On March 22, 1992, the Albanian population went to the polls for its second free election since 1923. In many ways, however, this second election was the first true test of Albanian political sentiment. Though international monitoring bodies had declared the earlier election-of March 1991-to be a free election, an element of fear had nonetheless still lurked in the country, and Albania’s mostly rural population had been reluctant to make a clean break with the past. The result had been a huge victory for the Albanian Party of Labor (APL-the communist party), the party that had ruled Albania since 1944.
In the second election, conversely, an overwhelming majority of Albanians cast ballots for the 15-month-old Democratic Party of Albania (DP), while the former APL (now renamed the Socialist Party of Albania-SP), suffered correspondingly massive losses. This overwhelming Democratic victory surprised not only some analysts, but even the DP’s leaders, who, while expecting to win, had not envisioned such a thorough trouncing of the Socialists.
The chaotic state of affairs in Albania’s first transitional year contributed to the Democrats’ success. A majority of Albanian citizens apparently concluded that Albania could not restore itself without foreign aid and that the DP would be better able to secure that aid from an anticommunist West. For the sake of Albania, the Balkans generally, and indeed the rest of Europe, one must hope the Albanians were right.