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Nations in Transit 2009 - Albania

Publisher Freedom House
Author Ditmir Bushati
Publication Date 30 June 2009
Cite as Freedom House, Nations in Transit 2009 - Albania, 30 June 2009, available at: [accessed 27 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

by Ditmir Bushati

Capital: Tirana
Population: 3.2 million
GNI/capita: US$7,240

The data above was provided by The World Bank, World Bank Indicators 2009.

Nations in Transit Ratings and Averaged Scores

Electoral Process4.254.003.753.753.753.753.504.004.003.75
Civil Society4.004.003.753.753.503.
Independent Media4.504.
National Democratic Governancen/an/an/an/an/a4.
Local Democratic Governancen/an/an/an/an/a3.252.752.752.752.75
Judicial Framework and Independence5.004.504.504.254.254.504.
Democracy Score4.754.424.

* Starting with the 2005 edition, Freedom House introduced separate analysis and ratings for national democratic governance and local democratic governance to provide readers with more detailed and nuanced analysis of these two important subjects.

NOTE: The ratings reflect the consensus of Freedom House, its academic advisers, and the author(s) of this report. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s). The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 7 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year.

Executive Summary

In the 18 years since the collapse of the Communist regime and the introduction of a multiparty system, Albania's transition continues to be dominated by politicians who began their careers in the Communist Party and later adopted populist and anti-Communist rhetoric. The separation of powers among the legislature, executive, and judiciary remains fragile and intermittently damaged by political initiatives. Politicization in the public sector persists and limits the development of a professional, nonpartisan civil service, police, judiciary, electoral administration, and media. Likewise, Albania's social and political upheaval has evolved in an uneven, and at times contradictory, manner.

In 2006, Albania signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union (EU), and in 2008, Albania received an invitation to join NATO. On December 22, 2008, 18 years after the collapse of the communist regime, the ruling party initiated a lustration law to address the crimes of the former Communist regime. The law was adopted by the Parliament, but serious concerns about its constitutionality were expressed by the U.S. government, EU member states, Council of Europe, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Albania's deficiency in the separation of powers and identification of the state with the party in power are the main obstacles to the country's democratization and its integration with the EU.

National Democratic Governance. Despite divisive conflict among major parties, elites were able to arrive at a consensus on enough issues for Albania to receive an invitation to join NATO. The Parliament also moved forward with constitutional amendments concerning changes to the electoral system, the duration of the Parliament's mandate, the convening of the first meeting of the new Parliament, the removal of the Central Election Commission (CEC) from the Constitution, the election and mandate of the president, motions of confidence in the prime minister, and a term limit for the general prosecutor. Public clashes broke out between the ruling party and President Bamir Topi, who was elected to office primarily with the votes of the parliamentary majority just one year earlier. The ruling party continues to demonstrate its tendency to control the judiciary rather than propose an all-inclusive strategy on how to reform the justice system. The party's bias against the Office of the General Prosecutor did not improve with the dismissal of General Prosecutor Theodhori Sollaku or with the introduction of his replacement, Ina Rama. The national democratic governance rating remains at 4.25.

Electoral Process. Constitutional amendments sanctioning a regional proportional model were followed with a cross-party consensus allowing Parliament to adopt a new electoral code on December 29, 2008, six months prior to election day. The new electoral system aims at strengthening government stability, regional cohesion, and development by transforming the voting system into regional multinominal lists. Yet persistent tardiness in technical preparations – such as the issuance of ID cards, production of a transparent voter list, and establishment of the new CEC – weakened the credibility of the electoral process and the maturity of Albanian democracy and its path toward Euro-Atlantic integration. Despite technical shortcomings and protests from smaller parties, the cross-party consensus was a remarkable feat; therefore Albania's electoral process improves from 4.00 to 3.75.

Civil Society. Civil society in Albania struggles to serve as an important voice in public life: Donor-driven agendas, lack of a governmental strategy for cooperating with nonprofit organizations, and limited financial resources hinder development in this sector. Civil society failed to mount an exhaustive consultation process when the government changed the legal framework that regulates the activity of the sector. Policy institutes, however, provided significant input on public policy issues. The first human rights debate took place on December 12, 2008, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, covering delicate issues such as the rights of women, children, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) persons, as well as Albania's poor record of protecting the rights of these groups. Civil society activists have been monitoring the fulfillment of obligations deriving from the Stabilization and Association Agreement and Visa Facilitation Agreement with the European Commission. The role of the media in promoting civil society organizations remains essential. Albania's civil society rating stays at 3.00.

Independent Media. Albanian citizens enjoy a variety of print and electronic sources of information representing a range of political and social viewpoints. The most influential media outlets, however, are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few owners. Financial resources and transparency in the media market continue to be a concern. In the biggest media controversy in 2008, the National Council on Radio and Television fined TV News 24, an outlet known for its criticism of the government, 800,000 ALL (US$8,000) for broadcasting a television spot ridiculing a commercial by the prime minister. Investigative journalism is slowly developing, but by year's end, the newspaper TEMA was attacked after publicizing corrupt activities by government officials. The newspaper's printing press was blocked in violation of a court order, yet TEMA continued to produce a shorter version of the paper. Albania's independent media rating remains unchanged at 3.75.

Local Democratic Governance. Decentralization remains one of the main challenges facing local government in Albania. The National Decentralization Strategy aims at completing the normative and institutional framework to transfer responsibilities for local taxes, water pipes, and sewers to municipalities and adopting the normative framework on loans to local government in order to facilitate the capital investments necessary to ensure better local service. The transfer of enterprises of water pipes and sewers under local government management was objected to by local government authorities as only the shares of these companies will be transferred to local government units, not their real management, which will remain under the authority of the central government. The Law on Loans to Local Government, adopted by unanimous vote in the Parliament in February 2008, will eventually enable municipalities to increase long-term local investments. However, the Ministry of Finance has yet to complete the subordinate legal acts for implementing this law, which currently hampers investment financing through loans. Albania's rating for local democratic governance remains at 2.75.

Judicial Framework and Independence. Improving the independence, efficiency, career prospects, accountability, and transparency of the judiciary continues to be a major challenge for Albania. A cross-party consensus in the Parliament enabled the adoption of the Judicial Power Law, and the Law on the Office of the General Prosecutor, but by year's end, little progress had followed their entry into force. The judiciary continues to be perceived as one of the most corrupt segments of the society. An overall judicial reform has not been completed yet and seems unlikely before the 2009 parliamentary elections. The infrastructure and administration supporting judges remain poor. Coordination between prosecutors and the police is insufficient. The independence of the justice system faced a constant threat from repeated government attempts to assert pressure on and control magistrates; therefore the rating for judicial framework and independence worsens from 4.00 to 4.25.

Corruption. One of the most dramatic failures of the government and its "clean hands" policy can be measured by the way it has handled corruption within its own ranks. Two key ministers from the cabinet faced criminal proceedings for corruption scandals in 2008. Government pressure on the Office of the General Prosecutor and judges increased, particularly when General Prosecutor Ina Rama brought these cases to the court. Overall, magistrates are hesitant, owing to political pressure, to decide major corruption cases involving top politicians and favor the use of legal artifices to postpone the process. The media have continued to play an effective role in exposing corruption cases and informing the Albanian public. The rating for corruption remains unchanged at 5.00.

Outlook for 2009. Albania is expected to join NATO and apply for EU membership in 2009. Parliamentary elections slated for June 2009 are expected to have a crucial impact on the country's democratization process, political stability, and Euro-Atlantic path.

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