Just as democracy and human rights are a process that develops and is defended daily, the same needs to happen with the culture of dialogue.
“We can discuss but not negotiate,” the Albanian Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj would repeat in spring 2017, making it clear that he was speaking on behalf of the government and the prime minister. The opposition had left the parliament to protest the government’s involvement in organized crime and election manipulation.
It was understood from the minister’s statement that they could sit at the table with the opposition to chat, not to act in response to its concerns and claims.
The minister’s speech shines as an example of what dialogue is not.
Genuine dialogue leads through compromise, where the parties make concessions, to agreement; non-dialogue is an expression of the will not to make concessions, not to compromise and not to reach an agreement. Of course anyone can say that concessions need to be reasonable and compromise must remain principled. Of course! The problem we face most often is the unwillingness to consider the interests and views of the other. Especially when the other is an opponent or rival. Even when these interests are legitimate or even when the views are well-founded and reasonable.
The lack of dialogue and sense of compromise in post-communist societies has been the subject of debate since the early 1990s. Scholars and intellectuals would explain it with the communist-rooted view that compromise is something negative, decadent related to the bourgeois order. In its totalitarian essence, communism had no room for other and different ideas, much less for such interests. The new social order was based on the absolute denial of the old bourgeois order as well as on the affirmation of the unique idea of scientific socialism realized through the exclusive power of the communist party. In the constitution approved by communist Albania in 1970 was written that political power belonged inseparably to this party.
The shadows of a mentality cultivated for decades with this totalitarian ideology could not be unfelt in the beginnings of democracy. The change of regime brought a new political paradigm where the newly established democratic forces and the coming to power rightly saw themselves as democratically legitimized. The Communist Party was discredited by decades of repressive regime and economic misery. This was the case for Albania and some other countries. But there were also states where the communist party retained power by adopting pluralism in the political system and embracing democratic socialism.
In all cases a lack of political dialogue was present. As a result, we have an increase in political tension. This was expressed through boycotts of institutions, including the parliament, and street protests that were sometimes aggravated by violence. In extreme cases, there has also been a boycott of elections by opposition parties.
Attempts to resolve such deadlocks have been directed in several cases by the courts, including the constitutional court. But the judiciary has often been politically influenced, especially by the ruling party. In these conditions it was not always provided a peaceful solution accepted by the parties. Another address to resolve the stalemate was the international community with its over-dimensional role: a baby’s disease of democracy that manifests itself to this day. Although initially the authority of the internationals was high, in the following there are quite a few cases when their reputation has been damaged due to biased attitudes.
There is no deus ex machina solution to these problems. Just as democracy and human rights are a process that develops and is defended daily, the same needs to happen with the culture of dialogue. The school is an important institution for its conception and flourishing. But the family and society as a whole also have to play a role.
Genc Pollo has been a Member of the Albanian Parliament for several consecutive terms, Minister of Education and then Deputy Prime Minister