OP-ED/A referendum is needed for the National Theater

OP-ED/A referendum is needed for the National Theater

This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al

By Eduard Zaloshnja

A few days ago, the EU ambassador to Albania, Romana Vlahutin commented the issue of the National Theater, which has sparked much debate recently. “We have received letters and requests which relate to this issue. We’re also analyzing the legal basis. We will issue a response once we carry out a deep analysis of the issue concerning the theater”, she said addressing to Albanian statesmen advising them to heed the citizens, so that every decision is beneficial to them. “My advice would be: Listen to your citizens and talk to them in order to find a solution which is beneficial to them. Listening to the citizens is very important. When there is an emotional value, the citizens must be listened”, Vlahutin said.

After this declaration made by ambassador Vlahutin, the heads of a magazine, which is published here in the English language, commissioned a national electronic poll and this poll was conducted by me.

There are many reasons and arguments against the majority’s decision to demolish the current building of the National Theater and the construction of a new one. But, given that an electronic opinion poll should be as concise as possible, the main question that it asks is also concise: “Should a new National Theater be built at the current location?” This question may be answered by all of those who are in favour or against the majority’s decision in relation to the National Theater, despite the different reasons and arguments given by them.

Every adult resident of Albania which has access to a mobile phone, tablet and PC could be exposed to the question cited above (through ads on Google, Facebook, Instagram, Albanian portals and Whatsapp). However, the level of participation in this opinion poll by people living outside Tirana was insignificant from a statistical point of view. For this reason, the only results which have a statistical value are those which relate to the citizens of Tirana. The sample for Tirana had 1024 respondents and the margin of error was +/-3% .

Among those residents of Tirana who have now created an opinion concerning the issue of the National Theater, 50% are in favour of building a new national theater at the existing location, while 50% are against. This division goes beyond political boundaries. Not all of the respondents who are in favour have voted for the majority last year and not all of the respondents who are against have voted for the opposition.

By definition, the opinion poll is a precise instrument (with a margin of error). Referendum is the most precise instrument to measure public opinion on a particular issue. This is the most direct and direct tool for taking decisions based on the opinion of the public.

I have the necessary legal education to provide arguments in favour of the need and the way a referendum may be initiated, but in the capacity of a statistical expert, I can say that a referendum in the municipality of Tirana is necessary. Based on what ambassador Vlahutin declared that the issue of the theater has an emotional value and given the fact that the opinion of the residents of the capital is divided, I would say that a local referendum would solve this issue. (The opinion poll cited above could act as a clue that a national referendum would be a total waste of time and money, because participation outside of Tirana would be insignificant).

Those who are in favour or against the decision of the majority for the demolition of a new national theater in the existing location may convey their arguments to the public, but in the end, it should be the citizens of Tirana who have the final say if the iconic 80 year old building of the National Theater should be demolished or preserved.

Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy