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News 25 Jun 13

Albania Polls Free and 'Quite Fair', OSCE Says

The OSCE on Monday said that Albania's general election - which the Socialists appear to have won convincingly - had involved 'real choices' for voters.

Besar Likmeta
BIRN
Tirana
The panel of the international observers, during a news conference, in Tirana, Albania, Monday, June 24, 2013. International observers monitoring Albania's weekend parliamentary election said on Monday the vote was an improvement to past fraud-rigged elections, but warned of deep political mistrust and persistent violence tarnishing the process. Photo by : AP /Hektor Pustina

“This was a substantive election offering voters real choices at a critical time for Albania and it is now time for the country’s political leaders to listen to the people’s verdict,” said Roberto Battelli, the Special Coordinator who led the short-term OSCE observer mission.  “In my opinion were free and quite fair,” he added.

According to the Central Electoral Commission, with 29 per cent of the votes counted, the opposition Socialist Party of former mayor of Tirana Edi Rama is ahead with a projected 84 seats in the next parliament, against the ruling Democrats' 56.

According to the OSCE, long-standing differences and mistrust between the main political parties undercut the work of the election administration.

Albania has long history of elections marred by fraud and violence and the European Commission warned that Sunday’s poll needed to meet international standards if Albania was to make progress in its accession process toward the EU.

Sunday’s vote was marred by a shootout outside a polling station in the northern town of Lac which killed an opposition activist and wounded a ruling party candidate.

According to Albania’s Central Electoral Commission, 53 per cent of the voters cast ballots on Sunday.

The head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Luca Volonte, expressed concern about the slow vote count.  

The OSCE said the voting had proceeded relatively well, albeit with some procedural irregularities. However, counting was delayed in many areas due to the late appointment of counting officials.

“Albania is fortunate to have strong political forces that have presented alternative visions for this country, but by not appointing officials to promptly count the ballots, political parties are unnecessarily making their voters wait for the results,” said João Soares, the Head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation. “This is not fair to the voters or to Albanian democracy.”

“Voters have a right to expect elections that are administered professionally and impartially,” said Conny McCormack, head of the OSCE/ODIHR long-term election observation mission.

“While the voting on election day was assessed positively, our overall findings are preliminary, as much of the counting continues,” she added.

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