|[Alb-Net home]||[AMCC]||[KCC]||[other mailing lists]|
[ALBSA-Info] Albanian Elections Test DemocracyGazhebo at aol.com Gazhebo at aol.com
Sun Jun 24 21:40:40 EDT 2001
Albanian Elections Test Democracy By MERITA DHIMGJOKA TIRANA, Albania (AP) - Gunfire broke out at one polling station and assailants burned ballots at another, marring parliamentary elections Sunday that pitted Albania's incumbent Socialists against a center-right coalition led by firebrand former President Sali Berisha. The violence, which came despite appeals for calm from international officials, reflected the political tensions that have accompanied Albanian elections since the end of communist rule in 1992 and the intense rivalry between the two main political forces. A shooting outside a polling place in the capital, Tirana, left two people wounded, including a member of Berisha's opposition Unity for Victory coalition, Gjergj Bushgjoka, who was shot in the leg, the Interior Ministry said. Another person was grazed in the head by a bullet. Police said one of two gunmen was detained. From his home, Bushgjoka said one of the assailants was a Socialist Party bodyguard and that the two started shooting after he tried to stop them from beating a voter. In a separate incident, gunmen broke into a polling station in Shllak, a village 120 miles north of Tirana, and burned all the ballots, ballot boxes and voter lists, police said. Procedural disputes between the Socialists and Berisha's faction kept 10 polling stations closed in the town of Lushnja and five stations elsewhere, meaning balloting would have to be rescheduled for about 30,000 people. The delay meant that even partial official results could be delayed until after the new votes, possibly on July 1. Socialist party officials announced after polls closed that both Prime Minister Ilir Meta and party leader Fatos Nano had won over 60 percent of the votes in their constituencies. Nearly 2.5 million Albanians were eligible to cast ballots for 140 lawmakers among about 1,600 candidates from 38 political parties and coalitions. The Central Electoral Commission reported turnout at about 60 percent. Its head, Ilirian Celibashi, called the voting generally ``free and fair.'' The Socialists and 31-year-old Prime Minister Ilir Meta, were expected to be re-elected by voters seeking continued stability and further economic improvement after several years of post-communist chaos. ``All we need is stability, public order, new roads and a little bit more water,'' said Myzejen Metani, 65, after casting her ballot in Mullet, a village 7 miles from Tirana. Opinion polls were not conducted. Berisha is known for his inflammatory rhetoric, and he accused the Socialists of planning to rig the vote. ``Officers of the secret service have already started to fill up the ballots,'' he said late Saturday. Both the Socialist Party and the Central Election Commission denied the charges. The Socialist Party came to power in June 1997, after winning elections called to end months of widespread unrest sparked by the collapse of fraudulent financial schemes in which most Albanians had invested. The International Monetary Fund has praised Albania, one of Europe's poorest countries, for fostering recent economic growth and holding down inflation. However, the government is challenged by widespread corruption and illegal trafficking in women, weapons and drugs. Western governments have also praised Albania for its handling of the refugee crisis in Kosovo in 1999, when it took in about half a million refugees and offered its ports and airports for NATO military operations during the air campaign against Yugoslavia. The vote was monitored by 2,000 Albanian and foreign observers. One hundred members of parliament were to be directly elected, with the remaining 40 seats filled through a proportional system designed to give smaller parties a voice.
More information about the ALBSA-Info mailing list