Albanian local election campaign in last days amid vote-buying accusations

Albanian local election campaign in last days amid vote-buying accusations |

With just one day before Albanian political parties close their campaigns for crucial local elections, allegations of vote buying have surfaced, leading to sharp reactions from internationals in Tirana.

Albanians are set to go to the polls on Sunday to elect local councillors and mayors across 61 municipalities. The upcoming vote is seen as crucial after the 2019 elections were boycotted by opposition parties, leading to the ruling Socialist Party sweeping to victory in almost every region.

The electorate will choose between more than 24,000 candidates for councillor and mayor from 40 political parties.

The parties expected to fight it out for governing positions in the country include the Socialist Party headed by Prime Minister Edi Rama, the Democratic Party led by Enkelejd Alibeaj, and the Together We Win coalition comprising former president Ilir Meta from the Freedom Party, and former prime minister and co-founder of the Democratic Party, Sali Berisha.

The coalition was formed following a deep division in the Democratic Party that led to it splitting into two factions and battling in the courts to see who would have the right to run under the party name and logo. A court decision ultimately gave the right to the Alibeaj faction, leaving Berisha to form an alliance with Meta.

The Socialist Party has chosen to close its campaign in Shkoder- an opposition party stronghold, and Durres, the second largest city in the country. The Together We Win coalition will close its campaign in Tirana on Friday evening, while the Democratic Party has not yet announced its plans.

Saturday will be a day of political silence where parties are not allowed to campaign, and the media faces restrictions on how it can report on the upcoming vote.

The fiercest race will be for the capital of Tirana, with the two main contenders for mayor the incumbent Socialist candidate, Erion Veliaj, who is running for a third term, and Bellind Kellici from the Together We Win Coalition.

The latest polls show Veliaj in the lead, and while four other candidates are running, they are largely considered as having little chance of success beyond municipal council seats.

Veliaj is running a campaign to develop the cities infrastructure, completing the 24-hour running water system, more schools and more green spaces, while Kellici wants to make public transport free, construct an underpass by Skanderbeg square to ease traffic and make the city more livable.

Other important races will occur in Durres, Elbasan, Vlora, and Shkoder.

The campaign, however, has been marred by reports of vote buying. On Wednesday, US Ambassador Yuri Kim said she was aware of such accusations and called on parties to take action.

“Everyone has the right to vote and must vote. We’ve seen reports of vote buying, and we hope that law enforcement authorities will do their job. In fact, if someone says they are buying votes for a political party, said political party must take action,” said the ambassador.

Meta said some of the incidents were staged by the Socialist Party and said diplomats should ignore such reports.

On the ground throughout the country, there will be some 300 short-term observers, 13 experts from OSCE Participating States and 24 long-term observers that have been deployed throughout the country.

International stakeholders, including the EU, US and OSCE/ODIHR, have called for transparent and fair elections that allow voters to cast their ballot secretly, safely and ensure a fair counting process.

The elections will also be closely watched by foreign investors who recently expressed concern that doing business in Albania is challenging and the business environment requires significant improvement.

Five local chambers of commerce, including those representing Italian, German, French and Italian investors, recently published a statement calling for a better strategy to stimulate employment, combat corruption, and increase transparency at all levels.

(Alice Taylor |

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