Saturday, June 22, 2013




Albania votes in parliamentary election

Opposition leader Edi Rama, left, and incumbent Prime Minister Sali Berisha Opposition leader Edi Rama, left, is challenging incumbent Prime Minister Sali Berisha


Polls have opened in Albania's parliamentary elections, seen as a crucial test of the country's progress towards joining the European Union.
Prime Minister Sali Berisha is seeking a third term but faces a strong challenge from opposition leader Edi Rama, a former mayor of Tirana.
An acrimonious campaign has been marked by allegations of vote-rigging.
A dispute over the country's electoral commission also threatens to leave the result in doubt.
Elections in Albania, one of Europe's poorest countries, have been marred by violence or claims of fraud since the fall of communism there two decades ago.
On the eve of Sunday's poll, President Bujar Nishani urged voters to have "Albania and its future" uppermost in their minds.

Main contenders

  • Sali Berisha: incumbent Democratic Party PM seeking third term; heads coalition of 25 centrist and centre-right parties
  • Edi Rama: Socialist ex-mayor of Tirana; has coalition of 37 opposition parties
"(We) should properly consider the importance tomorrow's vote has for our ties with the world, with which our freedom, prosperity, fate of the present and the future are closely linked," he said.
Mr Berisha and Mr Rama both promise job creation, economic development and tax reform.
They are also both strongly pro-European, reflecting widespread public support for EU integration.
Results 'at risk' Analysts say the biggest question mark is likely to hang over the Central Electoral Commission.
Due to a dispute between Mr Berisha's coalition and that of Mr Rama, the seven-member commission has only four members. The minimum legal requirement is five.
On Saturday, a Western diplomat told AFP news agency that there was now "a great risk the results (of Sunday's polls) would be contested, either by the outgoing coalition or by the opposition".
More than 6,900 candidates from 66 political parties are running for 140 parliamentary seats.
Overseeing the polls will be about 400 international observers and more than 8,000 Albanian monitors.
The EU, which has twice rejected Tirana's membership application, said Sunday's election "represents a crucial test for the country's democratic institutions and its progress towards the European Union".

Albania's politicians and voters getting ready for Sunday's crucial national polls


Political campaigning stopped in Albania Saturday, a day before parliamentary elections which are considered a crucial test for its ambitions for closer ties and eventual membership in the European Union.
Prime Minister Sali Berisha, 68, is seeking a third term but faces a strong challenge from Socialist leader Edi Rama, 48.
Both pledge to improve the people's lives, fight corruption and crime and take one of Europe's poorest countries into the European Union, which is pressing for broader democratic reforms and an improved election record.
As required by law, on Saturday political parties ceased their one-month campaign.
President Bujar Nishani urged everyone entitled to vote "to understand the main thing: that parties and ideologies which we vote for are some, while Albania and its future is just one."
The monthlong election contest has been relatively calm, unlike past elections that were frequently marred by violence, vote-rigging and intimidation. However, there have been reports of civil servants and even school children being pressured to attend pro-government rallies.
A western diplomat in Tirana, speaking on condition of anonymity to be politically impartial ahead of the polls, said they had seen "definite signs of coercion by authorities," adding they "need clarity, openness and transparency to build trust among the people."
On Sunday some 3.3 million eligible voters will chose in a regional proportional system among more than 6,900 candidates from 66 political parties who run for 140 parliamentary seats.
Some 400 international observers and more than 8,000 local ones will monitor the polls.
Voting opens at 7 a.m. local time (0900 GMT) Sunday and ends at 7 p.m. It is uncertain when results would be announced.

Read more:

Today the Albanian politic elections. The politic opposition slogans, at front of daily newspapers, to reminder the citizens to abandon the PM Sali Berisha

UN transfers 71 MKO terrorists to Albania

File photo shows members of the terrorist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO)

File photo shows members of the terrorist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO)

On June 20, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki requested the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) to remove the MKO terrorists from the country as soon as possible.

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A UN official says 71 members of the terrorist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) have been transferred from Iraq to Albania following a rocket attack on Camp Liberty.

The attack on Camp Liberty a week ago has "once again shown how important it is to relocate the residents to third countries as quickly as possible,” UN special envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler said in a statement.

"A total of 71 men and women now have safely arrived in Albania and have benefited from the government of Albania's offer to accept 210 of the camp's residents," he said.

Kobler added that Germany had also proposed to accept around 100 MKO members.

On June 20, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki requested the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) to remove MKO terrorists from the country as soon as possible.

Reuters reported on June 14 that two MKO members were killed and more than 17 were wounded in a rocket attack on Camp Liberty in western Baghdad.

In another attack on Camp Liberty near the Iraqi capital on February 9, at least seven MKO members were killed and more than 50 others were wounded.

The MKO -- listed as a terrorist organization by much of the international community -- fled Iran in 1986 for Iraq, where it enjoyed the support of Iraq's executed dictator Saddam Hussein, and set up its camp near the Iranian border.

The group is notorious for carrying out numerous terrorist acts against Iranian civilians and officials, involvement in the bloody repression of the 1991 Shia Muslims in southern Iraq, and the massacre of Iraqi Kurds in the country's north under Saddam.

In December 2011, the United Nations and Baghdad agreed to relocate some 3,000 MKO members from Camp New Iraq, formerly known as Camp Ashraf, in Diyala Province to Camp Liberty -- a former US military base near Baghdad International Airport.

