After rivalries split his party, which fared disastrously in the March 6 by-elections, Lulzim Basha has succumbed to pressure and resigned as Democratic Party leader.
Lulzim Basha, head of the Democratic Party in Albania during a press conference on Sunday, 17 February 2019. Photo: LSA
At a live conference during a meeting with party members on Monday, the embattled leader, Lulzim Basha, declared that he would step down for the benefit of the divided and weakened Democratic Party (DP).
“I invested everything in a solution which would serve the DP. My attempt to keep the party unified did not succeed. I and many Democrats faced unprincipled attacks and today the DP is experiencing a deep crisis,” he said.
“I have decided to take a step back by resigning, giving the opportunity for the Democratic Party to be rebuilt,” he added.
Problems within the centre-right opposition party, which Basha, 47, had led since 2013, deepened after he decided to dismiss from the parliamentary party his former mentor and predecessor, Sali Berisha, who then created a new fraction and tried to take the party leadership back.
Party officials then quit en masse after the disaster of the March 6 by-elections, which saw Berisha’s “Freedom house” breakaway group do better than the official party.
Prime Minister Edi Rama’s governing Socialists won five of the contested races.
But the sixth, the important northern city of Shkodra, was taken by Berisha’s candidate, Bardh Spahiu. This defeat was humiliating. It was the first time in Albania’s 30 years of pluralism that the Democrats had ever come in third place in the city.
Berisha and Basha enjoyed eight years of good relations until September last year, when Basha suspended his political master from the party’s parliamentary group on US advice.
Basha moved against his former mentor after the United States in May declared Berisha “persona non grata” for his involvement in “significant corruption”, “misappropriation of public funds” and interference in “public processes.”
Under Basha, the party has gone from one election defeat to another and pressure has grown from the membership for a change.
Berisha reacted to the resignation by inviting Democrats to work together in the best interests of the party. “I call on Democrats everywhere to work together for a more united, stronger, more open Democratic Party. Long live the Democratic Party” he wrote on Facebook.
Grida Duma, former DP party deputy, also reacted to the resignation on Facebook, saying “from now on the Democratic Party can build the project of the big win”.
“The Democratic Party, with its only shareholders – the Democrats – can now unleash all the extraordinary energy it has”, Duma wrote.
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