Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Date Set for Albania Local Elections

Albanians vote in the June 2009 parliamentary elections
Albanians vote in the June 2009 parliamentary elections

President Bamir Topi has decreed Albania's local elections will be held on 8 May next year.

The date was announced as Albania’s main political parties, the Democratic Party of Prime Minister Sali Berisha and the Socialists, headed by Tirana mayor Edi Rama, remain locked in a standoff over the results of parliamentary elections held in June 2009.

The Socialist opposition is seeking a recount, saying the results were marred by fraud.

Socialist MPs have boycotted the parliament for most of the past year and even held a 21-day hunger strike in front of Berisha’s office to demand a recount.

Berisha’s Democrats maintain the elections are the best the country has ever held and a recount is impossible as the opposition has exhausted all legal appeals.

Despite mediations attempts launched by Topi, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, the two Albanian leaders have so far failed to agree on the powers of a parliamentary commission set up to investigate alleged irregularities in the ballot.

An OSCE/ODIHR report on the poll noted tangible progress over voter registration and identification processes, and in the reform of the overall legal framework governing the election.

But, although the electoral process was deemed an improvement on previous polls, it still did not meet internationally recognised election standards, it said.

Whether the opposition will take part or boycott the local elections remains unclear.

Meanwhile, the two political powerhouses continue to trade accusations.

The EU, whose members of parliament have invested heavily in a solution to the crisis, is widely seen to be losing its patience.

Albania has sought integration with the EU for nearly 20 years, but observers say trying Brussels' patience and will might not be the best way for the local political class to gain membership.

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