Tehran has repeatedly called on the Iraqi government to expel the terrorist group, but the US has been blocking the expulsion by pressuring the Iraqi government.
 PHOTO NEWS: Army takes to protect embassies in Tirana

In this photo Photo agency LSA seen Albanian officers Forces Command, maintaining the Italian Embassy. According to an official announcement, the emergence of commando forces made ​​"in the context of the welfare of the 23 June election process."

According to the said order, the army has taken under protection the most important institutions in the country and residencies diplomatic, namely embassies, consulates and diplomatic residences.
Muslim community: Vote with maturity

Muslim community: Vote with maturity 

The Albanian Muslim Community appealed all citizens, regardless their religion, to conduct a calm parliamentary election, in full maturity and harmony.

The leaders of the biggest religious community have declared that everyone has the constitutional right to express their political convictions with vote, but this should be done within the beautiful norms that our people has inherited.

During this press release, the Muslim Community of Albania expressed their impartiality on politics, and distanced themselves from anyone who uses the name of this institution and tries to speak on behalf of religion for electoral reasons.
US troop buildup in Jordan after Turkey shuts US-NATO arms corridor to Syrian rebels 

DEBKAfile Special Report June 22, 2013

Tayyip Erdogan's U-turn on Syria

Tayyip Erdogan's U-turn on Syria

The US decision to upgrade Syrian rebel weaponry has run into a major setback: DEBKAfile reveals that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan phoned President Barack Obama in Berlin Wednesday, June 19, to report his sudden decision to shut down the Turkish corridor for the transfer of US and NATO arms to the Syrian rebels.
Against this background, the US President informed Congress Friday, June 22, that 700 combat-equipped American military personnel would remain in Jordan at the end of a joint US-Jordanian training exercise. They would include crews of two Patriot anti-aircraft missile batteries and the logistics, command and communications personnel needed to support those units. The United States is also leaving behind from the war maneuver a squadron of 12 to 24 F-16 fighter jets at Jordan’s request. Some 300 US troops have been in Jordan since last year.
Erdogan’s decision will leave the Syrian rebels fighting in Aleppo virtually high and dry. The fall of Qusayr cut off their supplies of arms from Lebanon. Deliveries through Jordan reach only as far as southern Syria and are almost impossible to move to the north where the rebels and the Hizballah-backed Syrian army are locked in a decisive battle for Aleppo.
The Turkish prime minister told Obama he is afraid of Russian retribution if he continues to let US and NATO weapons through to the Syrian rebels.
Since the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland last week, Moscow has issued almost daily condemnations of the West for arming “terrorists.”
Rebel spokesmen in Aleppo claimed Friday that they now had weapons which they believe “will change the course of the battle on the ground.”
DEBKAfile’s military sources are strongly skeptical of their ability - even after the new deliveries - to stand up to the onslaught on their positions in the embattled town by the combined strength of the Syrian army, Hizballah troops and armed Iraqi Shiites. The prevailing intelligence assessment is that they will be crushed in Aleppo as they were in Al Qusayr.
That battle was lost after 16 days of ferocious combat; Aleppo is expected to fall after 40-60 days of great bloodshed.
The arms the rebels received from US, NATO and European sources were purchased on international markets – not only because they were relatively cheap but because they were mostly of Russian manufacture. The rebels are thus equipped with Russian weapons for fighting the Russian arms used by the Syria army. This made Moscow angrier than ever.
Until now, the Erdogan government was fully supportive of the Syrian opposition, permitting them to establish vital command centers and rear bases on Turkish soil and send supplies across the border to fighting units. He has now pulled the rug out from under their cause and given Assad a major leg-up
This about-turn is a strategic earthquake – not just in terms of the Syrian war but also for the United States and, as time goes by, for Israel too.
Ten years ago, Erdogan pulled the same maneuver when he denied US troops passage through Turkey to Iraq for opening a second front against Saddam Hussein.
President Obama reacted by topping up the US deployment in Jordan by 700 combat-equipped troops to 1,000. Patriot missile interceptors and F-16 fighter jets are left behind from their joint war game for as long as the security situation requires. DEBKAfile: The joint US-Jordanian maneuver was in fact abruptly curtailed after two weeks although it was planned to continue for two months until the end of August.
The widening disruptions of the surging Syrian war are on the point of tipping over into Jordan and coming closer than ever to Israel.
Albanian Voters Urged to Remember 'Ties to World'

 Albania Elections.JPEG

By LLAZAR SEMINI Associated Press
TIRANA, Albania June 22, 2013 (AP)
Albania's president on Saturday warned voters to remember the country's "ties to the world" during parliamentary elections considered a crucial test of the impoverished nation's ability to hold fair elections.

Conservative Prime Minister Sali Berisha is seeking a third term but faces a strong challenge from Socialist leader Edi Rama in Sunday's vote. Both have ambitions of closer ties and eventual membership in the European Union, which is pressing for broad reforms and an improved election record in a country once among the most isolated in the world.

As required by law, political parties ceased their one-month campaign the day before the vote. Though the month-long election contest has been relatively calm — unlike past elections that were frequently marred by violence — the West is concerned that the vote won't be fair.

The campaign season has been marked by a continuing dispute over the country's election commission after the ruling Democrats replaced a member and the opposition pulled its members out in response. That means the commission won't be able to certify election results, potentially leaving the outcome of the vote in doubt.

