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Monday, April 29, 2013

Ramiz Alia, Albanian politician, First Secretary of the Party of Labour (1985–1991), President (1991–1992), died from lung disease he was 85.


Ramiz Tafë Alia  was the second and last communist leader of Albania from 1985 to 1991, and the President of the People's Socialist Republic of Albania from 1991 to 1992, and also the first President of the post communist Albania elected in 1991–92. He had been designated as successor by Enver Hoxha and took power after Hoxha died. Alia died on 7 October 2011 in Tirana due to lung disease, aged 85.[1]

(18 October 1925 – 7 October 2011) 

Early life and politics

Alia was born in 1925. In the early part of World War II he was a member of a Fascist youth organization but joined the underground Albanian Communist Youth Organization in 1941.[2][3] In 1943, he became member of the Albanian Communist Party.[3] He had risen rapidly under Hoxha's patronage and by 1961 was a full member of the ruling Political Bureau (Politburo of the Party of Labour of Albania).[citation needed]
Hoxha chose Alia for several reasons. First, Alia had long been a militant follower of Marxism-Leninism and supported Hoxha's policy of national self-reliance. Alia also was favored by Hoxha's wife Nexhmije, who had once been his instructor at the Institute of Marxism-Leninism. His political experience was similar to that of Hoxha; and inasmuch as he appeared to share Hoxha's views on most foreign and domestic issues, he accommodated himself to the totalitarian mode of ruling.[citation needed]

Political career

First Secretary of the Albanian Labor Party

After World War II, Alia resumed his duties in the Communist Youth Organization, and at the First Congress of the Albanian Party of Labor in November 1948, he was elected to its Central Committee and was assigned in the department of agitation and propaganda.[2] When he succeeded Hoxha in 1985, the country was in grave difficulty. Political apathy and cynicism were pervasive, with large segments of the population having rejected the government's values. The economy, which suffered from low productivity and permanent shortages of the most basic foodstuffs, showed no sign of improvement. Social controls and self-discipline had eroded. The intelligentsia was beginning to resist strict party controls and to criticize the government's failure to observe international standards of human rights. Apparently recognizing the depth and extent of the societal malaise, Alia cautiously and slowly began to make changes in the system. His first target was the economic system. In an effort to improve economic efficiency, Alia introduced some economic decentralization and price reform in specific sectors.[citation needed]
Alia did not relax censorship, but he did allow public discussions of Albania's societal problems and encouraged debates among writers and artists on cultural issues. In response to international criticism of Albania's record on human rights, the new leadership loosened some political controls and ceased to apply repression on a mass scale. In 1989, general amnesties brought about the release of many long-term prisoners. He strengthened ties with Greece, Italy, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. A loosening of restrictions on travel and tourism resulted in a more promising outlook for Albania's tourist trade.[citation needed]

Transition to multi-party system and presidency

Despite Alia's efforts to proceed with change on a limited, cautious basis, reform from above threatened to turn into reform from below, largely because of the increasingly vocal demands of Albania's youth. On 9 December 1990, student demonstrators marched from the Enver Hoxha University (now University of Tirana) at Tirana through the streets of the capital shouting slogans and demanding a reforms. By December 11, the number of participants had reached almost 3,000. In an effort to quell the student unrest, which had led to clashes with riot police, Alia met with the students and agreed to take further steps toward democratization. The students informed Alia that they wanted to create an independent political organization of students and youth. Alia's response was that such an organization had to be registered with the Ministry of Justice.[citation needed]
In his traditional New Year's message to the Albanian people, Alia welcomed the changes that had been occurring in the country and claimed that 1991 would be a turning point in terms of the economy. Despite positive signs of change, many Albanians were still trying to leave their country. At the end of 1990, as many as 5,000 Albanians crossed over the mountainous border into Greece. Young people motivated by economic dissatisfaction made up the bulk of the refugees.[citation needed]
Alia was a crucial figure in the peaceful political transition of the early 1990s as many believe that he helped rise to power the anti communist opposition forces thus eliminating a possible bloodshed.
Alia managed to remain a key political figure throughout several political crises. Nonetheless, with Albania in the throes of a grave economic crisis, Alia had to face challenges that he could not surmount. After the collapse of a coalition government in December 1991 and the Democratic Party of Albania's (DPA) landslide victory in the spring 1992 general election, he resigned as president on 3 April 1992.[2] On 9 April the People's Assembly elected DPA leader Sali Berisha as Albania's new head of state.

Arrest

On 21 May 1994, senior officials from the communist regime, including Ramiz Alia, went to trial. Alia was charged with abuse of power and misappropriation of state funds, as was Adil Carçani, the former prime minister, Manush Myftiu, his deputy, and Rito Marko, a former vice-president.
Alia had been placed under house arrest in August 1992 and his detention was converted into imprisonment in August 1993.[2] In court he claimed he was the victim of a political show trial and demanded that the trial be broadcast on television, a request denied by the presiding judge. The trial was monitored by a Human Rights Watch/Helsinki representative and proceeded with only minor due process irregularities. The ten defendants were found guilty as charged and sentenced to between three and nine years in prison; Alia received a nine-year sentence.
A court of appeals subsequently reduced some of the sentences, notably Alia's to five years. Alia, Myftiu, Carçani, Stefani and Isai were also ordered to repay various sums to the state. On 30 November, the Court of Cassation reduced Alia's term by an additional three years. On 7 July 1995, Ramiz Alia was freed from jail. However, his freedom was short-lived and in 1996 he was charged with committing crimes against humanity during his term, and was imprisoned anew in March. The trial against him began on 18 February 1997, but he escaped from the prison following the unrest in the country and the desertion of the guards.[2] Amid the unrest he appeared on State TV in an exclusive interview with Blendi Fevziu. In the late 2000s he was seen traveling seldom to Albania from Dubai by giving interviews or publishing personal books.[4]

Death

Ramiz Alia died on 7 October 2011 in Tiranë from lung disease, shortly before his 86th birthday, according to a spokesman for President Bamir Topi.[1]



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