Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Dangers of Albania's Disputed Election

Sabine Freizer | 20 May 2011

Albania’s second disputed election in three years threatens to push the country over the edge.

Almost two weeks after local elections, preliminary results have yet to be announced. This is the time for sustained, coordinated international action to press parties to abide by the legal framework in place. The Socialist Party should immediately appeal the decision of the Central Election Commission (CEC), to change counting procedures, to the highest appropriate legal mechanism (the Electoral College), which should decide the issue on the basis of current practice. All parties should exercise restraint if conflict is to be avoided; clarity is urgently required for the smooth running of future elections.

The Economist is not exaggerating when it writes that, Albania today stands “on the brink of a return to violence”. A tight mayoral race in Tirana, a highly polarised environment which contributed to four deaths in January, and divisions within the security forces make bloodshed an unnerving possibility unless legal procedures are fully respected. Albania has a history of disputed elections, parliamentary boycotts and political violence.

The unofficial preliminary results of the Tirana vote gave the incumbent, Socialist Party (SP) leader Edi Rama, an edge of just ten ballots over his rival, former Interior Minister Lulzim Basha, out of a quarter million cast. In a sense then, no one won the mayoral race: for all practical purposes, it was a draw.

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