Albania's Physician

March 29, 1992

The new political leader of Albania, Sali Berishah, is a physician, a heart specialist. But since, like everything else in the country, the hospitals don't work, he might as well try to cure Albania before getting back to his other patients.

One year ago, as the world's most isolated Stalinist dictatorship crumbled, the voters went to the polls and re-elected the Communists, renamed Socialists, to power. The voters didn't really believe that anyone else would be permitted to rule. Mentally, they were still living under Enver Hoxha's communism.

This time, the voters overwhelmingly chucked out the Socialists, who had since gone into coalition with the opposition. By some 62 percent, they favored the Democratic Party of Mr. Berishah. Never mind that he and other of its eminences used to be Communists, too. It would be hard in Albania to find anyone who ever amounted to anything who did not used to be a Communist. The question now is whether anyone at all can bring order of the chaos into which Albania has descended.

What happened in the year's interim was a gradual dissolution of all authority. As people learned not to fear the police state, they lost all inhibition. They cut down the trees for firewood and broke into the warehouses for food. Robbers stalk the highways. Nothing works.

Albania's isolation is over. Its dire poverty is not. Sali Berishah and his Democrats mean well and deserve the understanding, support and patience of Europe and the world. And of the long-suffering Albanian people. If Sali Berishah can restore health to the heart of Albania, he will have improved the quality of life of more people than are normally given to a physician to help.

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