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Facing a difficult and often tumultuous transition to democracy since the collapse of the communist regime in 1991, Albania’s elections have often been marred by fraud and violence.
After becoming a NATO member and filing for EU candidate status in April 2009, the ballot was seen as a crucial test of the country’s democratic credentials.
EU officials in Brussels and Tirana reiterated that the poll would be considered a sort of litmus test of Albania’s readiness to progress towards eventual membership in the bloc.
The two main contenders in the June elections, the centre-right Prime Minister Sali Berisha, and Tirana mayor and Socialist Party head Edi Rama, both had campaigns modelled on US President Barack Obama’s successful campaign- promising change.
However, one year later the Berisha and Rama, and their political parties, remain locked in a stalemate over the election results, which is all but too familiar to many Albanians. The Socialist opposition contests the results of the election as marred by fraud and seeks a recount.
For the better part of the past year Socialist MPs boycotted the parliament and even held a 21-day hunger strike in front of Berisha’s office to demand a recount.
Berisha’s Democrats maintain they are the best elections the country has ever held and a recount is impossible because the opposition has exhausted all legal appeals.
Despite mediations attempts launched by President Bamir Topi, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, the two Albanian leaders have so far failed to agree on the powers of a parliamentary commission set up to investigate alleged irregularities in the parliamentary ballot.
An OSCE/ODIHR report on the parliamentary poll noted tangible progress with regard to the voter registration and identification processes, and in the reform of the overall legal framework governing the election.
Although the electoral process was deemed an improvement on previous polls, it still did not meet internationally recognised election standards.
As the date for the local elections scheduled for early 2011 is fast approaching it remains unclear if the opposition will take part or boycott the poll.
Meanwhile the two political powerhouses continue to mount accusations against each other. The EU, whose members of parliament invested heavily in a solution to the crisis, is losing its patience.
And trying Brussels patience and will might not be the best way for the local political class to gain membership in the union, at the doors of which Albania has been knocking for the better part of the last two decades.
The Hague Tribunal has been successful in bringing wartime commanders to justice but hasn’t met expectations on reconciliation, chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz told BIRN.