After some 46 years (between 1944 and 1991) under Enver Hoxha's (who died in 1985) hard-line rule and then under Ramiz Alia's (his successor) regime, Albanians voted for Sali Berisha and his Democrats party in the elections held in March 1992. Enver Hoxha was said born to a Moslem family in 1908. Albania, in those days was "an obscure province of the Ottoman Empire." Under King Zog, the country was "backward, poverty-stricken, largely illiterate with almost no industry, no railways, no universities and no town" and was "heavily dependent on Benito Mussolini's Italy" until 1939. Adolf Hitler's troops reportedly occupied Albania in 1943 but pulled out in 1944 paving the way for Enver Hoxha's dictatorship. 

Under Enver Hoxha, "land was confiscated and organized into collective farms. The pre-war ruling class was destroyed and the banks and other businesses were nationalized. Religion was outlawed and all churches, mosques and religious institutions were closed down, while the state took a firm grasp on the country's cultural and intellectual activities," Richard Cavendish reported. After Josef Stalin's death in 1953, Enver Hoxha was said "turned to China until Mao Zedong's death in 1976." 

Ramiz Alia died in 2011, "presided over halting and often chaotic moves toward democracy before his own downfall in 1992," the New York Times reported. Ramiz Alia's government "began to crumble in 1989 and 1990 during the wider collapse of Soviet and Eastern European Communism. Mr. Alia managed to cling to power for 2 more years." 

In 1994, Albania held its first Referendum to vote on a new Constitution, "the symbol of Albania's European future." The Associated Press reported, "The draft Constitution, written with advice from Western legal experts, would outline basic civil, human and democratic rights. It would also define property rights and allow the government to expropriate land in the national interest." Although recognizing a Constitution was the Parliament's job, Sali Berisha did not have the two-thirds majority in Parliament and decided to call on the Referendum. However he was met with opposition because the new Constitution would "give too much power to one person such as the power to decide the agenda of government meetings and nominate judges and members of Albania's Constitutional Court. Combined with his control of state media and other powers that would give Sali Berisha too much influence over Albanian society." Some 70% of Albania's 2 million eligible voters went to the polls to cast their ballots, according to the Central Voting Commission, under the watch of observers from the European Union and the United States. The people rejected the Constitution. Sali Berisha was forced to resign in 1997. The Constitution was finally passed in 1998 with some 93% voted in favor of the Constitution. 

Back in 1977, Peter Cowan of Southam News Services reported from Canada: "Although it is often touted as the most direct form of democracy, the Referendum has a built-in potential for political mischief. How a Referendum is organized, its ground rules and the phrasing of the question to be put to citizens, all provide opportunities for the government in power to stack the deck in its favor. That is why observers will be studying the Quebec government's promised white paper on referendums very carefully. The white paper is a first step towards legislation making referendums part of Quebec's political system. What is more important is that the first Referendum will ask Quebecers if they want independence in economic association with the rest of the country, or if they wish to remain part of a federal system. The bill will also allow the government to consult with the population on other issues which it deems worthy of a Referendum. Thus, such questions as the ground rules for referendums, the rights of opposition parties and groups in any campaign, and who prepares the question, the government or the National Assembly, all become very vital. 

"So far, the only solid information on the Quebec government's plans show that those for and those against any Referendum proposal would be grouped into 2 committees, representing each viewpoint. Financing of the campaign would be limited to contributions from eligible Quebec voters with limits on spending. The committee idea was inspired by Great Britain's Referendum on entry into the Common Market. 

"Proof that referendums are not always compatible with democratic ideals can be found in countries which provide for them in their constitutions. One example is France, where the Constitution allows the President to initiate referendums on certain subjects. One thing which is forbidden is a Referendum for any constitutional amendments affecting France's territorial integrity. In other words, there could not be a Referendum on an issue like independence for Corsica or Britanny. 

"The late General Charles de Gaulle used referendums frequently. Such questions as Algerian independence, the Constitution of the Fifth Republic and election of the President by universal suffrage were submitted to French voters in referendums. In every case, de Gaulle warned that if he lost, he would leave the Presidency. It was a form of pressure that worked. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, many Frenchmen feared social disorder and trouble if de Gaulle stepped down. As a result, he was able to increase the 'Yes' vote by associating his stewardship with the Referendum question. For Frenchmen who thought de Gaulle's presence essential to order and good government, there was little choice. 

"Ultimately the Referendum was de Gaulle's political undoing. In 1969, he submitted a proposal for Senate and regional reform to the people. It would have decentralized some of the political power concentrated in Paris. Again he staked his political future on the outcome. The Referendum came one year after the May 1968 student-worker uprisings which had paralyzed France. Dissatisfaction with de Gaulle was high. Although many Frenchmen wanted greater decentralization of power, the point of the Referendum was lost. It became instead a campaign between those who wanted the General to stay and those who wanted him out. Many supporters of centralization voted 'Yes' to keep the General in office and supporters of regionalization voted 'No' to remove him. The 'Yes' vote amounted to 46.8% and the General left. 

"Referendums are usually reserved for very special issues, like Britain's entry into the Common Market…In theory, the Referendum is both simple and profoundly democratic. In practice, it can be used cynically by self-serving politicians, or become a political boomerang for a well intentioned government faced with a discontented population."

Blog Archive