“The withdrawal of the three ministers from the cabinet does not aim to destabilize the government,” Ilir Meta, the leader of the LSI, said on Wednesday. “However, their presence in the government would not make sense anymore,” he added.
Meta said the LSI would join a pre-election coalition with the Socialists, headed by Edi Rama, but rejected the idea of backing a no-confidence motion against the current government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha.
Berisha is now expected to name three new ministers from the ranks of his own Democratic Party.
“We will work to build a coalition... in order to secure a victory in the June 23 parliamentary elections,” Meta said.
Since its formation in 2004, the LSI has established itself as the third force in Albanian politics after the opposition Socialists and the ruling Democrats, deciding the balance of power in at least three elections.
Formed as splinter from the Socialist Party, the LSI played a pivotal role in the Socialists’ loss of the June 2005 general election, which led to the resignation of their long-time leader, Fatos Nano.
In coalition with the new Socialist leader, Rama, the LSI helped the left gain control of a majority of key cities in the February 2007 local elections. It played an important role in Rama’s re-election as mayor of Tirana for a third term.
But, in 2008, Rama struck a deal with Prime Minister Berisha on changes to the electoral code, making it more difficult for small parties to secure seats in parliament.
Rama’s goal in agreeing to the changes was to shrink the political clout of the LSI whose ambition had grown difficult to deal with.
The deal enraged Meta whose party had helped Rama secure re-election as Socialist leader only a year before. Despite efforts to pacify the two leaders, the two parties went their separate ways in the 2009 parliamentary elections.
With only four of the 140 MPs in parliament, the LSI nevertheless become the kingmaker of the new government, supporting the centre-right coalition headed by Berisha’s Democrats.
Meta’s move drew accusations of treason from the left. But it earned his party three key ministries, the seat of deputy prime minister and the right to appoint 20 per cent of the public administration.
However, despite fierce arguments between Rama and Meta in the last three years, the two left-wing leaders have re-established ties in recent months.
On Tuesday, the Socialist Party extended an official request for a coalition to the LSI. A united left, Rama argued, would secure victory in the parliamentary elections.