Albanian Socialists Owe Latest Victory to Well-Oiled Machine

The Socialists’ streamlined political machine and controversial patronage system won them a third election victory – but have worrying implications for democracy, experts say.

As Albanian election officials were busy counting ballots cast in Albania’s April 25 parliamentary elections last week, one name popped up in the media as a particular surprise.

It belonged to Ornaldo Rakipi, a 27-year-old from Peqin, a town of some 6,000 inhabitants, who had pulled off an unexpected success by grabbing an MP’s seats in Tirana County for Edi Rama’s ruling Socialists.

Rakipi had been placed in 30th position in the Socialist Party list in an election zone where the Socialists won 18 seats.

Under Albania’s system of closed lists, he won a seat by polling some 16,000 votes personally – a remarkable feat which, for example, the Socialist heavyweight and former prime minister, Pandeli Majko, failed to emulate.

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