Saturday, April 18, 2015

Albania Parties Prepare for Local Poll Showdown

Albanian political parties announced key candidates for major municipalities for the June 21 local polls – the first important test of their popularity since the Socialists came to power in 2013.
Gjergj Erebara
  Erion Veliaj (Left) and Halim Kosova.
The main parties have announced their candidates for the biggest electoral prize that is up for grabs in June’s polls – the mayoralty of the capital Tirana.
The left-wing ruling coalition which came to power at parliamentary elections in 2013 has named the current minister of welfare and former social activist Erion Veliaj as its candidate.
Veliaj, 36, holds a degree in political science from Grand Valley State University in US. He headed the Mjaft Movement, a civic activism NGO between 2003 and 2007 and founded an ill-fated party called G-99 in 2007.
After his party’s poor results in the 2009 elections, Veliaj joined the Socialist Party in opposition and was elected an MP in 2013.
He will face Halim Kosova, a doctor and current MP for the Democratic Party, which went into opposition after losing the 2013 elections. Kosova, 61, has a medical science doctorate from the University of Tirana.
Meanwhile, Gjergj Bojaxhi, a former deputy minister of energy with the Democratic Party, had announced that he will run as independent.
Apart from serving as a deputy minister in the former centre-right government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Bojaxhiu was CEO of Albania’s Power Corporation, KESH, the state electricity producer.
He is also known as professional climber who managed to climb Mount Everest few years ago.
About 4.3 million Albanians are eligible to vote in June for 61 new mayors and about 1500 councilors.
Albania last year reduced the number of municipalities from 373 to 61.
The government insists that it used scientific criteria for the changes but the opposition Democratic Party has accused it of making the changes unilaterally for electoral advantage.
The opposition claims that because of this, it can win no more than 10 out of 61 municipalities.
One of the most controversial issues was the creation of Kamza municipality in north Tirana as a separate unit from the capital.
Kamza has about 125,000 registered inhabitants and is known as stronghold of the Democratic Party. Because of that, the ruling coalition has gained a clear advantage in Tirana itself, with opposition supporters concentrated in Kamza.

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