Albania’s Socialist opposition party registered on Tuesday for the May 8 local elections, despite earlier warnings of a possible boycott.
The Socialists sent the official application to participate in the ballot to the Central Electoral Commission, close to the final deadline.
The elections are seen, both by local and international observers, as a key test for the country’s democratic credentials after the January 21 unrest that left four anti-government protesters dead and dozens wounded.
Although it registered for the poll, the opposition has refused to nominate its candidates for the local bi-partisan ballot counting commissions.
The vacancies in question are the opposition slots for representatives on the Commissions of Electoral Administration Zones, CEAZs, the bodies which actually count the ballots in Albania’s twelve electoral zones.
According to the Electoral Code, the political parties should have proposed their candidates for commissioners by January 24 and the CEAZs should have been established by February 7.
The protest of January 21 turned into a riot when several hundred anti-government protesters attacked the police barricade set up to protect the prime minister’s office, using sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails.
Police responded with tear gas, water cannons and later with live ammunition fire.
Prosecutors are currently investigating the murders, the organisers of the protest and the violent demonstrators that attacked the police.
Prime Minister Sali Berisha claims that his government is the victim of a failed coup attempt, part of the January 21 protests, orchestrated by the Socialists, the president, the secret service, the general prosecutor and four journalists.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Edi Rama accuses Berisha of turning a peaceful protest into a bloodbath and attacking any institution that does not agree with his version of the facts.
The recent tension between Rama’s Socialists and the ruling majority of Prime Minister Berisha has aggravated an already poisoned political climate which has been in a troubled state since the disputed June 2009 parliamentary elections.