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[ALBSA-Info] Albanian Opposition Accuses GovernmentGazhebo at aol.com Gazhebo at aol.com
Sun Jul 8 13:27:07 EDT 2001
Albanian Opposition Accuses Government By MERITA DHIMGJOKA TIRANA, Albania (AP) - Firebrand former president Sali Berisha accused Albanian leaders of manipulating parliamentary voting Sunday, hinting his opposition coalition may challenge the results of an election expected to strengthen the Socialist-led government. ``The government is ruining these elections and it will have to face the consequences,'' Berisha said after casting his ballot as Albanians voted in run-offs to fill 50 parliament seats in districts where an initial round of voting last month was inconclusive or flawed. Moderate Prime Minister Ilir Meta's Socialists won 33 of the 140 seats in parliament in the first round on June 24, compared to 17 seats for Berisha's Democratic Party. The remaining 40 seats will be decided by proportional distribution. Disputes between the election commission members from the two rival parties prevented about 80,000 people in three districts from voting Sunday. Central Election Commission spokesman Aldrin Dalipi said voting in those districts would be held within a month. Berisha, who complained of irregularities in the initial voting, accused the government of interfering in the run-offs in several districts Sunday. His coalition denounced the ``excessive police presence'' at polling stations and accused police of beating up opposition members in local election commissions. The Interior Ministry issued a statement denying the accusations. It said several people were briefly detained and fined for pressuring voters to vote for Berisha's coalition. Initial unofficial results of Sunday's voting were expected to be announced early Monday with official returns by the end of the week. Opposition refusal to accept the official outcome of the parliamentary elections could trigger unrest in an impoverished country whose democracy is still fragile a decade after the collapse of its communist government. The United States, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe released a joint statement Saturday urging all sides in the nation of 3.5 million to act in a mature and responsible manner. ``Of paramount importance is the acceptance of the internationally recognized election results by all parties,'' the statement said. In 49 districts, Sunday's runoff was required because no candidate won a majority in the initial round or because of irregularities. In one district, disputes between the rival parties prevented about 20,000 people from voting June 24. Gunfire broke out at one polling station and assailants burned ballots at another in the June vote, but international observers gave the first round of voting their seal of approval, saying incidents were isolated. The Socialist Party came to power in June 1997 after winning elections called to end months of unrest sparked by the collapse of fraudulent investment schemes in which most Albanians had invested. The International Monetary Fund has praised Albania - once a strictly isolated communist country - for fostering recent economic growth and holding down inflation. The biggest challenge for the next government in the nation of 3.5 million will be fighting widespread corruption and illegal trafficking in women, weapons and drugs.
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