Albania gets second shot at democracy head over 2 lines here please
New poll offers chance to restore credibility. Andrew Gumbel reports
Friday 18 October 1996
Under heavy diplomatic pressure, notably from the United States and Italy, the government has changed the electoral law to give more breathing space to the opposition and has kept the peace in what has been a remarkably quiet election campaign.
"There are no posters around and very few rallies. You have to pinch yourself to remember that an election is taking place at all," one resident of the capital, Tirana, reported.
If the elections are deemed to be fair, they will be an important first step in restoring Albania's democratic credibility. But if there is a repeat of last May's intimidation by young thugs and systematic ballot- rigging - which resulted in the opposition's refusal to recognise the result - it will be a signal that the country is sliding irrevocably into authoritarian one- party rule.
Clearly, the international community's policy has been to try to wean President Sali Berisha back on to the democratic track slowly, but without obliging him to lose face.
Pressure to re-run the parliamentary elections has been muted so far, and in exchange Mr Berisha has agreed to tighten up the electoral procedures to reduce the risk of cheating. The President has also awarded the opposition far greater access to the state-run broadcast media.
The campaign has not been without its tensions.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe had planned to send a team of observers from its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the body that compiled the most thorough, and most damning, report into the irregularities last time.
Earlier this week, Mr Berisha's government tried to veto certain members of the ODIHR team, saying that they were not objective, and as a result the OSCE decided to withdraw the whole lot in protest. Albania's main opposition party, the Socialists, accused the government of taking an "act of primitive revenge" against a respectable body that had dared to criticise it.
There will, nevertheless, be around 400 international monitors at polling stations around the country, 150 of them from Italy which has taken the diplomatic lead on Albania on behalf of the European Union.
Potential flashpoints to watch for will be the mayoral races in the big cities, especially Tirana, where considerable political power is at stake and all the parties are fielding high-profile candidates. The Democratic Party currently controls all five of Albania's biggest cities and will be reluctant to relinquish any of them.
- 1 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 2 What supermodels really think about posing in the nude
- 3 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 5 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
North Korean defector flees to Finland 'with evidence of chemical testing on humans'
Isis schoolgirl Amira Abase who fled London to join terrorists in Syria mocks victims of Tunisia massacre
Father faces deportation to Thailand after 27 years in Britain for two 'stupid crimes'
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
£25000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's premier supplie...
£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...
£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...