There have also been reports of civil servants and even school children being pressured to attend pro-government rallies.

President Bujar Nishani urged voters to have "Albania and its future" uppermost in their minds.

"(We) should properly consider the importance tomorrow's vote has for our ties with the world, with which our freedom, prosperity, fate of the present and the future are closely linked."

Some 3.3 million eligible voters will choose among more than 6,900 candidates from 66 political parties who run for 140 parliamentary seats. Some 400 international observers and more than 8,000 local ones will monitor the polls.

It is uncertain when results will be announced.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Donald Lu to replace Alexander Arvizu as the US ambassador to Tirana

By Ariola Imeri  /   21/06/2013     

Donald Lu
Tirana, June 21, 2013

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Albania has received today the request for the accreditation of a new US ambassador in our country, given that the term in office of current ambassador Arvizu is coming to an end.

Donald Lu is expected to be accredited as the new US ambassador in our country, as the mandate of ambassador Arvizu ends at the end of July after serving as ambassador in our country since 2010.

Donald Lu was born in Huntington Beach, California. He was graduated in Princeton for international relations.

Lu joined the US Foreign Service in 1990 working as a diplomat in Pakistan, India, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Washington. He’s currently serving as an ambassador in India.
- See more at:

Donald Lu to replace Alexander Arvizu as the US ambassador to Tirana

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Donald LuTirana, June 21, 2013
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Albania has received today the request for the accreditation of a new US ambassador in our country, given that the term in office of current ambassador Arvizu is coming to an end.
Donald Lu is expected to be accredited as the new US ambassador in our country, as the mandate of ambassador Arvizu ends at the end of July after serving as ambassador in our country since 2010.
Donald Lu was born in Huntington Beach, California. He was graduated in Princeton for international relations.
Lu joined the US Foreign Service in 1990 working as a diplomat in Pakistan, India, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Washington. He’s currently serving as an ambassador in India. 
- See more at:

Donald Lu to replace Alexander Arvizu as the US ambassador to Tirana

By   /   21/06/2013  /   No Comments
Donald LuTirana, June 21, 2013
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Albania has received today the request for the accreditation of a new US ambassador in our country, given that the term in office of current ambassador Arvizu is coming to an end.
Donald Lu is expected to be accredited as the new US ambassador in our country, as the mandate of ambassador Arvizu ends at the end of July after serving as ambassador in our country since 2010.
Donald Lu was born in Huntington Beach, California. He was graduated in Princeton for international relations.
Lu joined the US Foreign Service in 1990 working as a diplomat in Pakistan, India, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Washington. He’s currently serving as an ambassador in India. 
- See more at:

Donald Lu to replace Alexander Arvizu as the US ambassador to Tirana

By   /   21/06/2013  /   No Comments
Donald LuTirana, June 21, 2013
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Albania has received today the request for the accreditation of a new US ambassador in our country, given that the term in office of current ambassador Arvizu is coming to an end.
Donald Lu is expected to be accredited as the new US ambassador in our country, as the mandate of ambassador Arvizu ends at the end of July after serving as ambassador in our country since 2010.
Donald Lu was born in Huntington Beach, California. He was graduated in Princeton for international relations.
Lu joined the US Foreign Service in 1990 working as a diplomat in Pakistan, India, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Washington. He’s currently serving as an ambassador in India. 
- See more at:

Podesta Group snags State Department deputy assistant secretary

John Hudson
Lobbying powerhouse the Podesta Group has hired StateDepartment Deputy Assistant Secretary BayFang, The Cable has learned.
The hire, set to be announced later today, adds to the firm's expandinginternational practice, which has serviced clients ranging from the Georgian toEgyptian governments.
"It's a growing part of their practice," Fang told The Cable, speaking of the firm's roleas an interlocutor between foreign governments and the United States. "So I'mtalking to a lot of my former colleagues both in the press and at the StateDepartment."
Fang left her post at the Bureau of European and EurasianAffairs last month and started in earnest last Monday as a senior strategist.
At State, she traveled to Caucasus countries including Georgia,Azerbaijan, and Armenia as well as the Balkans, working on cultural outreachand programs focusing on youth entrepreneurship in post-Soviet economies. Shealso served as a senior advisor for the State Department in southernAfghanistan and before that was the diplomatic correspondent for the Chicago Tribune.
Her addition to Podesta Group comes as the firm adds William Bohlen, the former director ofcommunications for the German Marshall Fund of the United States, as anothersenior strategist.
"The accelerated growth we've enjoyed within our internationalsector has shown no signs of slowing down," CEO Kimberley Fritts said in a memo. "Bay and Will further cement thediplomatic experience, communications savvy and relationship advantage thatonly we can provide, and that our clients require to be successful on the worldstage."

