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News 10 May 11

OSCE Releases Mixed Scorecard on Albania Poll

The OSCE has given a mixed evaluation of Albania’s local elections in its statement of preliminary findings issued on Tuesday.

Besar Likmeta
An OSCE/ODIHR observer taking notes during Sunday's local elections in Albania | Photo by : Jiffer Bourguignon/OSCE

“The local government elections were competitive and transparent, but took place in an environment of high polarization and mistrust between parties in government and opposition,” the report from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation, OSCE, which monitored the Sunday poll, said.

The observers noted that, as in previous elections, the two largest political parties did not carry out their electoral duties in a responsible manner. This negatively affected the administration of the entire process, the OSCE found.

“Several aspects of these elections lay the groundwork for future progress. But unfortunately the two largest political parties again abused their role in the administration of the elections to continue their political battle,” said Jonathan Stonestreet, Head of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission.

“All parties should work together after the elections to further strengthen the electoral process,” he added.

The OSCE found that Albania’s Central Election Commission, CEC, functioned transparently and, despite evident division, completed the technical preparations for the elections.

“Nevertheless, the polarization affected the work of the CEC, where discussions were at times acrimonious and of a political nature,” the report underlines.

The observers note that the authorities have made considerable efforts to improve the electoral roll. However, a large number of voters do not have a registered address, an issue which persists from previous elections.

The report also highlights that the extensive media coverage of the elections.

Head of ODIHR monitoring mission Jonathan Stonestreet speaks during a press conference on the opening of the mission | Photo by : OSCE

“The media offered a plurality of views, thus enabling the voters to make an informed choice,” the report reads.

“Nevertheless, there is a lack of truly independent broadcast media, with most private channels aligned with one of the two largest parties,” it added.

All the polls that Albania has held since the Stalinist regime of former dictator Enver Hoxha collapsed in 1991 have failed to meet international OSCE election standards, a stumbling block on the country’s road to EU integration.

According to the report, the elections campaign this year was active and all contenders were generally able to campaign throughout the country. Despite repeated calls for calm, the campaign was marred by violence in many areas. There appeared to have been significantly fewer cases of misuse of administrative resources, although there were cases of pressure on public employees.

“In contrast to the pre-election period, election day was overall calm but disorganized in some cases,” Stonestreet said.  

The vote counting process has proceeded at a snail's pace two days after the poll, with local observers blaming inadequate training of poll commissioners, exhaustion and politically motivated delays.

In the key battleground of Tirana, which saw a face-off between the current mayor and Socialist Party head Edi Rama and a former interior minister, Lulzim Basha, standard-bearer for Prime Minister and Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha, less than half of the ballot boxes had been counted by Tuesday afternoon.

“The final assessment of the elections will depend, in part, on the conduct of the remaining stages of the election process, including the counting, tabulation and announcement of results and the handling of possible complaints or appeals,” Stonestreet underlined.

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.