Albania Leaders Fail to Agree on Electoral Reform

Efforts to strike a deal in the parliamentary commission tasked with improving the electoral code have run again into the sand without a comprehensive agreement on reforms.Speaking to fellow Democratic Party MPs, Prime Minister Sali Berisha said on Tuesday that the ruling centre-right coalition had made efforts to accommodate opposition demands – but the latter would not accept renewal of the membership of the Central Electoral Commission, CEC, which controlled by the Democrats.“The Socialist leader attacks and demonizes unnecessarily the CEC head Arben Ristani,” Berisha said. “We should not be dealing with individuals but rather with the laws,” Berisha added, praising Ristani as a balanced figure.

However, the opposition Socialists blame Ristani for the loss last year on procedural grounds of the key mayoral seat of Tirana, formerly held by the Socialist leader, Edi Rama.

The Socialists have since made it clear that they cannot head into another election with him at the helm of the CEC.

“It should be clear to all that there can’t be normal elections in Albania without reform of the CEC,” Rama said in a press conference.

“We won’t in the name of compromise withdraw our request to reformat the CEC, in order for this institution to guarantee free and fair elections,” he added.

Albania has suffered a long and tumultuous transition to democracy since it emerged from the Stalinist regime of Enver Hoxha in 1991.

No elections held since the collapse of the regime have met international standards and allegations of fraud and disputed results have been widespread.

Following another disputed election in May 2011, Albania’s political parties struck a deal last November to negotiate reform of the electoral code.

But the parliamentary commission tasked with managing the reform has failed to agree on several key issues, regarding the administration of the electoral process and the right of a minority of the members of Central Electoral Commission, CEC, to initiate an audit in cases of alleged fraud.

The electoral reform process is one of the key requirements set forth by the European Commission for Albania to obtain candidate status.

On Wednesday, the head of the EU Delegation in Tirana, Ettore Sequi, made it clear that time was running out, and, with it, Brussels’ patience.

“The finalization of the electoral and parliamentary reform processes are vital for Albania’s EU candidate status bid,” Sequi said.

“Political will is essential for Albania to move forward,” he concluded.

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