Fraud Fears Overshadow Albanian Election

Allegations of vote buying hang over Albania’s forthcoming general election – whose result, whatever it is, is likely to be hotly disputed.
Besar Likmeta
In this Thursday, June 20, 2013 photo, main opposition Socialist Party leader Edi Rama, speaks at a rally, in Tirana, Albania, ahead of the Sunday's general elections | Photo by : Hektor Pustina/AP
Polling stations open on Sunday for what will undoubtedly be one of the most closely scrutinised elections in Albania’s recent history.
Standing by to ensure a free and fair election will by an army of more than 8,000 local and international observers.
Facing a difficult transition to democracy since the collapse of the Communist regime in 1991, Albania’s elections have been routinely marred by fraud and violence.
The last elections in 2009 sparked a political crisis between the ruling Democrats and opposition Socialists that still reverberates.
Sunday’s poll, therefore, is seen as a kind of litmus test for Albania to get its battered EU integration process back on track.
“The elections on 23 June represent a crucial test for the country's democratic institutions and its progress towards the European Union,” a joint statement issued on Monday by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said.
“It is the joint responsibility of all Albanian political leaders and parties to reinforce the confidence and trust of the public in the electoral process and create conditions for election results to be accepted by all,” they added.
The race pits two major coalitions against one another, one headed by the ruling centre-right Democratic Party of Prime Minister Sali Berisha and the other led by the Socialists of former Tirana mayor Edi Rama.
Berisha is seeking a third mandate in power. He previously served as head of state from 1992-1997 and from 1991 has been the uncontested leader of the Democrats.
Rama was the mayor of Tirana from 2000 until 2011 and became chairman of the Socialist Party in 2005.
The atmosphere of the campaign has been generally calm and peaceful, with the Democrats focusing on their achievements in government, particularly infrastructural development and salary increases for public officials.
The opposition Socialist have predictably lambasted the government and have promised to strengthen economic growth, social security and the fight against corruption.
According to a recent survey commissioned by Ora News TV and conducted by an Italian company, IPR marketing, Rama’s left-wing coalition has a narrow edge.
It has the support of about 51 per cent of voters as opposed to be about 45 per cent rooting for Berisha’s coalition.
However, because of the complicated regional and proportional voting system, the results could turn out to be closer than polls suggest.
Despite the high stakes at play for the country’s EU future, observers note real fears the electoral process will be marred by fraud.
Local observers have voiced concern about the failure of the justice system to investigate numerous allegations of vote buying and misuse of public assets by the Democratic Party.
“The main concern raised by the electoral campaign was the use of the assets of the public administration by political parties,” a report published on Wednesday by the Coalition of Domestic Observers, an electoral watchdog group of Albanian NGOs, said.
“Despite wide media coverage [of the allegations] the reaction of justice institutions has been almost non-existent,” it added.
Gjergj Erebara, editor of the Tirana daily Shqip, notes frequent reports that the Democratic Party has put pressure on public employees during the electoral campaign.
“The misuse of the public administration to support the ruling party seems to have reached appalling levels,” he said.
“There have been reports of arbitrary hirings and firings from the highest to the lowest-level workers,” he added.
“The pressure is at an all-time high on public servants who often find themselves facing an ‘Are-you-with-us-or-against-us?’ dilemma,” Erebara continued.
Political commentator Mero Baze agrees. Reports of the ruling party putting pressure on civil servants to photograph their votes and verify the political preferences of their relatives and friends are unacceptable, he said.
Baze says there is ample evidence that vulnerable social groups have been offered cash in exchange for photographing their votes or handing over their identity cards, to ensure they do not vote for the opposition.
“This campaign has been marred by such dark deeds that have never been seen before in this country,” Baze maintained.
There are also concerns about the probity of the vote count after the polls close on Sunday remain.
Many fear that if widespread expectations of an opposition win in the elections are disappointed, civil unrest and protests might ensue.
However, commentators disagree on the scale of the support that the opposition can expect to muster in the event of a result dogged by fraud claims.
“The opposition unfortunately does not have moral credentials to get Albanians to stage mass protests even if the government only retains power through irregularities,” Erebara noted.
“A revolution is thus unlikely to occur, although small-scale protests and confrontations with the police are to be expected,” he added.
But Baze says that while the opposition lacks the moral kudos to head up major protests, if the elections are flagrantly marred by fraud, the government should expect to meet a strong reaction.
“Albania is prepared for political change, not because of the opposition’s merit but because of deep disappointment with the corrupt rule of Prime Minister Berisha,” he said.
“If the polls are tampered with and this rotation in power is blocked, the country will face revolts - which could be headed by civil society activists rather than by the opposition,” he concluded.

Venizelos Decides To Support Coalition Gov't

By on 21.6.13

A message of stability and responsibility to all directions was sent out by PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos late on Thursday following the three coalition government party leaders. The meeting failed to achieve a breakthrough in talks over the fate of the now closed down state broadcaster ERT.

Speaking before a joint meeting of his party's parliamentary group and political council to consider latest developments, Venizelos clarified that PASOK does not want early elections and noted that Greek people feel the same way.

He said that there should be no "surprises" between the coalition partners or "petty partisan behaviours," (basically pointing the finger at DIMAR and Mr. Fotis Kouvelis).

Nonetheless, he accused the New Democracy party of having opened a Pandora's Box by its decision to shut down the state broadcaster ERT, which in turn "raised concerns over the functioning of institutions and democracy."

