Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said on March 9 that the leader of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) Lulzim Basha must face prosecutors after a scandal erupted over alleged Russian lobbying for Albania’s Democrats in the US. Rama’s comment came after US publication Mother Jones reported on March 6 that Albania’s Democratic Party indirectly received secret funds from Russian sources in the US during last year’s parliamentary election. It also said that Russian-related companies were secretly active in the US to meddle in the election. “The truth about this issue will be definitely unveiled,” Rama said in a Facebook post on March 9.
Albania’s Democratic Party, the main opposition group, has rejected allegations by U.S. publication Mother Jones that the party received secret funds from Russian sources during last year’s parliamentary election. Mother Jones alleged in an article published Tuesday that Russian-linked companies used a U.S. lobbyist to secretly meddle in Albania’s 2017 election. According to the article Nick Muzin, a former campaign aide for U.S. President Donald Trump, was paid by “a sketchy Scottish firm called Biniatta Trade, which was formed by two Belize-based shell companies … for work in the United States to help the Democratic Party of Albania.” “It appears that Russian-related entities secretly meddled in the United States in order to meddle in an election in Albania,” the Mother Jones story said.
Albania’s left-wing Socialist Party has secured a second mandate in a general election, winning a majority of seats in parliament, election results showed Tuesday. The election was seen as a key benchmark in the country’s bid to launch membership negotiations with the European Union. The Central Election Commission said that with all the ballots counted, the governing Socialists of Prime Minister Edi Rama had won 74 places in the 140-seat parliament.
Albania’s prime minister, the artist turned politician Edi Rama, is poised to be returned to power following parliamentary elections seen as key to the country’s future prospects of EU membership. As ballots continued to be counted on Monday, an exit poll showed Rama and his Socialist party on course to win between 45% and 49% of the vote. If correct, the result would secure the Socialists control of more than half the 140-seat house. The opposition centre-right Democratic party, led by Lulzim Basha, was trailing with 34%. The poll, conducted by Italy’s IPR Marketing, had a margin of error of two percentage points.
Albanians are tensely awaiting election results which will be announced only on Monday after the long process of transporting votes from the polling station to the counters has taken place. On Sunday voting for the general elections began at 7am local time and continued until 8pm – one hour later than expected as polling station closures were postponed on account of the low turnout. The Central Electoral Commission, CEC, announced at 9pm that the turnout was around 45 per cent. Calculation shows that more than 1.5 million people voted out of a potential 3.4 million in the electoral rolls. In 2013 electoral turnout stood at around 53 per cent, and more than 1.7 million people cast their ballot.
If a foreign tourist, businessperson or other foreign visitor travelled through Albania at the moment, he or she would have no way of knowing that crucial parliamentary elections are taking place in the country on Sunday. There are no electoral posters or party flags, which usually cover the facades of every buildings ahead of elections, because this time political paraphernalia is allowed only during parties’ pre-election rallies. Yet even these rallies are unlike those before, as they have been passing off without heated speeches and a lot of noise, so as not to disturb people who are not interested in participating.
Albania’s parliament has approved a government shake-up as part of a compromise worked out between political parties before next month’s parliamentary election. The unanimous vote on Monday came after President Bujar Nishani issued decrees naming the opposition’s recommendations for deputy prime minister and six other ministerial posts: interior, education, health, social wellbeing, finance and justice. A three-month opposition boycott of parliament ended last week with an agreement between the governing Socialist Party and the opposition-led Democratic Party that was mediated by U.S. and European Union officials.
Albania’s president has decreed that a parliamentary election that was postponed as part of compromise among political parties will be held on June 25. The election had been scheduled for June 18, but was pushed back as part of the agreement mediated by U.S. and European Union officials. President Bujar Nishani moved the election back one week on Sunday to account for the compromise between the governing Socialist Party and the opposition-led Democratic Party.
Albania’s political leaders on Thursday failed for the second time to reach a compromise as the opposition has boycotted the parliament and the June 18 parliamentary election. Following intensive meetings with Western diplomats, Prime Minister Edi Rama, leader of the Socialist Party, and Lulzim Basha of the main opposition Democratic Party met again Thursday night. Rama said the government offered direct monitoring of the voting with a task force of opposition representatives accompanied by monitors from the European Union, the United States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Albania’s election authorities have extended for a few days the registration period for candidates for the June polls in an attempt to get participation from the opposition. The Central Election Commission on Sunday said that political parties have until May 3 to register their candidates for the June 18 parliamentary elections.
Albanian opposition supporters blocked the country’s main roads Monday, demanding that a caretaker Cabinet be allowed to govern until the parliamentary election in June. Thousands of opposition supporters blocked five national crossroads for an hour. Opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha said they were protesting “drug traffic, crime traffic, ballots traffic, corruption, money laundering traffic.” The opposition has said that it will boycott the parliamentary election.
Albania’s parliament voted for a new president without casting a single ballot on Wednesday, convening and then closing the first of five election rounds in less than 10 minutes because no candidate came forward to run. The bizarre non-election went ahead despite a boycott by the opposition Democratic Party, which quit parliament two months ago and has since insisted Tirana first needs to name a technocratic government. To ensure that the ceremonial figure of president is a compromise figure, the constitution requires a candidate to get three-fifths of the vote to win in the first three rounds. If no candidate wins, the rules then say a simple majority will do to pick the new head of state.
