Albania passes the new election law
Posted by franksupa on November 19, 2008
Albania’s two main parties passed an election code that they said would ensure the holding of free and fair elections next year, but minor parties complained it would work against them.
Deputies of the ruling Democratic Party and the main opposition Socialists cast 112 votes for the measure in the 140-seat parliament where 10 opposition politicians had staged an eight-day hunger strike to prevent its passage.
The European Union has made it clear to ex-communist Albania, which has yet to hold elections that meet international standards, that next year’s vote must be above criticism if it wants to join the 27-member bloc.
“This code will be remembered not only because it will ensure free and fair elections, but as a great example of political cooperation,” said Ilir Rusmali, a Democrat who was co-chairman of the commission that drafted the code.
The Democrats and Socialists said they had written a code based on the best European models without foreign tutorship well ahead of the election, a milestone for Albania’s 17-year-old democracy.
But minor parties believe the new regional system of proportional representation will greatly reduce their number of seats at next year’s general election.
After the law passed, Ilir Meta, one of the hunger strikers, warned of escalating the protest to restore the “sanctity of the vote”.
“This is a crime against the constitution and democracy,” Meta, unshaven and looking tired, told a crowd of protesters who chanted “Shame” outside the parliament building.
“You are approving the code of theft and are undermining the 2009 elections,” Nard Ndoka, a former ally of Prime Minister Sali Berisha, told parliament before ending his hunger strike.
In a rare show of consensus in April, the two main parties agreed to change an electoral system tainted by allegations of fraud.
Democrats and Socialists alike had been accused of fraud and exaggerated use of tactical voting under the previous system, usually aimed at boosting the seats of their small-party allies so they ended up with more powerful coalitions.
But the practice often backfired and led to instability, as small parties bargained for favours and slowed the pace of reforms, or switched allegiances in return for official posts.
“This code … can erase from memory the dark stories of vote trafficking that produced weak governments, which could be easily blackmailed,” Socialist deputy Fatmir Xhafaj said.
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