Friday, May 27, 2011

Albania Court Postpones Election Dispute Ruling

News 27 May 2011

Albania’s Electoral College decided on Friday to postpone its ruling on the contested race for Tirana mayor until June 3, after lawyers for the Socialist opposition changed their appeal.

Besar Likmeta


The specialized court for elections disputes also announced that a new panel of judges will hear the final appeal, which will decide the winner of the Tirana race between Socialist opposition leader and incumbent mayor Edi Rama and ruling party candidate Lulzim Basha.

The one week postponement of the hearing will give the new judges enough time to get acquainted with the Socialists’ appeal.

Albania's Electoral Commission, CEC, on Monday declared Basha the winner of the race for Tirana mayor in the May 8 local elections, following a controversial recount of stray ballots.

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

The Socialists contest the recount of the misplaced ballots as illegal and have said that they will use all available legal channels, including their appeals to the Electoral College, to oppose the CEC decision to count the contested ballots, while threatening massive protests if the court does not rule in their favour.

Earlier this week, the Electoral College rejected the first appeal filed by the Socialists.

The dispute over the ballots came about because voters who had multiple ballots to put in designated boxes sometimes failed to do so correctly, in part because the ballots were not clearly distinguished by color.

Albania’s May 8 local elections were considered as key for Albania’s EU future, following a two year political crisis, which stopped the country’s reforms dead on its tracks.

However, after a peaceful and quiet election day, the row over the miscast ballots has heightened the political climate once again, adding to Brussels’ doubts over the country’s EU future.

According to Eduard Kukan, a Slovakian MEP Kukan who was the chairman of an ad-hoc European Parliament Delegation that monitored Albania’s May 8 local elections, the country's politicians have once again shown an inability to lead political dialogue, find consensual solutions and agree on key democratic principles.

“I hope that Albanian politicians will soon be able to overcome these problems,” said Kukan in his de-briefing on Wednesday in the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. "I think that Albanian citizens deserve better," he added.

This article was made possible through the support of the National Endowment for Democracy.


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