US & EU welcome controversial local elections in Albania – urge political leaders to respect rule of law

Tirana, Albania | 02 July 2019 (Tirana Echo) – The United States and the European Union have welcomed the peaceful and calm local elections in Albania and have urged political leaders to respect institutions and the rule of law.

In a statement following the OSCE-ODIHR preliminary findings by its election observation mission, the US Embassy in Tirana commended Albanian citizens for exercising their democratic rights peacefully, despite earlier threats of violence by opposition leaders who boycotted the June 30th elections.

In its statement last night, the United States welcomed the conclusions of the ODIHR election observation mission, which found that the municipal elections of June 30 were conducted in a generally peaceful and orderly manner and offered an overall positive assessment of the vote counting. 

We recognize, however, as the ODIHR mission noted, that the political standoff and polarization contributed to an election in which voters did not have a meaningful choice. Despite the obstacles, the Albanian people — both those who participated in the elections and those who chose to abstain — exercised their democratic rights peacefully and we commend them for this.” – read the US Embassy statement.

The US statement said that those who wish to challenge the election results can look to the Constitutional Court, which is expected to be established soon with judges who have passed a rigorous vetting process.

Now, we urge all political leaders to respect the rule of law and to work within established institutions to determine the path forward for Albania’s democracy, to include progress on the important electoral reforms recommended by ODIHR. “ – said the US Embassy.

In a parallel statement during an interview, EU Spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said the EU has noted the preliminary findings by the OSCE-ODIHR mission in Albania.  

Local elections which took place on 30 June were conducted in a context of political division but in a generally peaceful and orderly manner. Local authorities which have just been elected, must be able to exercise their constitutional duties at the service of citizens.“ – said Kocijancic.

The EU Spokesperson ended that “both government and opposition have now to demonstrate political maturity and urgently engage in constructive dialogue to overcome the current political situation. All Albanian institutions and its political leaders must focus their efforts in the continuation of reforms, including the restart of the previously initiated electoral reform in order to address OSCE-ODIHR recommendations.

US and EU statements come hours after the preliminary findings and conclusions of the OSCE-ODIHR Observation Mission which said that following a decision by main opposition parties to boycott elections, voters did not have a meaningful choice between political options.

The 30 June local elections were held with little regard for the interests of the electorate. The opposition decided not to participate, and the government determined to hold the elections without it. In the climate of a political standoff and polarisation, voters did not have a meaningful choice between political options.” said Ambassador Audrey Glover, Head of the ODIHR Mission, during a press conference in Tirana.

The ODIHR report reflects the first unchallenged local elections in Albania since 1991, with 31 socialist mayoral candidates of the 61 municipalities in total, running unopposed.

Albania hopes to open membership talks with the EU later this year, after its member states decided earlier in June to postpone their accession talks decision, despite a positive recommendation by the European Commission earlier in May.

The outcome of local elections and the speed of erecting new justice institutions and a new anti-corruption prosecution structure, will determine the decision by Brussels to start negotiations. The OSCE-ODIHR report will be published in September.

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