You, Me and the Albanian Elections

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June 19, 2013 by theloneblonde

So this week I decided to get cable tv. Now before you go all crazy and think wow, this girl is totally in the “Posh Corps,” let me inform you I only receive water 25% of the day, and live 2.5 hours away from the nearest medical facility down an unpaved road.

At a good 600 Leke ($5.95) a month I receive 30 channels of pure Albanian nonsense (5 news channels, 3 movie channels, 2 music channels, and a bunch more in other languages like Greek, Turkish, and Italian). Though there are two other very specific reasons why TV is somewhat important.

Reason #1: Because it’s a great way to learn Albanian by constantly hearing it.

One volunteer went through his entire service without a laptop and mostly   without Internet, yet he had cable, his Albanian was something to look-up to.

Reason #2: There are no radio stations received in my site, and this is a security issue, I need to be informed of what goes on in the world and we cannot always count on the internet.

I decided it was probably important to get cable before Sunday, partially because the national elections are on Sunday and I really want to watch as the ballots roll in in Albania and because just in case shit hits the fan, it’s a good thing to know it’s in  happening in the real world because I am out in the middle of nowhere.

Many years ago, specifically in 1997, shit did hit the fan. As a result Peace Corps was evacuated from Albania. With the instructions to get you bags and hike over the mountain (pretty much this is what they tell us, and pretty much this is as good of a plan as biking through the mountains claiming to be school teachers in Iran ala Argo), it’s good to be able to watch things unfold around here, because you never know what is going to happen. There is a documentary of what happened and you can watch it in parts here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDiwO3KfPT4

Albania has gone a long way since 1997, they have written a constitution created laws and have gone through various stages of development. Though as seen though the movie Albania has not changed much since the documentary (it still looks the same), and the Peace Corps Volunteers featured look and sound just like the ones here now. It just goes to show anything can happen at any time.

Now I am not trying to scare you, and chances are NOTHING will happen during this election, with the exception of some excellent NHL worthy fights in the town square. I will stay safe with my excellent contingency plan: sitting back in one of many items of furniture this Sunday, June 23 with a nice glass of Raki.

[I will not hide in my bathroom and watch 8 seasons of desperate housewives, as suggested facetiously by our PC Director of Programme and Training. Though this may be a viable option because it will be the coolest room in my house, as it will be in the mid-30s (C-95F) for the rest of the summer]

A little bit about the current elections:

Everything in Albania is controlled by party politics. Not only your local/national leaders who are voted in every four years, but your doctors, your teachers, your garbage men, your janitors, and to a lesser extent even myself could lose our jobs over party politics. Now I am only here to help, but others are not so lucky. Jobs, public services, and anything that could potentially be overseen by the government is subject to party politics. They are still a country in transition.

A short history lesson:

During WWII (Sept. 1943-Nov 1944) Albania was occupied by Nazi Germany.

After this the communist party gained a lot of support, and then they became a socialist dictatorship from 1944-1991. The country was lead by Enver Hoxha, a self’-declared Marxist-Leninist (until he decided they were not communist enough for him). He closed Albania off, it became a closed state, very similar to North Korea today, no one came in and no one went out. At first they were friends with Yugoslavia, and after the USSR and then China showed up as well to promote Maoism.

Human rights were seriously violated, religion was banned, everyone was super nationalistic. Albania was putting the rest of the world to shame and they were told they were the only true communist aka there was a lot of propaganda. The constitution at the time stated they were in a “state of the proletarian dictatorship.” So Hoxha ruled to the very end, sorta, he had another guy (who later became the first president of Albania do his dirty actual work.

So as the rest of Europe fell and the cold war ended communism in Albania fizzled out and they transitioned to a democracy in line with the rest of Europe. They adopted a temporary constitution in 1991 after the fall, but shit hit the fan and nothing really happened until 1998.

After a year of freedom there were actual elections in which Hoxha’s right hand man was booted out of office, and Sali Berisha (former doctor of Enver Hoxha, former communist party member, the current Prime Minister,) takes office from 1992-1997 (when shit hit the fan, watch the movie above for clarifications on why).

Fast-Forward Until Today:

Elections are coming 23 June 2013.

With the Democratic Party (DP-on the political scale they are considered to be more to the “right”) we have Sali BerishaDSC04628Sali hanging out across the street from my office

Slogan: Ne Jemi Ndryshim. Perpara! (Google Translation: We are the change! Ahead! My Translation: We are different. Forward!) and Ky eshte zhvilliam! Perpara! (Google and my translation: This is development! Forward!)

