Author: Xhelal Neziri
After much effort, hesitation and tactical movements, Ziadin Sela’s Alliance for Albanians (ASH) and Afrim Gashi’s Alternative joined a pre-election coalition to run on April 12.
Before formalizing this coalition, ASH had sent an ultimatum bid to Alternative and BESA, where the lists in the first and second election unit, where they could actually win one deputy, would be headed by the Alternative, while the fifth and the sixth by ASH. This offer was considered a disgrace by BESA, while it was accepted by Alternative.
The coalition appeared to have been planned earlier, but had to be managed so that Kasami’s party would not participate. Since 2018, when the party led by Kasami was split into two entities, Sela had made it clear that he would have to choose between two rival parties. Kasami’s BESA inherited the Pollog-centric unit, which is part of the sixth election unit, while Gashi’s Alternative – as a party coming out from BESA-led party – is well positioned in the first and second election unit. Given this electoral geography, ASH appears to have seen a more favorable partner in the Alternative due to a lack of support to draw deputies in units where the latter stands well. Based on the results of the last local elections of 2017, Sela’s party has considerable support in unit 5 and 6, but not so well in units 1 and 2. ASH’s math is that with Alternative it will succeed to cover all the election units that issue Albanian deputies and thus to compete more seriously with Ali Ahmeti’s Democratic Union for Integration (DUI)
Meanwhile, in the 2018 presidential election, ASH was in coalition with BESA, running for president of the country, Blerim Reka, the only candidate in the race. Although it was known that Reka’s chances of being elected president were theoretical, Sela and Kasami warned this cooperation as being long-term, and Reka as a unifier of the Albanian opposition. The coalition took approximately 80,000 votes, in a race where there is Albanian countercandidate, because DUI and Alternative – as a government party – backed Stevo Pendarovski from the first round, as the ruling coalition candidate proposed by SDSM. This result is not enough to defeat DUI, which had close to 84,000 in the 2016 election, and in 2017 – about 86,000 votes.
If the votes collected in the 2017 local elections are taken into account, then ASH would number 6-7 deputies, while Alternative 2-3 deputies. Based on the election results, Alternative would win one deputy in the first unit, one in the second unit and questionable would be the deputy in the sixth unit. ASH would win a deputy in the fifth unit, one in the second and four in the sixth. According to these indicators, but also reliable surveys for the current ratings, the most optimistic variant of the ASH-AA coalition would win 10, while the most pessimistic – 6 deputies. On the other hand, based on the results of the last local elections and surveys, DUI would win 10-12, BESA 1-2 deputies, and DPA 1 deputy.
This calculation and analysis does not favor the Sela-Gashi duo’s victory over Ahmeti, who, in addition to the fact that there may be 1-2 more deputies, after the elections will be able to attract more deputies in his orbit, which will be taken by BESA and DPA.
On the other hand, in the race for votes of ethnic Albanians in these elections will be SDSM of former Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. Pre-election coalitions with at least one Albanian party and dominance of Albanian candidates in the sixth zone are announced. The total number of deputies Zaev will receive, as well as the number of Albanian deputies in particular, may determine future coalitions for forming the Government. If SDSM wins the elections with 52-54 deputies and there will be at least 5 Albanian deputies, then it is expected that the coalition will be made by ASH-AA, thus leading the DUI to the opposition after 12 consecutive years in power. If SDSM as a winner gets 49-52 deputies, than the coalition with DUI would be inevitable.
Regardless of these predictions, the April 12th outcome will depend primarily on the party’s strategy, bids, staffing policy and concrete field activities.