Government and Politics
ALBANIA WAS THE LAST COUNTRY in Eastern Europe during the early 1990s to undergo a transition from a totalitarian communist regime to an incipient system of democracy. Because Albania was isolated from the outside world and ruled by a highly repressive, Stalinist-type dictatorship for more than four decades, this transition was especially tumultuous and painful, making a gradual approach to reform difficult.
Following the establishment of the People's Republic of Albania in January 1946, Albania became a rigid police state, dominated completely by the communist party and by Marxism/Leninism. Although Albania operated under the facade of constitutional rule, the communist party, led by Enver Hoxha, who was also president of Albania, actually controlled all aspects of the political, social, and economic systems. Hoxha pursued a repressive internal policy, while at the same time implementing a highly isolationist foreign policy. His reliance first on the financial aid and political protection of a sequence of patron states, then insistence on Albania's economic self-reliance, and a highly centralized economic system caused Albania to lag far behind its neighbors in terms of economic development.
After Hoxha died in 1985, his hand-picked successor, Ramiz Alia, who became party leader while retaining his post as titular head of state (chairman of the Presidium of the People's Assembly), at first appeared to be carrying on Hoxha's tradition of hard-line policies. But it soon became clear that he was more flexible than his predecessor and was willing to institute badly needed political and economic reforms that attempted to prevent the country from collapsing into anarchy. These reforms, however, were largely cosmetic and insufficient to meet the demands of the growing radical elements in the population. By 1991, popular dissatisfaction with Alia's regime had mounted, causing considerable political instability and social unrest. The civil war in neighboring Yugoslavia (see Glossary) served only to exacerbate the growing political and social tension within Albania. Alia resigned following his party's resounding defeat in the spring 1992 multi-party election, and a new government undertook the task of building democracy in a country that for close to five decades had been isolated from the outside world, dominated by a highly repressive political system, and devoid of free-market, private enterprise.
ORIGINS OF THE POLITICAL SYSTEM
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