Albanian Communists Mark Hoxha’s Death in Modest Ceremony
TIRANA, Albania (AP) _ Communist Party leaders commemorated the sixth anniversary of dictator Enver Hoxha’s death in a modest ceremony Thursday that drew noticeably fewer people than in past years.
President Ramiz Alia and Hoxha’s widow and three children participated in the brief ceremony, which for the first time was arranged as a Communist Party function rather than a full state occasion.
About 350 people, most of them soldiers or elderly World War II veterans, watched as Alia and former Premier Adil Carcani laid a wreath at Hoxha’s red marble tomb. In past years, the observance drew more than 1,000 people, many of them students forced to attend.
Alia, 66, who succeeded Hoxha when the dictator died in 1985, attended as Communist Party leader rather than president, officials said.
The downgraded ceremony symbolized the difficulties posed by Hoxha’s legacy of harsh repression and economic hardship as the nation of 3.2 million people moves toward democracy. Several people died in clashes between pro- and anti- Hoxha forces in February.
Spiro Dede, the Communist Central Committee secretary who is considered a reformer, acknowledged the commemoration was kept modest out of deference to anti-Hoxha Albanians. ″It’s an effort to keep the situation quiet,″ he said in an interview.
Alia began scrapping his mentor’s most repressive policies two years ago but was forced to speed up the pace of change last year by popular unrest.
The Communists have proposed a new constitution that promises protections for human and private property rights but also grants sweeping powers to the new president. Alia is expected to be elected by the Parliament, where the Communists have a two-thirds majority as a result of its overwhelming victory in the first free elections since the 1920s.
Despite the dismantling of the Stalinist system, Alia has condemned Hoxha’s rabid critics, who blame him for four decades of repression unmatched in Europe. He condemned those who toppled Hoxha statues and burned Hoxha books in February, saying it was up to historians and not mobs to decide the role of Communist Albania’s founder.