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News 18 May 17

Albania Resolves Political Crisis With Election Deal

Acting under diplomatic pressure, both Prime Minister Edi Rama and opposition leader Lulzim Basha have reached a deal on holding elections in which all parties will now take part. 

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
The leader of the opposition, Lulzim Basha (left) and the PM Edi Rama entering on Wednesday in negotiations. Photo: LSA

Three months of political stalemate in Albania ended early on Thursday after the two main political leaders, Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama and opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha, said they had reached an accord on the participation of all parties in the forthcoming elections.

Intense negotiations that started on Wednesday with a roundtable of the main parties finished with Rama and Basha shaking hands after a "tete-a-tete" lasting more than four hours.

What was agreed in the meeting will be fleshed out in detail in the next 24 hours while lawyers from both parties will transcribe what was verbally agreed by the two leaders.

The basis of the agreement is the package put together by MEP David McAllister who came as a negotiator of the EU at the end of April, which was then pushed by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Brian Ye during his own May 15 visit to Tirana.

The McAllister package centres on guarantees that the ruling parties should provide to ensure the election was inclusive and acceptable to the opposition.

It includes the postponement of the election date and the appointment of opposition representatives to the government, to positions in charge of the electoral process.

The deal also includes a start to the work of the creation of parliamentary commissions that will vet judges and prosecutors in the country - part of a wider judicial reform package sought by the EU.

Opposition Democratic Party leader Basha said the deal with Rama rendered the opposition boycott of the elections and of parliament redundant.

"Everything has changed and what was considered impossible months ago is now a reality," Basha said. "From tomorrow, we will get ready to give Albanians free and fair elections," he added.

The opposition has had to abandon its demand for Rama to step down as Prime Minister, however. Opposition representatives will now have to collaborate with Rama and his ministers in the government in managing the electoral process.

Earlier, opposition parties had refused to register for the elections scheduled for June 18, demanding the PM's removal and the formation of a technical government.

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