ddTIRANA (Reuters) – An Albanian former political prisoner set himself on fire on Monday after the government ruled out talks on his demands for compensation for his suffering under communism.
Gjergj Ndreca, 51, was among 20 former dissidents imprisoned during the communist era who had been fasting for 17 days to draw attention to their demands. The government says they have already received compensation.
The unemployed father of four stepped away from the group of hunger strikers and tried to set himself on fire. Flames rose up from his trousers to his upper body, TV images showed.
Police said he had severe burns, and doctors said it would take longer to determine whether he would survive.
Ndreca was imprisoned for six years under the rule of Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha for trying to defect from isolated Albania. Hoxha ruled for four decades until his death in 1985, and the communist regime fell in the early 1990s.
Like many former dissidents, Ndreca backed the ruling Democratic Party of Prime Minister Sali Berisha, but now says the government has mismanaged the country.
„We want a roof that does not let our children get wet when it rains. A job to live with dignity and to have the possibility of bringing bread and cheese home to our children,“ a statement published by the hunger strikers said.
Two former political prisoners threw sacks of flour at Berisha’s car last month to protest against food shortages.
Berisha ruled out negotiations with the hunger strikers last week. He said the government had already passed laws to compensate former political prisoners.
„Absolutely every one of them has received the first installment. The law says the second one will be received by those over 65 years of age. Those who did not bring the files before 2010 will not get (compensation),“ Berisha said.
Ndreca has previously punched a senior official from the Democratic Party, and tried to attack the finance minister.
Albania, stable outside, chaos inside
A critical study on the role of the internationals in Albania, titled Bridge on Troubled Waters assesses that the country has turned into a stabilocracy, a system that offers stability abroad but that inside the country wavers between democracy and authocratic tendencies.
The international community praised these amends as essential achievements, since they were reached with consensus between the two political forces, claiming that consensus ended the political war between the rivals Berisha and Rama. But the Constitutional amends opened way to the consolidation of the states control by the governing elite. The international community helped with the consolidation of stabilocracy in Albania, which offers stability abroad, while inside the country it wavers between democracy and authocratic tendencies, the study says.
The reports analyzes in details the cases of Basha, Gerdec and January 21st, to show that Albania is under the control of the elites, by the biased usage of the undemocratic laws and procedures.
Rather than consolidating democracy, Albania has experienced a complete control by the government and a comprehensive usage of the non-democratic procedures, when laws are used by the elite in power to exert their control. This is not about for the problem of distinguishing the written papers from the spirit, opr the process and the law values, but also for misusing laws and institutions for personal political and individual purposes. The rule of law has an essential importance, but Albania marked important steps in this area and for the international actors it seemed difficult to find the necessary answers against the abuse with institutions and procedures, the study says.
The study includes 18 recommendations for the international community, also for the elections of 2013. A special attention was paid to the waste management referendum, which has been asked by more than 60.000 citizens.