By Besar Likmeta
In a speech to Albania’s parliament on Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Albanian leaders to hold free and fair elections, fight corruption and respect independent institutions.
“Your next elections should be free and fair in order for the Albanian people to trust you as their leaders, while sending a strong message to the EU that the political system in Albania works,” Clinton told MPs.
“The consolidation of democracy does not require only free elections, but rule of law, strong institutions and an independent judiciary, in order for citizens to hold their leaders accountable,” she added.
Since the collapse of the Stalinist regime of former dictator Enver Hoxha in 1991, Albania has had a difficult transition to democracy marred by fraudulent elections, corruption and political strife.
In June 2013 Albania is expected to hold the next round of parliamentary polls, considered by the US and the EU as a key test of its democratic credentials.
Clinton had a four-hour visit to Tirana, where she held talks with Prime Minister Sali Berisha, President Bujar Nishani and opposition Socialist leader Edi Rama. Her visit to Tirana formed part of bigger Balkan tour of Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Albania and Croatia.
The Secretary of State urged Albanian leaders to fight corruption and put the country’s interests above partisan political interests.
“Corruption is a cancer that consumes society, protects leader with amoral values and punishes people that are trying to build a better life,” Clinton said.
“The fight against corruption requires cooperation… and Albanian leaders should create a culture of dialogue,” she concluded.