Albania leader offers vote-monitoring plan to opposition

AP News
Posted: May 04, 2017 1:37 PM

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania's prime minister on Thursday urged the opposition to accept the offer of direct and real-time monitoring of the June 18 parliamentary election and agree to take part in them.

Prime Minister Edi Rama, also leader of the Socialist Party, said the government has offered direct monitoring of the voting with a task force of opposition representatives accompanied by monitors from the European Union, the United States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Rama and Lulzim Basha of the main opposition Democratic Party met Wednesday but failed to reach a compromise. They held more intensive meetings Thursday with western diplomats and President Bujar Nishani invited them in for a second meeting Thursday night.

The opposition has boycotted parliament since February, demanding that Rama resign before the June 18 election out of fear that his Cabinet will manipulate the vote.

Rama said he offered to Basha a task force headed by a vice prime minister, with deputy ministers and vice directors at the education and interior ministries, the police and the prison department "fully entitled to check the behavior of state structures."

He urged the opposition to register for the election.

"If the Democratic party really wants to guarantee free and fair elections, they should accept such an offer," he said.

The opposition, which has maintained a tent in front of Rama's office since February, has also threatened "civil disobedience," starting with a local election taking place Sunday in a western town.

"Our battle is for free and fair elections, for a citizens' ballot," said Basha.

Parliament was dissolved Thursday.

An opposition boycott of parliament has also blocked the launch of judicial reform, considered as key to starting EU membership negotiations.

"I am convinced this (opposition protest) is a game not to carry out justice reform," Rama said.

Judicial reform was unanimously approved last year but its implementation has been hampered by the boycott of parliament, which has to create the vetting bodies that will evaluate the backgrounds of around 800 judges and prosecutors.

European parliamentarians haven't been able to persuade the opposition to change its stance.