Tens of thousands of opposition supporters held a major rally on Friday evening in Tirana, seeking a partial recount of the ballots cast during the 28 June parliamentary elections.
The rally, which was organised by the Socialists headed by Tirana’s mayor Edi Rama was also supported by smaller opposition parties from the left and right, which accuse the government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha of electoral fraud.
The rally. which was extended into a three day marathon by a few hundred opposition supporters and deputies who camped out in front of Berisha’s office, closed on Sunday afternoon.
Speaking at the closing rally opposition leader Edi Rama described the protest as the birth of a new political movement, while giving the government an ultimatum to accept his party’s request for a partial recount.
“If for 10-days Berisha does not open the ballots, we will raise the country on its feet and will not stop until early elections are declared,” he said. “Sali Berisha has ten days to react, the choice is his and the right is ours,” Rama added, drawing the curtain on three days of protests that had seen dozens of speeches from him and other opposition leaders.
However, Rama’s request found a quick rebuke from Berisha on Sunday, who said that the courts had spoken on the elections and he could not circumvent their authority.
“We will guarantee their protest, if it lasts three days or three years,” the Albanian premier said in response to the opposition ultimatum.
Since the new parliament was reinstated in September, Rama and 64 elected deputies have boycotted its sessions, halting the passage of legislation that requires more than a simple majority.
The boycott has poisoned the political climate in Albania and both European and American diplomats have called for a political solution, in order not to hamper the country’s reform process, vital for its EU integration.
However, both Berisha and Rama have refused to bulge from their hunkered position, keeping parliamentary life on its tip-toes, while the political climate grows sour.
Both the Socialist and the Democrats, which have been the two main political powerhouses in Albania since the end of the Stalinist regime of former dictator Enver Hoxha in 1991, have a long history of political animosity- usually following disputed electoral processes.
Albania has yet to hold elections which respect internationally recognised standards- however the OSCE/ODIHR report on the 28 June poll said that the process showed marked progress compared with the previous polls, especially in terms of voters registration.
However, the politicization by both the Socialist and Democrats of the ballot counting process, which was delayed for days, the use by the government of public employees and resources during the campaign and political pressure on the media by both camps, remained a serious concern to be addressed.