By Besar Likmeta
“We are preparing for a large presence of international observers, which, together with local observers, will guarantee a good electoral process,” Marc Perrin de Brichambaut said in Tirana.
Brichambaut held meetings on Monday and Tuesday with Albania’s highest officials, including President Bamir Topi, Prime Minister Sali Berisha and opposition Socialist leader Edi Rama.
The opposition has adopted an ambiguous position toward the upcoming ballot, saying it will not boycott the vote while claiming conditions for a free and fair ballot do not exist.
“A boycott of the election by the opposition is only a dream that [Prime Minister] Sali Berisha entertains,” Rama said.
“[But] elections cannot be held in these conditions and we have underlined our desire to change them,” he added.
Following a violent opposition demonstration on January 21 in which four protesters died and dozens were wounded, the Socialists have demanded early general elections and a provisional government of technicians to ensure that the polls are free and fair.
Berisha’s centre-right government and the Socialist opposition have engaged in a tense political standoff over the past 18 months concerning the results of the June 2009 general elections, which the Socialists lost but which they say were marred by fraud.
The January 21 protest turned into a riot when several hundred marchers attacked a police barricade set up to protect the Prime Minister’s office, using sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails.
Police responded with tear gas, water cannons and later with live ammunition fire, leaving four dead and dozens wounded.
Prosecutors are currently investigating the murders, the organisers of the protest and the violent demonstrators that attacked the police.