Monday, July 4, 2011

Albania Opposition Seeks Poll Repeat in Key Tirana Race

The Socialist opposition has filed what is considered its final appeal with the Electoral College on Thursday, seeking a repeat of the election for the Tirana mayor’s office.

Besar Likmeta
Woman casts ballot during May 8 local poll | Photo by : OSCE

The appeal launched by the Socialists will be heard by the Electoral College, Albania’s specialized elections appeals court on July 6, ending nearly two months of legal wrangling over the disputed Tirana race.

The Tirana poll was considered the key battleground of the May 8 local elections, pitting Socialist leader and incumbent mayor Edi Rama and ruling party candidate Lulzim Basha against each other.

Albania’s Central Electoral Commission on June 25, for the second time in as many months, declared the ruling party candidate the winner of the hotly contested race for the Tirana mayoralty.

With four votes in favour and two against, the commission declared Lulzim Basha the winner of the May 8 race for the capital's mayoralty with a 93 vote advantage out of a quarter-million.

The new complaint before the court its the fourth after the election commission on May 23 initially declared Basha the winner, following a controversial recount of stray ballots.

The recount gave Basha a lead of 81 votes out of a quarter-million over Rama, who had a razor-thin margin of ten ballots in the unofficial preliminary results, before the stray ballots were added.

The dispute over the stray ballots occurred because some voters who had multiple ballots to put into designated boxes failed to do so correctly, partly because the ballot boxes were not clearly distinguished by colour.

On June 13 the Electoral College ruling annulled the election commission's May 23 decision, which declared Basha the winner in Tirana. At the same time, it rejected the opposition challenge against the miscast ballots, which were deemed as valid.

Following the ruling, the court ordered a re-evaluation of contested ballots in 368 ballot boxes, whose results were added to the final tally, giving Basha a lead of 93 votes.

Earlier the Electoral College had rejected two other Socialist complaints about the procedure used by the election commission to include the miscast ballots in the final tally.

However the Socialists have contested the latest recount as well, pointing to problems in several ballots boxes, where security codes were different from those registered by counting centers, where paper ballots were found outside the various envelopes inside the ballot box or the number of voters did not match the number of ballots cast.

On Friday they invited western ambassadors in Tirana to their headquarters and presented them with evidence, which supposed to back their allegations of electoral fraud from the CEC.

“We presented them with arguments and the materials that prove the electoral fraud in the poll,” said in a statement socialist MP Damian Gjinkuri.

No comments: