News 25 May 11

EU Concern Over Albania's Stray Ballots Result

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele on Tuesday expressed doubts over the legality of the results in the race for Tirana mayor.

Besar Likmeta
Catherine Ashton | Photo by : Fonet

''We take note of yesterday's publication by the Central Election Commission (CEC) of results of the mayoral election in Tirana,” the two top EU officials said in a joint statement.

“However we also note that the legal soundness of the decision of the CEC to count the so-called misplaced ballots is a matter of concern,” it added.

Albania's Electoral Commission announced late Monday night that ruling party candidate Lulzim Basha won the race for Tirana mayor in the May 8 local elections, following a recount of stray ballots.

The controversial recount in the mayoral race gave Basha a lead of 81 votes out of a quarter million over the incumbent mayor and opposition leader Edi Rama, who had a razor thin margin of ten ballots in the unofficial preliminary results before the stray ballots were added.

In the final tally, the Central Electoral Commission, CEC, declared 124,786 votes for Basha, 124,705 votes for Rama.

The opposition Socialists have appealed the CEC decision that declared Basha the winner and the Electoral College, a specialized court for dealing with elections disputes, will hand down a decision on the validity of the recount within five days of appeal.

“The electoral process is not yet finished. The European Union will be closely following the completion of the appeals procedures and the publication of the final results as well as the assessment of the process by the OSCE/ODIHR elections' observation mission,” Ashton and Fuele said.

“The EU expects the appeals procedure to be fair, transparent, carried out independently and in full compliance with the existing legal framework,” they added in their statement.

The CEC decided on May 18 by a vote of four to three to include ballots from several polling stations that had been placed in the wrong ballot boxes in the final tally. The decision came four days after the counting initially ended and as observers awaited the announcement of the preliminary results, which put Rama ahead.

The Socialists contest the recount of the misplaced ballots as illegal and have said that they will use all available legal channels to oppose the CEC decision to count the contested ballots, and the party has called for massive protests.

The dispute over the ballots came about because voters who had multiple ballots to put in designated boxes sometimes failed to do so correctly, in part because the ballot boxes were not clearly distinguished by color.  

“Consensual and solid legal solutions should be found on issues which are not explicitly covered in the law and require interpretation,” the two EU officials suggested.

“To this end, parties should enter immediately into a dialogue in order to agree on a common understanding on how to address the issue of the 'misplaced' ballots,” they added.

Albania’s local elections were considered as a litmus test for the country’s democratic credentials following a two-year-long political crisis and a violent anti-government protest on January 21, which left four protestors dead and dozens wounded.

“The country's interest and the continuation of European integration should prevail ahead of party interests,” the two EU officials said.

“The political leaders should live up to the European and democratic aspirations of the Albanian citizens,” they added.

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

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