ALBANIA'S ruling Democratic Party is turning increasingly
authoritarian, diplomats and Albanian critics say.
The criticisms come at a time when the Albanian government is
hoping for approval of most-favored-nation trade status from the
United States Senate.
Albanians overwhelmingly elected the Democratic Party (DP) last
March, sweeping the ex-communist Socialist Party from power. But
since then the DP has taken a number of undemocratic steps, critics
* On Aug. 14, the Democrats purged six moderate leaders from
their party, calling them "extreme leftists," "deviationists," and
"traitors." The party may remove some of the dissidents from their
parliamentary seats, although that is not legal under current
* The Socialist Party won a majority of seats in local elections
July 26. But local officials have refused to distribute
international food aid in some towns where the Socialist Party won,
one European diplomat says.
* State enterprises and offices can now fire employees without
cause or access to appeal. The government says it must be able to
remove communists; opponents call the law arbitrary and
* Police have harassed members of the Socialist Party, arresting
and then releasing them a few days later without charge.
Albanian President Sali Berisha strongly denies the charges of
authoritarianism. President Berisha, a founder of the DP, says the
country has made great strides toward democracy but must be given
Berisha says his critics once "considered dictatorship as
democracy," and now confuse democracy with dictatorship.
Albania was ruled for more than 40 years by the repressive
regime of Communist Party leader Enver Hoxha. Student
demonstrations in December 1990 and growing international pressure
forced the Communist government to hold elections and begin the
transition to a market economy. The former Communists won the 1991
parliamentary elections, but the political and economic situation
By March of this year, the DP swept 62 percent of the national
vote in new parliamentary elections. Many Albanians hoped the DP
would stabilize the country politically and revive the failing
economy. The DP started companies in an effort to stimulate
But many Albanians resented the steep price hikes and voted for
the opposition Socialist Party in the July local elections. The
Socialists, made up of many former Communists, maintain that they
have become a "European social democratic party. …