Tony Blair ready to answer Albania's call

Socialist frontrunner in weekend election lines up British former PM to advise on modernisation and EU membership 
Tony Blair in Albania
Tony Blair, then prime minister, with his Albanian counterpart, Pandeli Majko, during a visit to Albania in May 1999. His role in protecting ethnic Albanians in Kosovo increased his popularity in the region. Photograph: Reuters Photographer / Reuters/Reuters
Tony Blair is expected to pop up in more unfamiliar territory after this weekend if, as expected, Albania's Socialist party emerges victorious in Sunday's elections.
The Albanian opposition has lined up Blair to offer advice on reshaping the government in the rough and tumble world of Balkans politics.
The Socialist party leader, Edi Rama, met Blair at the former prime minister's office in Mayfair last month. A formal contract has not been drawn up, but Rama expects Blair will advise on modernisation and reform to kickstart the impoverished country's stalled bid for European Union membership. Video footage of the meeting shows a smiling Blair telling Rama: "I will be very happy to help you, I am very interested in your country."
Rama, a former mayor of the capital, Tirana, said: "If we win, we will be very happy to work with [Blair] and to listen to him and to make the best out of his advice on reshaping the government and reshaping politics and policies here in Albania. Our party is very much inspired by and connected to the vision and way of thinking about things of New Labour and Tony Blair."
Blair, whose Government Advisory Practice has similar agreements in Colombia and Brazil, "was very clear in saying he wants to help and I trust him", Rama added.
In a seemingly unconnected move, Blair's former communications director Alastair Campbell has also been in Albania giving advice on election strategy to the Socialist party, which is ahead in opinion polls and is expected to return to power for the first time since 2005. Campbell said he had been to Albania "several times in the last year or so". "I've just been giving some friendly advice," he added.
"Edi [Rama] looks on New Labour as one of the success stories of the centre-left in Europe of our lifetime," Campbell said. "It's interesting how, overseas, New Labour is seen as one of the most successful political projects ever."
Blair remains a very popular figure in the region for his role in protecting ethnic Albanians in Kosovo by orchestrating the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.
A spokesperson for Blair described his interest in Albania as "genuine". "As was accurately reported on Albanian TV, Mr Rama said that if he became prime minister, he would like Mr Blair's advice on how to modernise government and implement a reform agenda. Mr Blair said that he would be happy to help, as both Albania and the region mean a huge amount to him, with the conflict in Kosovo having been an important period in his premiership," the spokesperson said.
But the impact of Tony Blair and New Labour on outcome of Sunday's vote is likely to be minimal, according to Lutfi Dervishi, executive director of Transparency International Albania.
"Tony Blair is popular down here thanks to the war in Kosovo but I don't think it will make much impact because over our electoral history victories have been decided on the domestic ground, so it is the local dynamic which will be the key factor."
Albania's communist regime fell in 1991. Since then, elections have often been marred by violence, intimidation and vote-rigging. After the last vote, in 2009, the Socialists boycotted parliament for 18 months, accusing Sali Berisha, the prime minister and Democratic party leader and onetime personal physician to the dictator Enver Hoxha, of electoral fraud.
The current campaign has been peaceful so far but reports of vote-buying and irregularities in the registration process appear frequently in the media.
Rama is widely expected to defeat Berisha, who has dominated political life over two decades. A recent poll gave Rama's alliance 50% of the national vote, seven points clear of Berisha's coalition.

U.S. Embassy: June 23, could generate violence


U.S. Embassy announced again for high risk of its citizens in Albania, to stay away from the polls on June 23, as can be violence during and after the elections.

" Parliamentary elections in Albania, will be held on Sunday, June 23. More than five thousand polling stations will remain open from 7:00 until 19:00. Counting will begin immediately after the close of voting at 89 centers in the number of votes. In this case, inform and remind, American citizens, to stay away from gatherings, events, rallies or party, as in this time they have a great chance to become generators of violence. We remind U.S. citizens in Albania, peaceful rallies that threaten to escalate into violence. While the elections may be quiet, sporadic incidents that have happened in the past, are a danger again. U.S. citizens should be alert, stay away from voting or counting, since it is possible to have groups in their vicinity. We call once again, to avoid any protest, rally, election or appointment of any type groupings. You are advised to follow the latest updates to my situation and informed environment. Do not hesitate to inform the media "

said the announcement of the U.S. Embassy.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Albanian election, American style: Column

What happens Sunday could affect the country's potential membership in the European Union.

