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Blog 08 May 11

Albania Local Elections 2011: Election Day Live Blog

Balkan Insight staff and correspondents update you on important developments in Albania’s local elections.

Tirana
Youths watching Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha on television at Snack Bar 24 in southern Tirana in the evening of Sunday, May 8, 2011. Only a handful of Tirana bars had tuned in to the country's news channels, while  most were watching an Italian football league match. Albanians voted for the local elections, which were seen as a test for the country's democracy and European integration | Photo by : Altin Raxhimi

10:00pm – Albania parties released two exit polls on Sunday evening, one predicting that current Tirana mayor and opposition leader Edi Rama will win the key battleground city and the other that the capital will be won by his challenger, ruling Democratic Party candidate Lulzim Basha.

Both exit polls are generally viewed as unreliable and their publication politically motivated.

The Socialist Party Exit-Poll:

Tirana Mayor:
Edi Rama –Socialist Party -53 % of the vote
Lulzim Basha – Democratic Party – 42 % of the vote
Hysni Milloshi – Communist Party – 1.5 % of the vote
City Council
Socialist led ‘Alliance for the Future’ - 48 %
Democratic Party led ‘Alliance for the Citizen’ 42%

Gani Bobi Institute Poll [commissioned by TV Klan, a broadcaster close to the Democratic Party.]

Tirana Mayor*:
Edi Rama –Socialist Party -39.8 % of the vote
Lulzim Basha – Democratic Party – 58.4 % of the vote
Hysni Milloshi – Communist Party – 0.4 % of the vote

* Margin of error 10 %

9:20pm – Police said in a statement that they arrested an armed gang in the commune of Farka, outside Tirana, headed by Emiliano Shullazi, a well-known local gangster, stopped and than released only days ago for distressing an opposition gathering during the campaign. Police did not specify whether the suspects planned any elections related violence

Eleven other people were arrested with Shullazi who has previously served a drug sentence and suspected of other crimes.. Police said that they had sequestered three pistols from the suspects and two walkie-talkies, while Shullazi was wearing abullet proof vest at the time of the arrest.

7:38pm – Although voting hours have ended people are still going to polling stations in Tirana to cast their ballots. The Central Electoral Commission has ordered commisioners to keep the stations open until all of those that arrived before 7:00pm vote.

7:00pm – Official voting hours ends in Albania, with people still queuing to vote in the capital Tirana and other urban areas. In a press conference CEC head Arben Ristani said that polling stations will remain open until all the people waiting outside vote.

Ristani said:

“Anyone who blocks the legal right of the citizens to vote [in the elections] will face the full force of the law.”

6:22pm – The local coalition of local observers says in a press conference that there has been high turn out in the key battleground of Tirana, despite delays of up to two hours to vote due to spelling mistakes in voters lists.

The Socialist opposition party has called on voters to use the last hour of the election to exercise their constitutional right and head to the polling stations.

Socialist spokesperson Mimi Kodheli said:

“We repeat our call to take part in the poll in Tirana and throughout Albania. We ask [to people] to be patient with the unusually long queues.”

6:00pm – According to Albania’s Central Electoral Commission 35 per cent of voters have cast their ballot until 5:00pm. The polls close at 7:00pm; however CEC head Arben Ristani says that in certain polling stations where people are standing in line the deadline could be extended.

5:32pm – In a statement the Albanian police said that they had to intervene and quell numerous scuffles between rival political activists across Albania during Sunday’s poll.

The statement listed 11 incidents in the village Seman i Ri, in the region of Tropoja, in the village of Zhelizhan, in the region of Fier, in the Afrimi neighborhood of the city of Fier, in the village of Nepravishte in the region of Gjirokastra, in the villages of Pogdorie and Vreshtas in Korca, in the village of Novosele in the region of Vlora, in the village of Kuc in the region of Shkodra as well as four incidents in Tirana.

The victims of the violence range from poll commissioners, their children or independent poll observers.

4:49pm – Tirana police have arrested two suspects who allegedly assaulted a Top-Channel TV crew earlier today, snatching the camera from one of the journalists. The reporters were trying to investigate alleged irregularities in a polling station when the incident happened.

Watch Top-Channel's report on the incident:
 

4:37pm – Foreign diplomats present in Albania on Sunday to observe the local elections underlined - as they have done increasingly during the last two months - the importance of the poll as a test for country’s democratic credentials.

Janez Lenarcic

Janez Lenarcic, head of the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights said:

“We are conscious of the importance of this electoral process and that is why we are here in big numbers. We are trying to give a sense to Albania’s [EU] ambitions.”

Eugen Wolfarth

The head of the OSCE office in Albania, Eugen Wolfarth said:

“The results of the elections should be accepted by all parties. We expect a quiet day today.”

 

Etore Sequi

EU Delegation head in Albania Ettore Sequi said:

“These elections are an excellent chance for Albania to show political and democratic maturity. These elections are very important for the EU accession road.”  

Source : Balkanweb, Top Channel

3:50pm – Top Channel TV reports that Socialist Party MPs in the city of Korca, have noticed a number of cases of prison inmates voting in polling stations inside the city accompanied by police in the voting booth. 

