The Electoral College late Monday night ordered a full recount of the contested ballots in the key race for mayor of Tirana, throwing the results of the poll back into doubt.
By Besar Likmeta
The decision came after a Socialist opposition appeal which contested several decisions by the Central Election Commission, CEC, including the one that declared the ruling party candidate the winner of the race for the municipality of Tirana.
Contested ballots are ballot papers that have been designated by at least one representative of a political party in the counting stations as irregular. It is not yet clear what effect the re-evaluation will have in the final tally for the Tirana race.
The Tirana poll was considered the key battleground of the May 8 local elections, pitting Socialist leader and incumbent mayor Edi Rama and ruling party candidate Lulzim Basha against each other.
Albania’s Electoral Commission on May 23 declared Basha the winner, following a controversial recount of stray ballots.
The recount gave Basha a lead of 81 votes out of a quarter million over Rama, who had a razor thin margin of ten ballots in the unofficial preliminary results before the stray ballots were added.
The dispute over the stray ballots came about because voters who had multiple ballots to put in designated boxes sometimes failed to do so correctly, in part because the ballot boxes were not clearly distinguished by color.
Monday’s Electoral College ruling annulled the CEC’s May 23 decision which declared Basha the winner of the contest. At the same time, it rejected the opposition challenge against the miscast ballots, which were deemed as valid.
Following the ruling, the CEC is now expected to begin a re-evaluation of contested ballots in 368 ballot boxes, whose results will be added to the final tally.
Albania’s May 8 local elections were considered as key for the country’s EU future, following a two year political crisis which has stopped the reform process dead in 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.
This article was made possible through the support of the National Endowment for Democracy.