order for Albania to become better, there are a lot of things that should take place and there are a lot of things and reforms that need to be done. To be more concrete, the June 30 bus is gone, because when it stopped at station, we got on, while the others didn’t.
The 2021 train will come very quickly as two years have already passed. On Friday two years ago was the day when the agreement was reached with the Democratic Party. Doesn’t it seem as it has happened just yesterday? It’s gone!
They have a lot of things to say about the electoral process, the legislation and everything else. We have our own ideas too about what to dialogue so that we hold better elections when the general elections date come. It is high time to sit and discuss these issues. Dialogue is open. I set no preconditions, because I am not like my predecessor here or my friend in opposition who set conditions, urging me to resign and then talk. I say “when we are going to talk”? He replies: “Once you step down.” Who are going to talk with then? I have no conditions. I am ready to talk about anything, but not to assume responsibility and violate the country’s constitution. No!
I have had a very strong reason, because, of course, when one tells himself that you can do everything and when he meets an irresponsible individual in the opposite side, saying we can do everything, then the elections could be postponed and the constitution could be violated too. But I have had very strong reasons, because I knew it would have been a heavy stone tied around Albania’s neck and the democratic process, as this would then turn into an unprecedented political game. Imagine if the elections would have been postponed beyond the constitutional deadline in 2017. Then no discussion would have been taking place now, because everyone would say there is no problem at all to violate the Constitution. No! This is not possible! The election date cannot be postponed because we should not create such a precedent never. We cannot do this to the country. In a sense the elections are a race. It is a job. I have spent a part of my life in sports. Elections are a race that include sport and satisfaction. Of course, I would have been very pleased should we faced our rivals, as the race would have been more motivating, because it is completely different to defeat them and see them run away as they have previously done. We should keep working. We can run after them and plead to come back and forget everything. This is not our job. It is absolutely impossible in this aspect.
-Mr. Prime Minister, I have heard you often commenting the Jan 21 events. I believe it is one of the days you will never forget? Why did you name Agron Malaj, a former Republican guardsman in the Jan 21 events, as the Socialist Party’s mayoral candidate in Mat, although he has been fired by the former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri when he took office back in 2013? Thank you!
PM Edi Rama: First of all, I don’t comment often on Jan 21 events. I have mentioned the Jan 21 events as it was necessary to draw a simple comparison, but I would like to thank you for providing the opportunity to draw such a comparison again.
Secondly, thank you very much for the question, because the truth is, as you also said, Agron Malaj has been member of the Republican Guard and has been part of the group of fire. However, it has been fully proved, not partly but thoroughly, that in not a single moment has he been involved in actions that violate the law. Journalists have the right to disseminate information, but you also have the obligation to investigate everything before putting people in a template frame.
I have carried out my investigation. We have conducted our investigations. It is true that he has been removed, just like many others, to confirm moral responsibility in this case, because legal responsibility is decided by the court. But he has been fired to help the transparency of the whole process and the transparency shows quite the contrary. Therefore, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify this issue because a lot of propaganda is being made on the matter. How on earth would we accept in our local party’s leadership, first and foremost, an individual, who would have been morally and legally responsible for the Jan 21 events? No! Quite the contrary is true, because he has been one of the people, who have provided detailed information on Jan 21 events. Therefore, I am completely calm and confident in this aspect. Not everyone, including those who joined the Saturday’s protests, are guilty. I would never say that a part of those who gathered in front of the Prime Minister’s office and threw Molotov bombs are all hooligans. No, they are not. Hooligans are those who resort to hooligan actions. So, I have never considered people collectively and, whenever I have had to face certain situations, I have been particularly concerned and careful not to consider people collectively. We are not all alike. Nor are we the ones involved in politics, even though the approach to politics is that “these are all alike.” No, we are not all the same thing, because if so we would have been holding this press conference today, because a procession would have been taking place in front of the government building instead.
If we were all the same, then a march for murdered people would have been taking place today. We are not alike, because if so then more than 40 injured people would have been rushed to hospitals as it was the case in Jan 21.
If we were the same, we would be in the same situation as we were after January 21 and I regret that one you colleagues who asked me that day or said the same thing happened on Jan 21, is not here today. It’s not true.
I didn’t mention any stone at all. I said that no Molotov bombs have been thrown at the government building on Jan 21 and I said that a car was put on fire.