Albania’s opposition parties said Monday they plan to hold a national protest in a western city that is holding local elections, a possible warning that they plan to disrupt voting. The city of Kavaja is holding an election on May 7 because the former mayor’s mandate was canceled due to his criminal past. Lulzim Basha, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, said a rally would be held the same day to prevent “facade elections.” The opposition doesn’t trust the left-wing government to hold the election in a fair manner. They think the current coalition government will manipulate the vote by buying ballots with drug money.
A senior European Parliament politician on Wednesday called on the Albanian opposition Democratic Party not to block a judicial reform – the main step toward launching Albania’s membership negotiations with the European Union. Albania’s Democrats, who have been protesting for a week for free and fair elections in June, plan to boycott parliament next week. That may stop the justice system reform, which aims to create institutions for the vetting of some 800 judges and prosecutors. The reform seeks to root out bribery and ensure that judges and prosecutors are independent from politics. Brussels says its implementation is key to Albania’s effort to become an EU member.
The conservative prime minister who dominated post-communist politics in Albania has conceded election defeat, taking personal responsibility for the heavy loss to the rival Socialists after losing the support of fed-up voters. Sali Berisha, who had been seeking a third straight term as prime minister in Sunday’s general election, also announced to party supporters late on Wednesday he would step down as leader of his center-right Democratic Party. The 68-year-old’s party was beaten handily. With nearly all of the votes counted, Socialist Edi Rama was ahead with 53 percent, compared to just 36 percent for the Democrats.
The European Union on Tuesday congratulated Albania for its “overall orderly” parliamentary election despite violent incidents, but urged the Balkan country to complete the process in accordance with international norms. “We condemn the reported cases of violence and expect that these incidents will be fully investigated and perpetrators brought to justice,” the EU‘s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said. “Now it is important that the remaining stages of the election process are conducted in line with EU and international standards,” they said.
Albanian authorities have started counting votes for the country’s general election, marred by gunfire at a polling station on Sunday which left one dead and two others wounded, APA reports quoting Xinhua. According to the latest data from the Central Election Commission, 226 ballot boxes out 1,422 in total in the region of Tirana have been counted, while similar progress was underway across the country. Preliminary results were expected later on Monday, whereas the official results are not expected to be announced until Tuesday. The Democratic Party has called on all political parties to proceed with calm and not to block the counting process.
One man was killed and three people were wounded in an apparently politically motivated shooting in Albania on Sunday during a crucial vote that could determine whether one of Europe’s poorest countries has a chance of joining the EU. The shootout in the northern town of Lac “might be related to the vote,” police spokeswoman Alma Katragjini told AFP without elaborating. The dead man was a 53-year old leftist opposition activist, said a source close to the Socialist-led coalition of former Tirana mayor Edi Rama, but this could not be independently confirmed. The source also said that one of the wounded was a candidate from the ruling Democratic party of conservative Prime Minister Sali Berisha, who is seeking his third mandate to lead Albania after eight years in power.
The Central Electoral Commission, CEC, has abandoned the planned use of new pilot technologies in the June 23 parliamentary elections, after tests revealed problems. The Electoral Code mandated the CEC to pilot two new election technologies for these elections: an electronic voter verification system, EVS, in the district of Tirana, and an electronic counting system in the region of Fier. But according to a CEC report 11 per cent of the identity cards tested could not be read from the machine. Tests with the EVS system in Tirana revealed that the system could not read deteriorated IDs or prevent attempts of multiple voting at different voting centres.
The people of Albania are to vote on Sunday (23 June) in an election seen as an important test of the country’s ambitions to join the European Union. The vote will come four days before an EU summit at which national leaders are expected to give the go-ahead for Serbia and Kosovo to advance to the next stages of their attempts to join the EU. Those votes of confidence will contrast with the slow progress that Albania has made since it applied for membership in 2009. At the start of the election campaign, the European Commission criticised the Albanian government for planning to call a referendum to push through reforms demanded by the EU.
Fears rose Saturday of yet another disputed election in Albania after the commission tasked with certifying the vote remained defunct a day before the Balkan country goes to the polls. Since the fall of communism two decades ago, elections in Albania, one of Europe’s poorest countries, have been disputed or marred by violence and allegations of irregularities. Tirana desperately needs to prove to its Western partners that it is able to hold fair polls that meet international standards if it is to have a shot at joining the EU. But on the eve of the polls, the Central Electoral Commission remained inoperational.
Albania’s general election on June 23 will be heavily scrutinised to determine if it’s free and fair. So far, the signs aren’t good. The latest hint that the EU is becoming increasingly worried came from the European watchdog charged with monitoring the election, no less. Ahead of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) setting up its mission in Albania on May 15, its chief Lamberto Zannier said his team were watching with concern the harsh rhetoric of the political debate. “We are expecting a very competitive electoral process in a challenging climate,” Zannier told reporters on May 2. Zannier cited in particular the growing spectre of extreme nationalism, the rise of which could have repercussions for the stability of the entire region. “We hope that there will not be excessive nationalism that could create elements of instability in the region,” he said. “The OSCE has invested so much in Albania”. Albanian nationalism is a new wildcard to the country’s elections, which previously were marred by the more typical unsavoury aspects such as intimidation, violence, vote-rigging and electoral fraud.
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.
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.
OSCE Ambassador in Tirana, Eugen Wollfarth will report to the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, in early September on political developments in Albania.
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.
There were two main problems in Tirana. One votes were counted that were found in other ballot boxes. Two, in the final result from the Central Electoral Commission there are more votes than voters.
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…