Berisha Faces Little Challenge In Path To Reclaiming Leadership Of Democratic Party

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Two candidates will run in leadership elections for the opposition Democratic Party on May 22: Sali Berisha and Ibsen Elezi.

On Monday, the PD committee tasked with organizing elections announced that only two candidates submitted requests to run in the upcoming elections

Ibsen Elezi is former local PD chairman in Kukes who has been critical in the past of the leadership of former PD chair Lulzim Basha. He attempted to challenge Basha in the latest leadership elections in July 2021, but was disqualified from the race on claims that he had not campaigned for the PD ahead of April 2021 elections and had harmed the party with his public comments against its leadership. 

Elezi is running in what appears to be an impossible challenge against Sali Berisha.

A founder of the Democratic Party in 1990, Berisha was its chairman twice: 1991-1992 and 1997-2013. He resigned in 2013 when he lost elections after two terms in office as prime minister.

In September 2021, Berisha launched a successful national tour with party members to topple Basha after the latter’s personal decision to exclude him from the party’s parliamentary group. Basha’s decision came as a result of pressure by the US administration who had just designated the former prime minister over corruption allegations.

A court verdict challenging Berisha’s toppling of Basha is expected soon, while a group of PD members of parliament have asked Berisha to step back from PD leadership, and return to his position as member of parliament with a public voice but no official party positions. The vast majority of PD members support him, as shown in the March 2022 by-elections, and in a number of independent surveys.

Berisha rhetorically claims that Basha had a silent deal with Prime Minister Edi Rama to benefit from power while staying in opposition. He is running on promises to bring back opposition to Rama’s rule, whom he accuses of state-capture and collusion with the mafia.

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