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Albania

Yearbook 1997

1997 AlbaniaAlbania. According to Digopaul, the economic bubble in Albania burst when it became clear in January that the investment funds where many had invested their money were in fact pyramid schemes. The Albanians had believed that the government was behind the funds, especially as they were sponsored by state television. Many had sold houses and homes to invest the funds in the funds, which promised sky-high interest rates - in some cases up to 100% per month. Many perceived the funds as part of the market economy promised by President Sali Berisha's Democratic Party, Partia Demokratike tė Shqipėrisė (PDS). That is why the people's anger towards Berisha and Prime Minister Alexander Meksi also turned. In huge demonstrations, the people shouted their anger and demanded new elections.

1997 Albania

In March, the demonstrations turned to an armed revolt in the south after the security police beat hungry striking students in the city of Vlorė. The revolt spread to the whole of southern Albania and even north to the capital Tirana. For a while, it seemed that the revolt would degenerate into civil war between the likely Berisha faithful in the north and the fools in the south.

However, it stopped when the armed mob looted and destroyed police stations, government administration buildings, banks, shops, food stores and factories. Most bridges, many railways and a waterworks were blown up while several main lines were destroyed, leading to major water problems. Over a million small arms, mainly Kashnikov model automatic carbines, are estimated to have been stolen.

In March, the parliament, which was completely dominated by the PDS, further ignited the revolt as the Assembly re-elected Berisha for a new five-year term. A likely attempt to get the army to quell the uprising failed as the soldiers refused to shoot at their countrymen and deserted.

In an attempt to restore order, Berisha dismissed Prime Minister Meksi, who was succeeded by the young socialist Bashkim Fino, former mayor of Gjirokastėr in the south. But that did not help and the president was forced to ask for foreign aid to end the unrest. In mid-April, Operation Alba was launched with more than 7,000 soldiers from, among other things. Italy, Greece and Denmark. The task of the soldiers was to monitor the emergence of emergency aid and to protect the election observers in the upcoming election.

The European Security Organization, the OSCE, appointed Austria's former Chancellor Franz Vranitzky to envoy in Albania with the task of making a new election. After much disagreement about election laws, on which day the election was to be held and during what hours, Vranitzky managed to get the parties to agree that the election would take place on June 29.

The election campaign was fierce and the promises were lofty. Fatos Nano, leader of the Socialist Party, Partia Socialiste e Shqipėrisė (PSS), promised that if his party won, those who had lost money in the funds would be held harmless. Berisha, for her part, promised that if PDS won, all traces of the uprising would be gone within 100 days. Nano won big and PSS got 100 seats against PDS's 27. Nano formed a coalition government with representatives of five parties: the socialists, three middle parties and the small peasant party. The newly formed parliament appointed socialist Rexhep Mejdani as the country's president on July 24.

Operation Alba was completed in August, but Italy and Greece retained a smaller contingent mainly for the purpose of rebuilding the defense. The mindless vandalism eventually ended and a more organized looting began. Criminal groups collected machinery, rail rails and telephone lines that were sold as scrap in neighboring countries and the already poor country was sinking ever deeper into chaos, hopelessness and decay.

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