Albania, Partly Free (2010)
Political Rights Score: 3
Prime Minister Sali Berisha retained his post after his Democratic Party won parliamentary elections in June. However, the opposition Socialist Party mounted protests to demand a recount and boycotted the new parliament through the end of the year. Albania achieved a major goal in April, when it formally joined NATO; it filed an application to join the European Union later that month.
Ruling from World War II until his death in 1985, communist dictator Enver Hoxha turned Albania into the most isolated country in Europe. The regime began to adopt more liberal policies in the late 1980s, and multiparty elections in 1992 brought the Democratic Party (PD), led by Sali Berisha, to power. Continuing poverty and corruption, along with unrest after the 1997 collapse of several vast investment scams, resulted in the election of a new government led by the Socialist Party (PS).
Berisha and the PD returned to power in the 2005 parliamentary elections. While the poll was not free from fraud, it was praised for bringing Albania’s first postcommunist rotation of power without significant violence. In 2007, the parliament elected PD candidate Bamir Topi as the country’s new president.
Berisha’s government was plagued by allegations of corruption and abuse of office in 2008, including a case stemming from a weapons depot explosion that killed 26 people and destroyed hundreds of homes in March. Nevertheless, the PD secured a narrow victory in the June 2009 parliamentary elections, which were held under a new electoral code passed in late 2008. The ruling party took 68 seats in the 140-seat parliament and eventually formed a coalition government........