TIRANA, Albania — Deep in the Balkans, two of the West's leading political operatives — John Podesta, architect of Bill Clinton's two successful campaigns for the White House, and former British prime minister Tony Blair — are going head to head in one of the strangest and most deeply fraught election campaigns in years.
At stake here for both sets of lobbyists is not only the promise of millions in consulting fees and ongoing, profitable lobbying contracts, but bragging rights as well — to having stage-managed a winning campaign involving 66 political parties bundled in at least three coalitions, and deep hatreds in all camps. So both sides — center-left Prime Minister Sali Berisha going for his third four-year term, challenged by the socialist Edi Rama — have managed to transform this electoral contest into a curious mélange of non-stop campaign rallies, caravans with blaring loudspeakers, a series of televised debates with both sides shouting at each other, and wall-to-wall television coverage that would not be out of place in Chicago or Houston. On Sunday, voters will decide.
"Mr. Podesta is a very very good man," Berisha said in a recent interview in the prime minister's office in Tirana. "I am very happy with him. He is a very serious partner. I work with (his group) with a great deal of confidence. We are thinking to work harder in public-private partnership in our country and we must invite expertise."
Edi Rama, after striking his deal with Tony Blair's organization, echoed, "We agreed that after June 23, he and his team will work with us for good governance." Meanwhile, Blair's deputy, Alastair Campbell, has set up an advisory group in Tirana as the campaign heated up.
Largely unnoticed amid the apparently revolutionary developments in Iran, this other national election in a tiny country deep within the Balkans at the far southeastern corner of Europe is deeply important to its people and its place in the world. The hope is that by staging its first clean election in a century, Albania might move one step closer to a coveted and lucrative membership in the European Union.
The fear is that it may hardly be moving in that direction at all. And all the outside forces are doing little to improve these prospects.
It's hardly surprising that Albania wants to imitate the United States in its national elections and its place in the world. Since the nation was first created by President Woodrow Wilson at the end of World War I, and especially since the end of a half-century of brutal communist dictatorship in 1991, the Albanian people have lusted after America and all the United States represents. Four years ago, along with neighboring Croatia, it became the last European nation to join NATO — a decade after the other former East European communist countries. About all that won it, though, was the right to send some of its tiny military to missions in Iraq and Afghanistan where it has 221 troops.
Moreover, when the United States was seeking a sanctuary for 210 members of the one-time Iraqi terrorist group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, Albania promptly raised its hand and last month, the first 14 arrived in Tirana.
All this, plus the nation's all but slavish adoration of the United States, has led Washington to see itself quite free to stick its oar into the current national contest, unashamedly, at nearly every turn. A senior State Department official, Jonathan Moore, blew into Tirana, met with all the leading contenders, then proclaimed at a news conference: "We are very concerned by what we have seen. There is a high level of political tension going into these elections … with questions and accusations on the subject of legality."
An army of outside election monitors is also descending on the country. Their reports on the outcome will play an important role in moving Albania toward EU membership. Not that this is likely to have much influence on the balloting itself, however.
The fact is that Albania's politicians can't seem to put the interests of their country ahead of their own personal lust for victory. Indeed, previous elections have led to riots, even deaths, in their aftermath. This time, with the stakes even higher, the chief observer of the Council of Europe, Italian member of Parliament Luca Volontè, put it after meeting with all the major candidates, Sali Berisha was the only one who pledged to retire gracefully if defeated.
Of course, that's easy for him to say, another monitor pointed out. As the incumbent prime minister, he controls the whole process in the first place.
David A. Andelman is the editor in chief of World Policy Journal and author of A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today.
In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from outside writers, including our Board of Contributors.
"Big Brother" for Albanian elections

Big Brother for Albanian elections

The European Union and the United States of America kept their promise for what they had warned since a long time ago, for a strict monitoring of the June 23rd elections. An army of observers have been accredited at the Central Election Commission, 9000 in total, foreign and Albanian, and other requests are still being reviewed.

All 27 embassies of the European Union countries have been accredited at the Central Election Commission for observing the elections, even the embassies of the neighboring countries and Russia. The biggest number of observers comes from the United States embassy, with 68 in total. This embassy has also engaged its staff of the other embassies in the region for this process, a practice that has been followed by other embassies near Albania.

The list of observers is led by the diplomatic chiefs. The Ambassadors have asked to be accredited in all electoral zones, which means that they can move to any area that could become problematic during the process. The second person in charge at the United States embassy will observer in Fier, an area that the Embassy considers very important.

While the European Union embassies have focused their observers in three other districts: Tirana, Vlore and Durres.

OSCE and ODIHR are still increasing the number of requests for observers, who have been approved in this meeting. The Central Election Commission also approved 23 observers from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which is led by Luca Volonte. Wolfgang Grossruck, the Vice President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will also be present. Grossruck has been considered in Albania as friend of Prime Minister Berisha, especially after the OSCEODIHR elections of 2009, when he was leading the observers.

Besides the high number of international observers, there is a record breaking number of local observers, around 8000 in total. The international media have also shown interest, wanting to be present on the electoral process of this Sunday, making this the most viewed of the last electoral processes.

West presses Albania to bury ghost of elections past

 Albania's Prime Minister Sali Berisha attends a debate at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, June 25, 2012. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

By Benet Koleka
TIRANA | Thu Jun 20, 2013 8:01am EDT
(Reuters) - Albania's prime minister for the past eight years, Sali Berisha faces the fight of his political life on Sunday when the NATO member state holds an election watched closely by the West less for the result than the conduct.

Concern is high that the impoverished Balkan country will again fail to deliver a first free and fair vote in more than two decades since the fall of communism, further stalling its progress towards membership of the European Union and potentially spelling trouble on the streets.

A political dispute has left Albania's top electoral body, the Central Election Commission (CEC), short-staffed, meaning it will be unable to certify the result. Western diplomats are warning of voter coercion.

The last election, in 2009, triggered opposition protests in which four people were shot dead by security forces.

A Western diplomat compared elections in the Adriatic coastal state to a Quentin Tarantino movie, in which a bunch of people point guns at each other.

"Even if half of what we're hearing is true, that indicates to me a fairly extensive campaign to coerce people to vote in a certain way," the envoy said, on condition of anonymity. "That is, of course, troubling."

Berisha, a fiery former cardiologist, has dominated Albanian political life since the collapse of the Stalinist regime in 1991. At 68, defeat on Sunday could spell the end of his career.

Opinion polls are unreliable, but point to a narrow victory for the opposition Socialist Party of former Tirana mayor Edi Rama, 48, who has been buoyed by an alliance with a small leftist party previously in coalition with Berisha.

The Socialists and Berisha's Democratic Party differ little on Albania's strategic goal of joining the EU or its staunchly pro-Western policy.

But their confrontational relationship does not sit easy with Brussels or Albania's NATO allies, notably Washington.


Rama pulled the opposition's three representatives from the seven-member CEC in April after the coalition government sacked a member whose party, the leftists, had allied with Rama's Socialists for the election.

The U.S. ambassador, Alexander Arvizu, said the CEC risked turning into a "charade". A court will have to certify the election result instead.

The EU warned this week that the election was a "crucial test" of Albania's democratic institutions and its progress towards the 27-nation bloc, which Croatia will join in July. Albania applied four years ago to come aboard but has not yet been made an official candidate for membership.

"Come on, Albania! It's time!" Arvizu implored viewers of an Albanian talk-show. "It's time to discard some of the old ways of doing things. It's time to embrace the new reality, to do things that really are in the interest of the citizens, reflect the will of the people."

The next government will take on an economy feeling the effects of the crisis in the euro zone, particularly neighboring Greece and Italy where some 1 million Albanian migrants work to send money home.

While Albania avoided recession, remittances are down and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have voiced concern at public debt of 62.9 percent of output and a budget shortfall that was up 40 percent in the first quarter from the same period last year.

It could yet be months, however, before a new government takes office, with challenges to the election result almost certain. A system by which party rank-and-file count the ballots has repeatedly led to disputes and delays.

"The counting process is obviously at the mercy of the two sides," said the Western diplomat. "No one should pretend that the Albanian system ensures a free and fair vote. It is a deeply flawed system."

(Editing by Matt Robinson/Mark Heinrich)
Rally of support for Turkish PM in Albania

The rally "We are with you, Erdogan" was organized by the New Albania Movement Party in the capital of Tirana. 

Rally of support for Turkish PM in Albania 

The New Albania Movement Party (NAMP) has organized a rally on Wednesday in the capital of Albania, Tirana, in support of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan.

The rally was named "We are with you, Erdogan."
The leader of NAMP Edmond Vlashaj made a speech at the rally on "martyrs boulevard", to which Albanians and Turks living in Albania responded with the slogan "We are with you, Erdogan."

"The friends of Turkey both in Albania and in other Balkan countries have attended the rally," said Vlashaj.
Vlashaj also stressed that their target was to do service to justice and development, adding, "Nobody can prevent us on the way to justice and development. We have come together here to demonstrate it to the whole world."

"Our leader and also teacher is Erdogan on the way to justice and development, so Albanians are with leader Erdogan," said Vlashaj.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Kosovo Will Apply For Calling Code Through Albania – Tahiri

 Photo from:
BRUSSELS – Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister Edita Tahiri on Monday night accused the Belgrade delegation of obstructing the dialogue on telecommunications, electric energy and the judiciary, and said Kosovo will apply for an international calling code through Albania.

Photo from:
Unfortunately, we made no progress today, Tahiri said as she left the European External Action Service headquarters in Brussels, where she spent six hours in talks with the Serbian delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Telecommunications Rasim Ljajic and Energy Minister Zorana Mihajlovic.

Tahiri said the Belgrade delegation came to the meeting unprepared and withdrew its consent to some already agreed solutions at the last minute.

We have been talking about energy and telecommunications for two years, she said.

She explained the main problem is that Serbia insists on applying for an international calling code on Kosovo’s behalf, while Pristina wants to file for one itself.

We want to apply for the calling code ourselves with the EU’s help, or if another country has to do it for us, we would like it to be Albania, she said.

Another issue is that Serbia is asking for a license for its mobile network operators in northern Kosovo.

This is not possible under Kosovo law. We must publish a tender and everyone can make a bid, and the license will go to the bidder offering the best terms, she said, adding that electric power is also an issue, since under the law, Kosovo can have only one electricity producer and distributor.

Ljajic also said Monday that agreement was not reached, but unlike Tahiri, he said some progress was made and the European facilitators commended the Belgrade team’s creative approach.

Tahiri also accused the Belgrade delegation of boycotting the talks on the judiciary which she says were also supposed to take place Monday.

Belgrade’s working group did not show up and we are very frustrated about this, as is the EU, said Tahiri.

Tanjug was told by a source in Brussels’ diplomatic circles on Monday that the working groups in charge of the judiciary and the police will meet Tuesday, when advisor to the Serbian president Marko Djuric and implementation coordinator Aleksandar Vulin are expected to arrive.

The meeting was set for 10 am Monday, if they could not make it, they should have let us know, said Tahiri, adding she will stay in Brussels and meet with Vulin on Tuesday to discuss the police and organization of local elections in the Serb municipalities in Kosovo.

Despite everything, Tahiri expressed hope the two sides will come to an understanding soon.

We have a couple more days until Thursday and I hope we will find a solution by then, she said.

Serbian and Kosovo prime ministers, Ivica Dacic and Hasim Taci, will meet once again in Brussels on Thursday at a working dinner hosted by EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.
Albania Award For Rumsfeld Raises Eyebrows

June 18, 2013

mediu berisha dhe ramsfeld


By Balkan Insight

By Besar Likmeta

The timing of a decision to award former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a ‘National Flag’ for his support of Albania’s NATO membership has raised questions.

“You are closely linked with the support that the United States has given for… Albania’s membership of NATO,” Albanian President Bujar Nishani, said during the award ceremony.

Albania together with Croatia joined NATO in 2009, with strong support from the administration of former US President George Bush. Rumsfeld was US Secretary of State for Defense from 2001 until 2006.

Credited as one of the most influential members of the Bush administration, Rumsfeld has faced strong criticism for his key role in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the 2003 war in Iraq.

Rumsfeld arrived in Tirana on Monday on the invitation of the Republican Party leader, Fatmir Mediu, a junior ally of the centre-right coalition of Prime Minster Sali Berisha.

Mediu is controversial in Albania. Indicted for abuse of power for his role as defence minister in the affair of the fatal the blast in the village of Gerdec on March 15, 2008 he was never tried, having used his parliamentary immunity protection to evade charges.

The March 2008 blast at the ammunition demolition plant in the village of Gerdec killed 26 people, injured more than 300 and left over 3,000 homeless.

However, speaking at conference on NATO, on Monday morning, Rumsfeld had praise for both Mediu and Berisha.

“Prime Minister [Sali Berisha] is a precious asset…and Mediu always looks like a young man,” Rumsfeld said.

The opposition Socialists condemned Rumsfeld’s visit as a political stunt arranged by lobbying companies, aimed at boosting Berisha’s and Mediu’s ratings ahead of the June 23 general election.

“Rumsfeld’s visit in Tirana today is closely connected with the election campaign,” Socialist MP Auron Tare wrote on his Facebook page.

“This visit has been arranged by the [US] lobbyists of the Democratic Party and what we don’t know is the price tag and whether it is being paid for out of public funds,” he added.
Albania, Party allied of DP, a rally pro Erdogan:: We're with you, our great teacher!

Njoftimi i PLSHR

The new of 85 albanian politic party, PLSHRU surprised when we learned that Macedonian Albanians went to a rally in support of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But such a thing would happen in Albania on Wednesday.

The rally has been announced by the party "the New Movement Albania", which is in coalition with the Democratic Party of Sali Berisha.

The rally supporters' trust Besa-leader, Erdogan "will be held at 18:00 on Wednesday on the boulevard" Martyrs of the Nation ".

"You are invited to join us in this event, in defense of justice and fairness in our teachers, great leader, Erdogan," reads the invitation by the President of PLSHR, Edmond Vlashaj.

Just think differently from Macedonia, who here appears unlikely to rally. /
Fron Nahzi


Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha: His Way or the Highway

Posted: 06/17/2013 5:21 pm

Prime Minister Sali Berisha's reelection bid centers on building the country's first motorway. But his poor track record in combating corruption and upholding the rule of law has many Western countries, most notably the U.S., wondering if Berisha is taking Albania down the wrong road.
While Albanians are trying to determine who should be their next leader, with elections later this month, the U.S. government, the historical sacred pillar to Albania's fragile democracy, and many Western countries have increasingly become frustrated with Berisha's dogmatic style of rule. But will international criticism of Berisha sway enough voters in this highly charged and politically polarized environment to oust Berisha and his Democratic Party from power and prevent them, as many believe they will, from manipulating the election results and taking the country down the path of no return?
During the democratic revolution in the early 1990s, Berisha, like many of his former members of the communist party apparatus, changed their red shirts for new colors. Berisha, wrapped himself in the U.S. stars and stripes and his Democratic Party blue, and led his party to victory on the promise to undo the wrong of the communist past, and bring Albania closer to Europe. The promises were short lived. With the world's eyes on the escalating war in neighboring former Yugoslavia, Berisha turned his attention to cementing his power base by clamping down on free speech, beating and imprisoning oppositional party leaders, while legitimizing state sponsored corruption. At the same time he adopted a policy of either "you're with me or against me" and split the country along those lines. All the while he remained the darling of the West, in particular of Washington, for keeping Albania out of the Yugoslavian conflict.
It was only after the country plunged into anarchy following the collapse of State supported pyramid schemes in 1997, that Berisha was forced out of office. Thereafter, many of his adversaries believed Berisha's days as a politician were over. However, he proved to be a master in reinventing himself as a gentler and more tolerant leader by reaching out to the former members of his party whom he had once denounced as spies and traitors, and even had beaten for their opposing views. 2005 marked the return of Berisha to power with the promise of combating corruption and strengthening the rule of law. Eight years later, Berisha might have made nice with his former party adversaries but once again his campaign promises fell short when it came to the country's democratic development.
According to the U.S. State Department 2012 Human Rights Report on Albania, "pervasive corruption in all branches of government, and particularly within the judicial system, remained a serious problem."
To the surprise of many, Berisha, who is infamous for his outbursts against critics, has held his tongue against the U.S. government and instead reserved his spoiled child-like behavior for the U.S. Ambassadors in Tirana. While questioning Berisha's manipulation of the courts last year, the current U.S. Ambassador to Albania, Alexander Arvizu, was spared from a Berisha diatribe. Instead, as he learned at a public meeting, Bersha decided to punish the Ambassador by not talking to him. U.S. Ambassador John Withers, Ambassador Arvizu's predecessor, fared no better. Criticizing Berisha for pressuring the courts to rule in favor of his cronies, Berisha falsely accused the Ambassador of personalizing the issue. In the past few years, Withers has become an outspoken critic of the Berisha government's increasing authoritarianism.
In a recent interview with VoA, Withers noted, "I worry that Albania is not following the path of western democracies... It's going the direction of Ukraine, which uses courts to attack opposition political leaders or to protect friendly political allies. I think it is going the direction of Russia, in which elections are simply not at the international standard that we would require of a full-fledged democracy."
The days when U.S. official's opinion on a candidate or party determined the outcome of the election in Albania may be gone. In less than ten days the Albanian voters will face a fork in the road: either continue down Berisha's autocratic motorway or chose the path that brings Albania a step closer to joining the European family.