Albania's Communist Party
Albania's communist party, in early 1992, was in a state of transition, and its future remained uncertain. Known from 1941 to 1948 as the Albanian Communist Party, from November 1948 as the Albanian Party of Labor (APL), and from June 1991 as the Socialist Party of Albania (SPA), the communist party was organized along lines similar to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The 1976 constitution recognized the special status of the APL, which controlled the political, cultural, and economic life in the country. According to the Article 3 of the constitution, the party is the "leading political force of the state and of the society." The party was organized on the principle of democratic centralism (see Glossary), under which the minority had to submit to the majority and could not express disagreement after a vote. The highest organ of the party, according to the party statutes, was the party congress, which met for a few days every five years. Delegates to the party congress were elected at party conferences held at the regional, district, and city levels. The party congress examined and approved reports submitted by the Central Committee, discussed general party policies, and elected a Central Committee. The latter was the next highest echelon in the party hierarchy and generally included all key officials in the government, as well as prominent members of the intelligentsia. The Central Committee directed party activities between party congresses and met approximately three times a year.
As in the Soviet Union, the Central Committee elected a Politburo and a Secretariat. The Politburo, which usually included key government ministers and Central Committee secretaries, was the main administrative and policy-making body and convened on a weekly basis. Generally the Central Committee approved Politburo reports and policy decisions with little debate. The Secretariat was responsible for guiding the day-to- day affairs of the party, in particular for organizing the execution of Politburo decisions and for selecting party and government cadres.
The Ninth Party Congress of the APL was convened in November 1986, with 1,628 delegates in attendance. Since 1971, the composition of the party had changed in several respects. The percentage of women had risen from 22 percent in 1971 to 32.2 percent in 1986, while 70 percent of APL members were under the age of forty. The average age of members in the newly elected Central Committee was forty-nine, as compared with an average age of fifty-three in the previous Central Committee. The new Central Committee elected a Politburo of thirteen full and five candidate members. In his speech at the Ninth Party Congress, Alia did not indicate any significant departure from the policies of Hoxha, but he launched a campaign to streamline the party bureaucracy and improve its efficiency. Alia urged that standards of cadre training and performance be raised in an effort to rid the system of bureaucrats who were so concerned with protecting their privileges that they blocked the implementation of new economic policies. The Politburo also instituted a policy whereby cadres in positions that were vulnerable to graft and corruption would be rotated on a regular basis.
At the Ninth Plenum of the Central Committee in January 1990, Alia announced further modest reforms. Meetings of all lowerlevel party organizations would be open to the masses; secretaries of party organizations could serve no longer than five years; one-third of the membership in state organs had to be renewed each legislative term; and at each congress of the APL a third of the delegates would be replaced.
These reforms, however, appeared to be ineffectual after Albania underwent radical changes in its political culture in 1990-91. As was the case in the Soviet Union and in other countries of Eastern Europe, attempts at cautious reform in response to unrest gave rise to widespread manifestations of discontent. On December 11, 1990, student protests triggered the announcement at the Thirteenth Plenum of the Central Committee of the APL that a multiparty system would be introduced in time for the general elections set for February 1991. Following the multiparty election in the spring of 1991, the APL, later the SPA, emerged as the dominant partner in a coalition government. The SPA was defeated in the spring 1992 general election, receiving only 26 percent of the vote.
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