Bank employee Artur Daco, 38, casts his ballot in a central Tirana polling station on Sunday May 8, 2011 | Photo by : Altin Raxhimi

 

3:10pm – A crew by Albania’s largest private broadcaster Top-Channel TV was allegedly attacked earlier today, near the dormitories of the University of Tirana, generally called the ‘Student City’ neighborhood.

Television pictures appear to show two attackers violently snatching the camera from a Top-Channel cameraman. The crew was trying to reach a polling station where allegedly two people had tried to vote with fake IDs.

2:45pm – The Socialist opposition said in a press conference through its spokesperson Mimi Kodheli, that its commissioners had stopped two people allegedly trying to vote with falsified documents in a Tirana polling station.

Kodheli said:

“The commissioners of the Socialist Party have stopped two people truing to vote with fake identity cards. They have presented themselves as brother but the Socialist Party commissioners have noticed immediately that they had fake documents and filed criminal charges against them.”

2:17pm – Arben Ristani, the head of Albania’s Central Electoral Commission, CEC, said a press conference that until two o’clock 30 per cent of voters had cast their ballots. According to Ristani election day has been generally calm with only small problems registered in less than 0.1 per cent of polling stations

Ristani said:

“Only 8 polling stations in all the country have not opened, six of the in the commune of Shllak, in Northern Albania, much less than in previous polls.”  

1:44pm – According to Albania’s Central Electoral Commission until 10:30am 8.2 % of voters had voted in Tirana, in Berat 9.51%, in Elbasan 12.3%, Durres 7.3%, Saranda 7.1%, Librazh 17.1%, Gramsh 21.4%, in Kamez,10.5% Fier,9.1%,  Kruja, 19.1%. Peqin, 17.1%. Kucova,  8.9%. Bulqizë, 15.7%. (Balkanweb.com)

1:05pm – Ruling Democratic Party and its junior government partner the Socialist Movement for Integration have called on the Central Electoral Commission, CEC, to fine opposition leader and Tirana Mayor Edi Rama, accused of breaking the electoral silence with ‘political statements’ after he voted on Sunday.  

Democratic Party candidate Lulzim Basha votes in Sunday's poll | Photo by : PD press office

12:44pm – Tirana Mayor and opposition leader Edi Rama and ruling Democratic Party challenger Lulzim Basha, appealed for a high turnout and calm after they cast their ballot in what is considered the key battleground in today’s election.

Basha said:

“I am convinced that in this beautiful day everything will go very well.”

Rama said:
“I call on everybody to vote, because staying at home means  backing poverty and unemployment.”

12:05pm – Albania’s President Bamir Topi called on voters to turn out and cast their ballot  after he voted in a Tirana polling station for the local elections.

He said:

“It’s a beautiful spring day that naturally brings out optimism. I want to call on all my compatriots to use this day because it is their day. They have a vote and should give it to who they see as fit. Today’s vote is for their prestige and dignity.

I want to appeal today for a high turnout and for all poll commissioners and police to guarantee a calm situation.”

Video of President Bamir Topi casting his ballot – Aristir Lumezi, Balkan Insight

11:12am – Albania’s opposition Socialist Party complains that the electoral ink in some polling stations in Tirana is of poor quality and calls to be replaced.

Socialist spokesperson Mimi Kodheli said:

“This ink is of such poor quality that can be easily washed away with water.”

11:00am – Prime Minister Sali Berisha called for a normal electoral process and for parties to accept the election results after he voted in a polling station in Tirana.

He said:

“I guarantee Albanians that this majority is steadfast to respect the vote of every citizen. The appeal for political parties is that they should contribute for a normal [electoral] process and accept every verdict that will come from the citizens’ ballots.”

10:50am – The Rapporteur on Albania in the EU parliament Eduard Kukan, who is monitoring the local elections, called for a high turnout from a polling station in Tirana, while underlining their importance for the country’s EU accession hopes.

I am here to monitor the elections and will report on the atmosphere to my colleagues. We hope that will be a high turnout. EU institutions expect that these elections will be free, fair and democratic.”      

10:21am - Residents of Tirana vote in a polling station at the Edit Durham Middle School to select their next mayor and city council.  Tirana is seen by many as the key electoral battleground in Sunday's poll. The city will see a face-off between the Mayor and Socialist Party head Rama, and a former interior minister, Lulzim Basha, standard-bearer for Prime Minister and Democratic Party leader Berisha.  

Video by Dardan Malaj – Balkan Insight

09:00am – Polls opened at 7 a.m. across Albania, where 3,186,569 voters will be eligible to cast ballots in 4,865 polling stations, to select their new mayors and local councils.

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Interactive Map: Election Race

interactive-map-key-races-in-albania-s-2011-local-elections

Interactive Map: Key Races in Albania’s 2011 Local Elections

On May 8, 3,186,569 Albanians 18-year or older will have the chance to cast their ballot in the local elections, choosing the new mayors and head of communes in 384 municipalities.