Color: Blue

Fun Fact: He has been in Power for an already combined total of 13 years and this would be his third term as Prime Minister. When you google him on American google they think you have spelled his name wrong and come up with:

 Did you mean: Salad Bar

With the Socialist Party (SP-on the political scale they are considered to be more to the “left”) we have Edi Rama

Edi RamaEdi Rama, somewhere not in Corvode Source

Slogan: Rilindje (Google Translation: Rebirth My Translation: Reborn)

Color: Pink/Purple

Fun Fact: He was the former mayor of Tirana (2000-2011), and he is ridiculously tall. I have very strong feelings that he needs to dress up like a pirate for Halloween because he has a very pirate look about him.

There are some other 3rd parties as well, and a coalition (can you say fun!).

There is another Socialist party, the Socialist Movement for Integration or LSI and their leader Ilir Meta

for blogHere would be Ilir speaking in front of my Office

Slogan: Të ecim më shpejt (Google translation: To Go faster. My Translation: We walk faster)

Color: Red

Fun Fact: Most specifically LSI is the party known to be from my city. Currently the town is COVERED in head to toe with LSI flags, posters, and clothing items (they have literally painted the town red).

So this coalition was once between the LSI and the DP but LSI decided on this election to switch sides and join forces with the other side. Not everyone liked this and some LSI supporters are staying with the DP but due to a lack of campaign promises (among other things) being carried out around these parts from the party in power, people seem to be on boat with this switch.

Though I said there were parties on the “right” and parties on the “left,” ideologically they are pretty much equal. There is not really a huge difference in ideals. Much of it is historic, and for the younger generations you are born into a party. Not to mention there is a considerable amount of voting buying and party violence. Each party holds rallies in town and people are forced to attend them, everyone is watching who shows up, who cheers, and often times you job will depend on you being there or not being there. People bring out famous singers and performers to try to get others to come out and increase participation and attendances to hear their campaign promises.

Pretty Much they all go like this:

Anatomy of an Albanian Election Campaign Speech

Verse 1: Walk into a song that they clearly have not asked permission to use there is a lot of U2 and Rihanna

PM walked into Rihanna we fell in love in a hopeless place, which I always     was convinced the words we we fell in love in a homeless place… hysterics

Refrain: Repeat Campaign Slogan multiple times

Verse 2: Geography Lesson, name all the cities in Albania that they can remember

Refrain: Repeat Campaign Slogan multiple times

Verse 3: Depends on Side, name all the awesome things you have “done” or name all the things that need to be done

Refrain: Repeat Campaign Slogan multiple times

Verse 4:Talk about the roads, and how they suck, and how they are the only hope

Refrain: Repeat Campaign Slogan multiple times

Verse 5:Talk about how this city is the best place ever and why (We all know Skrapar (my state) has the best raki, everyone agrees, cheers erupt no mater the party)

Refrain: Repeat Campaign Slogan multiple times

Verse 6:Talk about development and pretty much the roads again or public transit

Refrain: Repeat Campaign Slogan multiple times

Verse 7:Talk about the fact that they, single handedly, will make Albania join the EU or maybe even be the 51st state in USA

Refrain: Repeat Campaign Slogan multiple times

Verse 8: Pause: for people cheering your name/or don’t and talk over them

Verse 9:Talk about times you were in the city… maybe

Verse 10: Yell Campaign slogan and Campaign promises together loudly

Finale: GLITTER or Fireworks are shot off (depends on how much money your city has)

Exit: RUN to your car and get the out of dodge.

Campaign Commercials

I don’t find them as bad as American ones. True they like to slam the other side for how much money they spent or all the bad things and why people will not vote for so and so. Though there is a lot of good ones, about how so and so have been helped by one side or the other. No one is burning documents or accusing the other side of hiding things, instead everyone is standing on top of pretty mountaintops making campaign promises.

Though I like the ones that show people who don’t even live here going I will vote for whomever. All I can think is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUFT35S7Jb4

So you think this sounds pretty crazy…

I was discussing the election policies today over coffee with my colleagues and I asked about the process of elections and voting. Voting happens in every neighborhood and in the villages, closer villages have central polling places. Then I asked how to you vote, and they are like you show you ID card (they thought this was a very strange question). I then informed them that in the USA, you don’t have to have an ID to vote. Pretty much they flipped out on me, and then questioned how USA elections are even considered fair. They were so shocked to believe that the nation they looked up to did not require such a simple measure to fight corruption.

[I only mention this not to stir up political issues but to inform you that you cannot compare political systems, to each his own I guess].

So this Sunday, I am going to sit on my blood red slipped covered couch and watch the election fan fare unfold on my old tv with my scratchy cable and enjoy an incredibly nice glass of Skrapari Raki. Which ironically is the only thing that all the Political Parties can agree on, Skrapar clearly has the best Raki.

Disclaimer: As a volunteer in Albania representing an organization of no political affiliations, I am not expressing any opinions regarding my political views. This essay is only one to provide a picture of what Albanian life is during election times. The information expressed is from my own personal experiences through observation, news, and research; they are meant only for my own personal qualitative purposes and general amusement. 

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