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As Albania's Central Electoral Commission, CEC, remains in political deadlock, observers warn that standards for the 2013 general election are already in jeopardy.
“An independent and well functioning CEC is one of the main poll standards sought by international observers,” Premto Gogo, head of KRIIK Albania, an NGO that is part of the Coalition of Local Observers, told Balkan Insight.
Albania has long history of elections that do not meet international standards and end in political disputes. The June 23 elections are seen as another key test for the country’s already battered aspirations for EU membership.
But, for almost two months, the politically divided CEC has failed to approve the re-distribution of new MPs' mandates in Albania’s 12 electoral zones.
Based on demographic data provided by the Interior Ministry, the ruling Democratic Party had sought to add one more mandate to the northern region of Kukes and remove one from the southern region of Berat.
The CEC is a collegial body, configured by three members selected by the opposition, and four others, including the chairman, selected by the ruling majority.
Because the re-distribution of the new mandates requires a qualified majority in the CEC, the Commission remains in deadlock.
In order to resolve the issue the CEC chairman has asked parliament to redistribute the mandates itself.
With this in mind, the ruling Democrats approved a bill in the law commission in parliament on Wednesday, which keeps the distribution of mandates as it was in the 2009 parliamentary elections.
The bill does not add a mandate to the Kukes region as they had originally asked; however, it appeases the Democrats' junior partner in government, the Socialist Movement for Integration, by keeping the number of MPs from the region of Berat intact.
However, the opposition has slammed the action, arguing that keeping mandates to 2009 levels, when population numbers have changed in various regions since then, makes a mockery of the law.
“Mandates cannot be distributed through political bargains and the CEC has time until March 7 to reach an agreed decision,” Socialist MP Damian Gjinkuri said, during the law commission meeting.
“You are playing a one-sided game, bring shame on the poll and putting at risk its standards,” he added, of the government parties.
In the Vellusha area of Prishtina, men in beards and women in full veil are a common sight, as hard-line Muslims stake a claim to part of the Kosovo capital.