The United States has brought its influence to bear in Albania to try to end a stalemate over reconstituting the country’s electoral commission to assure free and fair voting in June. Albania, a member of NATO, has yet to hold an election deemed free and fair by international monitors in more than two decades since its transition to democracy from the Stalinist rule of late dictator Enver Hoxha. Albania’s government and opposition announced election coalitions to meet a Wednesday deadline, but said nothing about the dysfunctional Central Election Commission, prompting Washington to vent its displeasure publicly.
Articles about voting issues in the Republic of Albania.
Albania’s parliament sacked an election official on Monday despite warnings from the country’s international partners that the move could damage domestic and overseas confidence in June parliamentary elections. The fresh political row came after Prime Minister Sali Berisha saw his main coalition ally jump ship to join the opposition ahead of the June 23 elections, but its representative in the seven-member Central Election Commission (CEC) stay put.
Opposition parties have condemned efforts by the ruling Democrats to replace a member of the Central Electoral Commission, CEC, after the Democrats’ junior partner quit the government. The Democrats have asked parliament to relieve one of the seven election commissioners, who had been nominated by the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Sali Berisha declared that the move was justified, based on a 2003 agreement between the majority and the opposition.
OSCE is preparing another report on Albania about the political situation in the country, including even the elections, which were held on 8 May of this year.
In an unprecedented statement, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle lamented yesterday (19 July) the failures of the Albanian electoral system, urging the EU hopeful to undertake deep parliamentary reform.
Ashton and Füle lamented the fallout from the recent mayoral vote in Tirana and used simple and unusual wording to convey the message that the electoral system in Albania needs “urgent” and “thorough” reform. ”The elections in Tirana were not good as they demonstrated beyond doubt that the electoral framework needs to be reformed,” the top EU officials stated.
After two months and countless debates and legal proceedings, the local elections are finally over, or so it seems. Against all facts and expectations that pointed towards a revote in Tirana, the Electoral College on July 8 confirmed Lulzim Basha as the new mayor of Tirana with 93 votes more than his opponent, Edi Rama.
The Socialist Party, headed by Rama, won the major cities including Tirana, but dubious legal proceedings by the Central Electoral Commission, heavily criticized by OSCE-ODIHR, changed the result—which on May 14, when the counting process in Tirana finished, saw Rama winning by just 10 votes.
The Electoral College late Monday night ordered a full recount of the contested ballots in the key race for mayor of Tirana, throwing the results of the poll back into doubt. The decision came after a Socialist opposition appeal which contested several decisions by the Central Election Commission, CEC, including the one that declared the ruling party candidate the winner of the race for the municipality of Tirana.
Contested ballots are ballot papers that have been designated by at least one representative of a political party in the counting stations as irregular. It is not yet clear what effect the re-evaluation will have in the final tally for the Tirana race.
Albanians cast ballots Sunday to elect the local authorities amid reports of incidents among political rivals following an election campaign marred by violence.
The main focus of the poll is the capital, Tirana, where the leader of the opposition and three-time Mayor Edi Rama is running for re-election against former Interior Minister Lulzim Basha of the governing Democratic Party. The first preliminary results are expected Monday, according to election officials.