Basha Declared Winner of Contested Tirana Poll
NEWS27 JUN 2011 / 08:10
Albania’s Central Electoral Commission has for the second time in as many months declared the ruling party candidate the winner of the hotly contested race for the Tirana mayoralty.
Besar Likmeta Tirana
With four votes in favour and two against, the commission declared Lulzim Basha the winner of the May 8 race for the capital’s mayoralty with a 93 vote advantage out of a quarter-million.
“I want to thank all the citizens who made their voices heard and waited patiently for the process to end,” the former interior minister said after the result was announced.
“The electoral process soon will end and the work to govern the city will begin,” Basha added.
The Tirana poll was considered the key battleground of the May 8 local elections, pitting Basha against the opposition leader and incumbent Tirana mayor, Edi Rama.
Despite Basha’s impatience to start work as the city’s next mayor, the Socialists are again contesting the commission’s ruling and on Sunday they warned that they will ask the Electoral College to annul the poll.
“The Socialist Party and the united opposition believe that the victory for the May 8 poll goes to Edi Rama,” Socialist MP Blendi Klosi said.
“Convinced that [Prime Minister] Sali Berisha and [commision head Arben] Ristani ruined this poll in order to hide their loss in Tirana and across the country, we will seek the invalidation of this electoral massacre,” Klosi added.
Within five days, the Socialists are expected to lodge a compliant with the Electoral College, a specialized court for election disputes.
The new complaint before the court would be the fourth after the election commission on May 23 initially declared Basha the winner, following a controversial recount of stray ballots.
The recount gave Basha a lead of 81 votes out of a quarter-million over Rama, who had a razor-thin margin of ten ballots in the unofficial preliminary results, before the stray ballots were added.
The dispute over the stray ballots occurred because some voters who had multiple ballots to put into designated boxes failed to do so correctly, partly because the ballot boxes were not clearly distinguished by colour.
On June 13 the Electoral College ruling annulled the election commission’s May 23 decision, which declared Basha the winner in Tirana. At the same time, it rejected the opposition challenge against the miscast ballots, which were deemed as valid.
Following the ruling, the court ordered a re-evaluation of contested ballots in 368 ballot boxes, whose results were added to the final tally, giving Basha a lead of 93 votes.
Earlier the Electoral College had rejected two other Socialist complaints about the procedure used by the election commission to include the miscast ballots in the final tally.
However the Socialists have contested the latest recount as well, pointing to problems in several ballots boxes, where security codes were different from those registered by counting centers or where paper ballots were found outside the various envelopes inside the ballot box.
The May 8 local elections were considered as key for the country’s EU future, following a two-year political crisis which has stopped the reform process dead in its tracks.
However, after a peaceful and quiet election day, the row over the miscast ballots has heightened the political climate once again, adding to Brussels’ doubts over the country’s EU future.
This article was made possible through the support of the National Endowment for Democracy.