Albania opposition's rally threatens to disrupt local polls

AP News
Posted: Apr 10, 2017 8:33 AM

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania's opposition parties said Monday they will hold a national protest May 7 in a western city that is holding local elections, a possible warning that they plan to disrupt voting.

The main opposition Democratic Party said it would not register with the Central Election Commission, thus boycotting the elections in Kavaja, as well as the June 18 national parliamentary vote, unless the current coalition government agrees to create a caretaker cabinet to take the country to elections.

Kavaja is holding new elections after the former mayor's mandate was canceled due to his criminal past.

Democrats' leader Lulzim Basha said the May 7 rally in Kavaja was intended to prevent what he denounced as "facade elections."

The opposition doesn't trust the left-wing government to hold the votes in a fair manner. They insist this Cabinet will manipulate the vote by buying ballots with drug money.

Since mid-February opposition members have blocked the main boulevard in the capital, Tirana.

The opposition also is boycotting parliament, preventing the start of judicial reforms that would allow Albania to launch membership talks with the European Union.

Prime Minister Edi Rama, also leader of the main governing Socialist Party, said they were open to sit down in an "unconditional dialogue" to discuss anything of concern for the opposition.

On Tuesday the Parliament convenes in an extraordinary session to elect the members of the vetting bodies to evaluate the personal and professional backgrounds of some 800 judges and prosecutors.

The opposition won't take part, blaming the Cabinet for changing the deal reached last year on a judicial reform intended to ensure that judges and prosecutors are independent from politics, and to root out bribery.

EU and U.S. experts were involved in drafting the reform.

Rama considered the reform "a historic process" that would "release Albania and Albanians from the claws of the corrupt judges and prosecutors."