Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Elections test Albanian Identity and resolve
18 May 2010
How did we get to this part: The northern-most region of Malёsia e Madhe on the verge of ethnic realignment? And the most intriguing part might be that Albanians will be ushering this phenomenon in with their vote on May 23rd.
On a warm Saturday evening inside the QIK in Tuz you would have thought that a rock concert was taking place amidst the jubilant crowd inside. Loud chants followed by continuous applause echoed off the walls as Montenegro’s political rock stars staged a massive campaign rally under the slogan, “For a European Tuz.” The audience emphatically cheered their Premier, Milo Djukanovic along with his close political allies, most noticeably Ferhat Dinosha.
In a scene bewildering to most Albanians from across the Balkans, the hall was draped with Montenegrin and Bosnian flags and symbols, but if one looked closely you could make out a red a black fabric resembling the Albanian eagle, which looked more like a sparrow struggling to stay in flight amidst all the Slavic jargon.
So what is going on in Malёsia?
Sources in Washington have revealed that the U.S. Department of State has pressured Podgorica to announce an implementation plan for a “Malёsia Municipality” in time for the elections on May 23rd. The DPS, along with the Democratic Union of Albanians (UDSH) and the Bosniak Party (BP) rallied in Tuz and announced that the fate of a Malёsia Municipality will be realized through a referendum in the next four years. Djukanovic, sensing the seriousness of U.S. pressure, decided to make the fifteen minute drive to Tuz and assert that, "I'm sure you believe me because you have reason to believe - I have no fear of the new municipality of Tuzi. We will support what you will choose in a referendum for the municipality.” Djukanovic went on to stress that minorities in Montenegro have never felt like second class citizens, a claim that he says separates Montenegro from the rest of the Balkans.
The coalition is running under the slogan, "For European Tuz," and playing to the drum of Podgorica’s interests as the DPS continues to utilize its Albanian anecdote, Ferhat Dinosha where on stage he announced that in four years the referendum will be held for the full municipality. Sensing that he needed to solidify his ego amongst the rambunctious crowd, Dinosha reminded them that the man (referring to himself) who four years earlier had organized a referendum to restore the independence of Montenegro, and now the same man (again referring to himself) “will in four years organize the referendum for the municipality of Tuzi…Malёsia will be what you decide…this will happen because that is the agreement of the stronger parties,” referring to the Montenegrin DPS and the Albanian UDSH.
So where were the “Malёsia Albanians”?
The desperation in Malёsia was never more evident than when a new coalition, of sorts, formed only after it was clear that non-Albanians might contend for local seats. Long-time rivals and bitter opponents Vasel Sinishtaj, Gjergj Camaj, Maliq Cunmulaj, and Nikolle Camaj formed an unlikely alliance to secure as many votes as possible and thwart a DPS-led takeover.
This show of “unity” could not have come at a more coincidental time, in the weeks leading to the elections that otherwise would have witnessed these gentlemen running on opposing platforms, but now here they were basically forced to swallow their prides and run along one another.
Their campaign slogan is a simple one: Vote for Albanians (the Coalition for Malёsia) or risk losing “everything.” Their battle cries have attempted to make citizens of Malёsia realize that if their coalition loses on Sunday, Malёsia will be overrun by Slavs and Bosniaks and, according to Sinishtaj, “Albanians will have Slavs acting as the men of their households.”
Playing the nationalist card is nothing new in the Balkans, but it has taken a new twist in Montenegro where Albanians and Montenegrins live peacefully side by side – an unrealized threat that is only now making its presence felt. Because of the perceived peace in Montenegro, it is assumed that Albanians will coexist with Bosniaks in a region historically overwhelmingly populated by Albanians. As true as this is, the coalition is playing the realignment into the fears of Malёsia’s Albanians, where a Malёsia Municipality run by Slavs and Bosniaks will seal the fate of Albanians in the region for a very long time to come.
On the surface, it seems like all the pieces are falling into place – Malёsia will get its municipality and the people will vote in the politicians to take their seats. Multi-ethnic parties will flourish in a Montenegro destined for EU integration, a model for Balkan unity amid the tragedies of the 1990s. What is not so clear is the future of Albanians in the realigned Malёsia region. The fate of their homeland is at risk, where a new political order consisting of non-Albanian representatives directed by Podgorica will terrorize their future ambitions of equal representation and nondiscrimination. Suffice to say, if the Coalition for Malёsia loses on Sunday, Albanians in Montenegro will certainly be candidates for endangered species.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 3:48 PM