EU happy with Albania election
Written by Brussels journalist David Ferguson
Monday, 04 July 2005
"I welcome that the elections yesterday, which registered a high voter turnout, took place in a generally peaceful manner in most parts of the country," said EU Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana as the counting continues after Albania's parliamentary elections on Sunday 3 July. "I note, however, that the first reports refer to certain shortcomings. These shortcomings must be investigated and addressed so that they do not recur in future."

Solana was speaking as exit polls and initial counts indicate a victory for opposition Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha of around 45 percent. Serving Prime Minister Fatos Nano's Socialist Party appeared to have gained around 30 percent according to initial Central Election Commission figures.

Solana, however, called on Albania's political parties to refrain from premature conclusions on the outcome and await the results of the final count. The EU Policy Chief thus echoed a rebuke sent by Albania President Alfred Moisiu to Sali Berisha for prematurely claiming victory.

"Any disputes must be referred to the relevant Albanian bodies and their independent decisions must be fully respected. Looking forward to the OSCE/ODIHR's final assessment, it is important that the next steps in the electoral process, and any possible further campaigning, fully comply with international standards and entirely respect the Electoral Law and the Code of Conduct," said Solana in a statement earlier today.

A clean bill of democratic health from the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and Council of Europe's electoral observers is essential for Albania if it wishes to continue EU integration. "I appeal to all democratic forces to work together in order to ensure that a new government based on a clear and strong European reform agenda can be formed in a rapid, smooth and democratic manner, and I look forward to a constructive working spirit in the new Parliament," said Solana in Brussels.

Earlier in the day, international electoral observers expressed concern as to the elections. "The election system remains open to abuse. Intentionally inaccurate voter lists have left voters disillusioned," complained MEP Doris Pack (read's earlier article). She was one of 410 foreign electoral observers from 36 countries in Albania for Sunday's parliamentary elections. Although the former Communist bastion was seeking to prove its democratic credentials, international organizations are reserved in their judgements.

"Overcrowding, delays and uncertainty regarding identification of voters gave an impression of disorganization, but so far few allegations of serious irregularities have been substantiated," added Jorgen Grunnet, mission head for the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

Around 56 per cent of the 2.8 million eligible voters turned out, according to preliminary counts by the Central Election Committee. Albanians are choosing, from 22 parties and coalitions, 100 directly elected and 40 party-nominated members of Parliament.