By Besar Likmeta
Albania’s opposition leader, Edi Rama, has accused the centre-right government of Sali Berisha of putting forthcoming local elections “in danger” and has set three conditions.
Rama on Wednesday said the opposition wanted “transparency over the electoral lists” updated equipment for election commissioners, enabling them to read identity cards, and “a right to have recounts in areas where the results are suspect”.
The ruling majority’s likely candidate for the Tirana municipality is the Minister of Interior, Lulzim Basha. The opposition hints that Rama will run for a fourth term as mayor.
The Socialists accuse the interior ministry and several government controlled mini-municipalities of Tirana of adding voters from outside the city to the electoral rolls.
The government has denied the allegations, arguing that Rama is trying to create an alibi in the face of likely electoral defeat.
The electoral lists, according the electoral code, should have been ready by March 8, 60 days before the elections, but some municipalities are still working on them, raising fears about manipulation.
The May 8 local ballots are seen as key for the political survival of both Prime Minister Berisha and opposition leader Rama, who have embroiled themselves in political struggle since the June 2009 parliamentary elections, which Berisha’s Democrats narrowly won.
The crisis escalated on January 21, when four opposition protestors where shot dead by the Republican Guard during a violent rally.
Rama has never accepted the results of the parliamentary elections, which the opposition says where marred by fraud. The Socialists charge that the government is preparing to manipulate the local elections in a similar fashion.
Although Albania emerged from the Stalinist regime of former dictator Enver Hoxha two decades ago, it has yet to hold elections that fully meet the international standards set forth by the OSCE. Accusations of electoral fraud toward the party in power have also become part of every election campaign.