The Albanian Opposition Leader Was Charged with Corruption After Our Investigation. Now the Country Is Voting Again.

Sunday’s local elections were boycotted by the main opposition parties.

Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama casts his ballot at a polling station on Sunday.Gent Shkullaku/AFP/Getty Images

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

Albania’s ruling Socialist Party is expected to win sweeping power on Sunday in local elections boycotted by the main opposition parties.

Candidates from the small Balkan country’s Democratic Party and Socialist Integration Party sat out the voting as part of a months-long power struggle connected to their allegations of corruption against Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

But the boycott was expected to have the immediate effect of expanding Rama’s influence by allowing his party to win local power in 24 of 61 municipalities where it did not already govern. The vote came after Rama refused to heed a call by Albania’s president, Ilir Meta, whose powers are mostly ceremonial, to postpone voting.

This conflict is part of a larger clash. For months, opposition lawmakers, led by Lulzim Basha, the head of the Democratic Party, have held at times violent protests in Albania’s capital, Tirana, aimed at highlighting what they say are Rama’s connections to criminal groups involved in the country’s pervasive drug trade.

Earlier this month, a prosecutor in Tirana charged Basha with money laundering and filing false documents in connection with $600,000 in payments that his party made in 2017 to a Republican lobbyist in Washington. The charges came after Mother Jones reported, in March 2018, that a Scotland-based shell company connected to Russian nationals had bankrolled Basha’s US lobbying. The report led to accusations that Basha, who advocated relatively nationalist policies consistent with Russia’s preferences for the Balkans, had undisclosed ties to Moscow.

Ahead of Albania’s election in 2017, Basha hired Nick Muzin, a lobbyist who formerly worked for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and who also advised the Trump campaign. Muzin aimed to help Basha build ties to American conservatives and arranged for the Albanian to take a picture with President Donald Trump, which the Albanian leader touted at home.

Albanian prosecutors, citing lobbying foreign disclosure filings Muzin filed with the Justice Department, charged that Basha and two party allies had broken the country’s laws by reporting only $25,000 in lobbying payments and failing to reveal another $650,000 in payments to Muzin that came through Biniatta, the shell company.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate