President Alfred Moisiu said on Thursday (November 30th) that he is through waiting for the various political parties to agree on electoral reform and will use his constitutional powers this Saturday to set the date for local elections himself. Sources suggest he will choose either January 20th or 21st.
One of the key races is for mayor of Tirana. Incumbent Edi Rama, of the opposition Socialist Party, is facing a challenge from Interior Minister Sokol Olldashi, backed by the ruling Democratic Party (DP). Rama, who has held the mayoral post since 2000, won the 2004 World Mayor Award. Re-election would mean a third term in office.
Olldashi’s campaign will be run by DP deputy leader and parliamentary group chairman Bamir Topi. He promises that his candidate’s victory will be as spectacular as the DP’s win in the 2005 parliamentary elections. Olldashi reportedly will keep his ministry post while campaigning.
While candidates for local government posts plan their campaigns, the country is also gearing up for parliamentary elections, though the date has not yet been decided.
The opposition has asked Moisiu not to schedule them at the same time as the January 21st elections in Serbia.
The Socialists say the status issue in Kosovo could potentially affect the vote in Albania, and that this should be considered when determining a date.
Moisiu says there is no connection. “We should not be superstitious about what happens with other countries. We are a sovereign country and should not depend on others,” he said during a visit to Italy last week.
The ruling and opposition parties have been unable to find common ground on several issues related to election preparations, and the opposition is asking for amendments to the Election Code. Meanwhile, a report by the OSCE mission in Tirana, released last weekend, strongly criticised the deteriorating political climate in Albania and said damage is being done to the electoral process.
The report noted much-needed reforms ahead of the municipal vote virtually have been stalled by squabbling between the main two parties.