Albania's big parties in election campaign to ditch 'king-maker'

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 08, 2017 12:10 PM

By Benet Koleka

TIRANA (Reuters) - Albania's two main parties, campaigning for June 25 elections, are asking voters to empower them to rule alone - in the hope of ditching the uneasy partner they have each governed with in turn during the last eight years.

Neither the Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama nor the Democrats of Lulzim Basha managed in 2013 and 2009 elections to win the 70 seats needed for a parliamentary majority.

The Socialist Integration Movement (SIM) party of Ilir Meta became the unavoidable king-maker, first in alliance with the Democrats and later jumping ship to govern with the Socialists.

Rama and Basha thrashed out a deal in May agreeing to work on constitutional and electoral reform and back Albania's EU bid with one voice, but have not been clear if that means any form of government coalition.

Now Rama is appealing to voters to give him a big enough mandate to rule alone, without "someone ... who grabs the steering wheel and moves it at whim".

"We could open talks with the EU and boost the economy but we need a strong team to work for the country, not to suck blood for their party," Rama said on the campaign trail on Thursday.

Basha, in a speech this week, called Meta "the Merchant of Venice", suggesting he had exacted too high a price for his political support.

Meta was elected president, a largely ceremonial job, by the Socialists and his own lawmakers in May.

Polls have so far suggested the Socialists would win most votes, trailed by the Democrats and SIM. But it is not clear they could form a government on their own.

Meta told an interviewer Rama was trying to win votes "by making SIM the scapegoat".

"We must not let an adventurer risk the future of Albania," Meta said.

(Reporting by Benet Koleka; Editing by Andrew Roche)