Prime Minister of Albania Sali Berisha conceded defeat tonight. His defeat marks the end of the two decade post-communist era that has, for better or worse, been defined by him personally.
A french-trained cardiologist and communist party member who rose to power as the voice and face of Albanian democracy, Sali himself had been the physician of the former dictator, Enver Hoxha, and a friend of the dictator’s children. On becoming the first post-communist leader of Albania in 1992, he brought rapid economic reforms yet soon came to use many of the same authoritarian methods of the former Stalinist regime. His first downfall came in 1997, after the collapse of tacitly approved pyramid schemes and his mishandling of the aftermath lead to a civil war in 1997. He returned to power in 2005 and stepped down today as leader of his party.
In America and other long-democratic countries, the changing of political power is common place and expected. The day after an election, life continues much like it had the days before. In a country like Albania which has had only 20 years of a democracy I would describe as luke-warm, a smooth transfer of power and fair elections are serious challenges that makes election time stressful and unsettling.
When Sali first came to power in 1992, he represented the dreams of the Albanian people to live in a modern, humane, democratic government. Today, 21 years later, 13 of which under him, Albanian ended the most legitimate election in its history. By conceding today, Sali has, consciously or not, fulfilled a promise made in those last days of communism and those first days of democracy, to build an Albania where a leader such as himself would admit defeat, step down, and let the democracy he in part founded continue on without him.
Living here as a foreigner and something of an Albanian history nerd, I can see what the Albanians I live among can not. For my Albanian friends and colleagues, today is a day of winners and losers. When I watched Sali Berisha concede defeat today, I saw a day in which Albanian democracy had won.
this post is part of a series about the 2013 parliamentary election
To read about what this will mean for me as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Albania, click here.
To read about the election politics in Albania and the candidates, click here.