Edi Rama’s political career on the sight of his book Kurban

“Did you understand that you couldn’t deal with them, without any compromise? According to an aphorism[2]every nation has a government, which it is fit for. Did you give a Tirana the mayor, it deserves? Is it difficult in Albania to have a future in politics without accommodating the syndicate?” KB

New York, Friday, March 16th, 2012, 3:00 pm


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Edi Rama* welcome in New York, in the city whose urbanity may like by the former Mayor of Tirana Town Hall.

Edi Rama: More than this. Is the city where freedom is breathed with the air!

1-KB: In an Albanian society tired by the “Status Quo”, you present yourself as able to bring about change. How do you plan on accomplishing this change/ How do you plan to live up to that title?

ER: We will do everything (that is) possible to create the necessary conditions for an Albanian “renaissance”, to ensure that not only the government changes but also politics. Founded in a new program, we try to change the way of governing. We are conscious that to enable change it is needed to not only change the behavior but also the example of those who govern.

2- KB: In your first term you have removed the gray colors that dominated Tirana’s facade replacing it with bright colors. Maybe you would change the Albanian dress code, if you could, what you did in the same way with your example, with your atypical way to wear.  What is the political reach of this action?

ER: The change of Tirana happened when all the conditions for this change were brought together.  I believe the colors were a catalyst that, above more than being an esthetic gesture, constituted a low-cost political mechanism in the purpose of giving wings to the great transformations. Transforming at first, the approach of the citizens towards their city and resurrecting a lost faith, resurrecting a hope that did not hold place anymore in the Tirana of the time.

3-KB : Another one of your important actions during your first term was the removal of illegal constructions on the banks of the Lana River in Tirana. You acted vigorously and that confronted you to illegal practices that were supported by powerful known local groups. It was very brave, but during your second term, you were accused of clientelism. Did you understand that you couldn’t deal with them, without any compromise? According to an aphorism[2]every nation has a government, which it is fit for. Did you give a Tirana the mayor, it deserves? Is it difficult in Albania to have a future in politics without accommodating the syndicate?

ER: I do not believe that the accusations against Tirana’s Town Hall – and there was a lot – were true/ were founded in the reality of things. These accusations were linked with the interest of the power and not the one of the public. I’m very proud because the facts clearly talk that Tirana’s Town Hall, during all the time I led it, wasn’t a clienteles’ institution, but rather an open institution. If there were any flaws, they were flaws of a normal process of transformation and development of this institution. I believe also that we created the condition that Tirana has in its Town Hall, a modern institution, a public administration that still now don’t have any comparable in Albanian reality, a responsible team committed to the city, who were respectful of the work and the law.

4-KB : Any regrets for your second term?

ER: The political context with continuous political pressures at Tirana’s Town Hall by a government totally refractory to our projects and the public interest. And of course, the extraordinary monetary restrictions imposed by the Government on Tirana’s Town Hall, which hindered the realization of our projects.

5- KB : Your third term is considered to be the one during which Tirana’s Townhall let itself go in the advantage of the socialist party of which you were the first secretary. If you could restart and do this term over, what would you have changed?

ER: I wouldn’t change anything in the condition that the government failed its duty and did everything in its power to block the actions of Tirana’s Town Hall, to then tell one, to defend the idea that I failed my duty to the Town Hall in order to take care of the socialist party. I never neglected Tirana’s Town Hall and my duty to the city. This work was done thanks to an incredible team that went on without the need of being supervised every minute of every day. If the work was not done how it would be done, this is linked with the fact that Tirana’s Town Hall (municipality) was surrounded and was scorched on purpose.

6- KB : The continuous conflicts in the municipal council stopped you to finalize the regulation plan of the City of Tirana. ER: The conflicts in the municipal council were the consequence, the real daily conflict was the conflict in the level of government, which considered Tirana’s Town Hall as a castle that should be taken at any cost despite the time they spent in the account of the citizen stopping the advancement of the work and the realization of our projects.

7-KB: Now with a question that seems to be the most interesting one of this interview which I made specifically for the reason of knowing you for years personally as an artistic individual.  You are actually the head of the Socialist party, but when you lived in Paris during the ’90s, you were very critical towards the post-communist democratic government in Albania.  With intellectual honesty, you asked that the post-communist government be free from the ex-members of the communist (Labor) party. Today you are the head of the Albanian socialist (ex-communist) party, while the head of the Democratic Party was an (ex-) secretary of the (local) section of the ex-communist (Labor) party. It seems that in Albania being left or right doesn’t mean anything.

ER: This is only symbolic, but beyond this symbolic, I would say that there is an essential difference between the Socialist and Democratic Party concerning the perception of freedom, democratic principle, and what makes the difference between life under democracy and life under dictatorship. Today the Socialist Party is an open-minded party, that has its problems without hiding them, as being part of a normal development process. On the other hand, the Democratic Party doesn’t follow any of those aspects but is rather an example of what a Democratic Party shouldn’t be or shouldn’t do. It is a fact that the Democratic Party is run by an ex-secretary of the Labor Party while the Socialist party is run by someone who has never been a member of the Labor Party and to tell the truth, who was openly against the Labor Party. In Albania, there is not a right, and we hope that the conditions will be created for the creation of the right.

8-KB: – Outside of Albanian politics Edi Rama is a citizen of the world. What worries or revolt you the most in the global world? I think today there is a big problem linked with the inequalities also the rapport between the positive and negative energies. If there is an intensification of the sources of negative energies, it is vital for the world where we live to power and raise the sources of positive energies.

9 – KB:  You were at the origin of the proposition for the change of laws, whose validation in 2008 increased the authoritarian power of the government. After a certain number of actions from the government in power, you asked for the cancellation of these changes of the law. Can we say that you didn‘t measure the real consequences of these changes when you proposed them?

ER: To be very sincere, I do not think those changes that were made, in their totality had a negative influence or accentuated the authoritarian power of the State. Of course, we should have been more cautious to measure the risks linked with a part of this change. For that, I didn’t miss expressing my opinion, and today I consider those changes as mistakes. But if they aren’t suitable, it is because of the current Albanian conditions and not because they are wrong in themselves. I think also that there is an exaggerated perception of the bad effect of those changes. I don’t believe in this version.

10 – KB : In your book, one can find many things that advocate hope. The parts about Gregory are very significant. Would you make a parallel between some important sides of your life? What I wanted to show or the reason for what a wanted to tell all this dramatic part of my life, which is referring to a very difficult period of my life, the illness of my son, is linked with the fact that often we forget an important number of things in life and in the moments like this we became consciousness about the real hierarchy of things, what is better to never forget when one is not in front of the risk of losing the dear human being from an event that one cannot control.

11 – KB : What is the role of Linda in your political career and in your existence?  I don’t hesitate to say that Linda is my better half and his role is the role of the better half in a total, which without the better half would be in more difficulties than if he was with the better half.

[1] The book Kurban, The Sacrifice

[2] Maistre’s aphorism in that letter was: “Every nation has the government which it is fit for.”

The more familiar translation — “Every nation [or ‘country’] has the government it deserves” — is often wrongly attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville and Abraham Lincoln. They never said it. Maistre did, but what he meant by it is probably different from what most people think.

*At that time, Edi Rama was the first secretary of the Albanian Socialist Party and the leader of the opposition.

The original language of this paper is American English, translated from French by Franz-Hadrian Dervis

French version