When Chams Attack

Greece and Albania are having a small diplomatic tiff. If reading about that sort of thing interests you, read on.

So: two weeks ago, Greek President Karolos Papoulias’ was scheduled to meet with Albanian President Alfred Moisiu, in the southern Albanian town of Sarande. I’m pretty sure this was the first meeting of Greek and Albanian heads of state in a long time. So, fairly big deal by regional standards.

But it didn’t happen, because of the Chams. About 200 of them. They showed up outside the hotel in Saranda where President Papoulias was staying, waved signs, shouted, and generally made a nuisance of themselves.

President Papoulias didn’t take this at all well. He cancelled the meeting with President Moisiu and went back to Greece in a huff. A day or two later, Greece issued a demarche to Albania. (A demarche is a formal diplomatic note from one country to another. It’s about a 5 on the diplomatic hissy-fit scale, higher than merely expressing disapproval but lower than recalling your ambassador.) The demarche expressed regret that Albania did not “take the necessary precautions so that the meeting between the Greek and Albanian Presidents could take place without hindrance.” Worse yet, they did not “take the necessary measures to discourage certain familiar extremist elements which, in their effort to obstruct the normal development of bilateral relations, continue to promote unacceptable and non-existent issues, at the very moment when Albania is attempting to proceed with steps fulfilling its European ambitions”.

Got that? Okay, now comes an obvious question.

What, exactly, are Chams?
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And yet again, Albania

Back in July, I posted about the Parliamentary elections in Albania. Dedicated readers may recall that the Socialist government of PM Fatos Nano lost, and the opposition Democrats (under former PM Sali Berisha) won… but that Nano was refusing to concede defeat.

Well, he finally did. It took nearly two months, and three special runoff elections, but Nano at last conceded the election on Tuesday. Sali Berisha is now Prime Minister.
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Albania again

Former Prime Minister Sali Berisha won a surprise upset victory in the Albanian elections earlier this month.

This is not particularly welcome news for anyone outside of Albania. Berisha, who was Albania’s chief executive from 1990 to 1997, is remembered as a corrupt and erratic authoritarian who ran a government of cronies, best remembered for the “Pyramid” crisis of 1997 that left Albania in anarchy with hundreds dead.

Inside Albania, however, Berisha has been cultivating an image as a repentant reformer. He’s been aided in this by widespread dissatisfaction with the Fatos Nano government, which was seen as extravagantly corrupt and increasingly isolated from the concerns of ordinary Albanians.
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Elections in Albania (II)

A few weeks back, I blogged a little about the upcoming elections in Albania. Here’s a bit more.

The elections are expected to be close, because the ruling Socialist Party is split. The larger faction supports the current Prime Minister, Fatos Nano. But a breakaway group, under an ex-weightlifter named Ilir Meta, has organized itself into the Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI). The SMI is running a strong third in the polls and might well hold the balance of power between the two larger parties.

Meta used to be Prime Minister himself. To make a long and really complicated story short, Nano engineered his downfall back in 2001; both men were Socialists, but Nano wanted to be Prime Minister himself. Meta didn’t take it well.

The two major candidates — Nano and Democrat Sali Berisha — held a televised debate, Albania’s first ever, next week. (Meta was excluded, much to his irritation.) Although Berisha and Nano loathe each other, the debate went off without a hitch.
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Elections in Albania (I)

So Albania is having a general election. The voters will go to the polls on July 4, in a little over three weeks.

The Albanian electoral system is rather interesting IMO. The Parliament has 140 members. 100 members are elected in “zones”, one-member districts with a first-past-the-post system, rather like Britain. But 40 members are elected at large, using party lists. All the parties that get more than 2.5% of the vote will divide these 40 seats among them, proportionately.

I don’t know anyone else who uses this mixed system, though I’m sure it can’t be unique to Albania.
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