Albania reforms electoral code
Tirana - Albanian political rivals joined forces on Thursday to adopt a reformed electoral code to address the risk of fraud, under pressure from the European Union before it advances the Balkan nation's bid to join.
The reform emerged from a fierce row between the main opposition Socialist Party and the government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha, after the Socialists accused Berisha's Democrats of cheating in a 2009 parliamentary election and again in local polls in 2011.
The EU welcomed the reform, but said Albania had more to do before the bloc accepts its application to join.
It is the 16th time the country has reformed its electoral code since the fall of communism in 1990, and the opposition said the proof would be in the implementation.
“We are making a first step today, a step that inspires hope, but does not ensure triumph,” said Damian Gjiknuri, the Socialist Party's chief negotiator.
“The way we apply the law will be more important than what we have written.”
Albania's elections have never been declared fully free and fair by international monitors and the winners and losers have frequently traded accusations of fraud. Opposition protests last year ended in fatal clashes with police.
The new code will be put to the test in a parliamentary election due next year.
It provides for the electronic checking of identity documents in the territory of the capital Tirana and the electronic counting of votes in the second largest constituency.
“The law is another story showing there are no losers. It's a win-win story in which all parties win,” Berisha said.
The EU, which has twice turned down Albania's application for membership over the past two years, said it hoped the spirit of cooperation would continue.
“I trust that working together in Albania's national interest will not stop here,” Ettore Sequi, the EU Commission's ambassador to Albania, said in a statement.
“In particular, the reform of the parliament's rules of procedure and a revision of the immunity system in line with European standards would be urgent and important steps in the right direction, in the vital interest of the European future of Albania.”
The EU's latest progress report on Albania is due in October. - Reuters