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News 18 May 11

Albania Opposition Leader Calls for Popular Revolt

Opposition leader Edi Rama has called for popular revolts against the government after the Electoral Commission controversially overturned his victory in the race for Tirana mayor.

Besar Likmeta

Edi Rama | Photo by: Aristir Lumezi

“The majority overturned the elections by overturning democracy,” Rama said in a passionate speech at a press conference on Wednesday evening.  “We should do everything with body and soul to stop the government and the revolt brewing inside every Albanian should spill into the streets,” he added.    

The Central Electoral Commission, CEC, overturned on Wednesday afternoon Rama’s razor thin lead of ten votes in the Tirana race against his Democratic Party rival Lulzim Basha, by counting selected ballot boxes of the city council and district races which contained misplaced ballots from the race for mayor.

The counting of the misplaced ballots gave Basha a slight lead of a handful of votes.

The Socialists argue that the CEC move is illegal and a challenge to the basic principles and democratic values of the country. However, the Democrats reject such accusations, saying that they are making sure that every vote is counted and the will of every voter expressed in the results.  

As the day ended on Wednesday, hundreds of Socialist supporters and dozens of MPs remained in front of the CEC building as the counting of the contested ballots continued, while hundreds of police in riot gear, including special forces units, cordoned off the building.

Earlier on Wednesday, hundreds of opposition supporters, including two dozen MPs, clashed with police outside the CEC building when Socialist MPs tried to storm the Commission's meeting.

The May 8 local elections were seen as key test for Albania’s democratic credentials after a nearly two year long political crisis and the January 21 anti-government protests which left four protestors dead and dozens wounded.

The ruling party and the opposition have blamed each other for the violent riots, and the recent tension between Rama’s Socialists and the parliamentary majority of Prime Minister Berisha has aggravated an already poisoned political climate which has been in a troubled state since the disputed June 2009 parliamentary elections.

This article was made possible through the support of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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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.