Albania: First ALPI Cohort Sets the Stage for New Political Leadership

  • Keaton Tengwall

The International Republican Institute (IRI) celebrates the graduation of its inaugural cohort of the Advanced Leadership in Politics Institute (ALPI) in Albania following the opening of its field office in 2022.  The establishment of the ALPI Albania Chapter is a central element of IRI’s programming, as it develops the skills of rising political leaders and seeks to build cross-party relationships and cooperation. IRI has established ALPI Chapters in multiple Western Balkan countries where it operates, including Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. Albania’s inaugural ALPI cohort contains members from the three largest political parties — the Socialist Party (PS), Freedom Party (PL), and Democratic Party (PD).  

Albania’s political landscape is characterized by political demagoguery and patronage networks of a few elites, rather than party platforms, political ideology, or evidence-based policies. Due to this, Albania suffers from a high rate of political apathy among its younger generations, as evidenced by IRI’s recent poll, and high rates of youth emigration. IRI works with politically engaged youth and young elected officials to provide opportunities to develop core political skills, instill democratic values, and allow for evidence-based governance to better prepare them and future generations as advocates for policy-based politics. To continue its progress towards eventual EU accession, Albania must both reform its personality-based politics, and opposition parties must establish themselves as stabilizing counterbalances to the majority party. 

In recent years, Albania’s political and electoral landscapes have been dominated by the Socialist Party, with opposition parties opting for political maneuvers that ultimately left themselves splintered and on the outside of electoral processes. In 2019, almost all MPs from the two major opposition parties, the PD and the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI)—now known as the Freedom Party (PL)—resigned in protest over perceived corruption and electoral fraud in the ruling party, triggering a political crisis. The opposition boycotted the 2019 municipal elections in further protest, helping to ensure Socialist dominance at the national and local levels. 

The recent 2023 municipal elections did little to change this environment, with the Socialist Party securing 53 of Albania’s 61 municipal seats and flipping the opposition stronghold of Shkodër in the North. While the opposition now recognizes their previous political mistakes, there is a lack of consensus on how to best move forward with limited political capital. The Socialist Party has utilized its de facto one-party rule to increase state capture within Albania, often through the passage of tailor-made laws which benefit private entities that support the Party. Meanwhile, opposition parties struggle to form competitive coalitions or party platforms.  

IRI’s local ALPI programming has sought to address these needs by empowering local leaders to address local challenges and concerns, building parties from the bottom-up rather than top-down. ALPI modules included topics such as issue-targeted municipal campaigning, drafting local budgets, and the use of statistical analysis for policy formulation. 

…Our goal is not to get certificates of completion; our goal is to change the way politics is made.

ALPI Graduate Lorenc Nako – Freedom Party of Korçë, following the graduation ceremony

By building local party capacity through the ALPI programming, IRI aims to increase political decentralization among all parties in addition to providing young political leaders with the tools needed to lead policy-driven campaigns so that if elected, leaders are beholden to their local constituencies instead of national party elites. IRI plans to continue to grow the ALPI Albania network with the induction of a new ALPI cohort in its future programming. Newly inducted ALPI Albania members will find further support in an ALPI Alumni network, which includes the Insitute’s expansive ALPI network across the Western Balkans. 

IRI again congratulates the inaugural ALPI Albania cohort on their graduation. 

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