CEC crisis continues
Fotaq Nano, the Central Elections Commission (CEC) chairman, submitted his resignation last week. Chairman Nano explained to reporters that he had decided to resign because of the abuse his reputation was being subjected to by the political opposition. He stated that the CEC's work, as well, has been compromised by the daily political pressure. Blaming politics for the negative fallout, Nano pointed out that in last October's elections it was this same CEC that had worked professionally and with integrity to guarantee free elections that had been more successful than all previous experiences. Nano will remain in his post as chairman until the Higher Court of Justice appoints his successor.
The Opposition was first to demand the resignation of Nano and the entire CEC. They were later joined by the Socialist majority. Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano took the determinative step in pressuring the CEC, when he threatened to demand amendments to the Constitution that would bring about the CEC members' removal.
Fotaq Nano's resignation opens the door to other CEC departures, but so far the response of the other CEC members to their chairman's resignation has been muted. Despite pressure, Deputy Chairperson Mimoza Arbi called a Commission meeting and stood in for Nano, who did not attend. Other resignations are expected to follow, and Arbi's name tops the list, as the second-highest-ranking member of the Commission. The Deputy Chairperson is also mentioned in the final report of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) for having attended left-wing party activities.
Democrats commend CEC Chairman's resignation
Senior Democratic Party (DP) leaders have hailed the CEC Chairman's resignation as a constructive step towards preparations for the June 2001 elections. DP Deputy Chairperson Jozefina Topalli told reporters that the resignation would usher in positive developments if followed by other CEC resignations. Topalli's call for collective resignations is similar to the demand made by the Socialist Party some weeks ago.
The DP joined in the agreement forged by opposition political forces to re-structure the CEC and make amendments to the Electoral Code. They stress the need to find some formula to bring about a balanced Electoral Commission and have called on the parties to put together a roundtable to find solutions to electoral problems brought up by the international community. Most opposition parties demand that the CEC be composed of three members from the Majority, three members from the Opposition, and a seventh member to be appointed on the basis of consensus from both sides. The DP maintains that voter lists, electoral zone divisions, ballot forms and police attitudes must also be on the list of necessary changes.
OSCE Ambassador Ahrens visits Strasbourg
Geert Ahrens, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Ambassador to Tirana, paid a two-day visit to Strasbourg this week, where he met with the senior Council of Europe (COE) officials Secretary General of the Assembly Bruno Haller and Political Department Director Robert Schuman. Ahrens' discussions covered several issues, including the upcoming general elections in Albania.
Questioned by journalists about the extreme polarization of Albania's politics, Ahrens stated that it is more obvious than last year and that efforts should be made to improve the situation. When asked if it is possible to make the necessary political and electoral preparations before the June deadline, Ahrens responded that there is no possibility of postponing the elections, as the Constitution gives 24 June as the last date they can be held.
According to Ahrens, it is now necessary to make up for time already lost. Pointing out that measures should begin with the CEC re-composition, Ahrens suggested formulating regulations to define who does what, followed by a review of voter lists, for which Albania will be provided with international assistance.
Nano meets with Koštunica in Athens
Reversing his earlier statements to the media, Socialist Party (SP) spokesman Emin Barci has confirmed that SP leader Fatos Nano did in fact meet with Serb President Koštunica in Athens. Democratic Party (DP) officials charged that Nano had shamefully deceived the Albanian people by denying the meeting. DP spokesman Edi Paloka stated that this was a much more important issue than electoral fraud, remarking that after this blatant lie everyone would suspect the worst of Nano. The adoption of such an attitude by Nano and the ruling political majority, Paloka said, poses a great threat to Albanians.
Nano-Koštunica secrecy intolerable
DP leader Sali Berisha said in a recent press conference that keeping the meeting of Fatos Nano with Vojislav Koštunica secret was absurd and intolerable. Stating that he had nothing against meeting Koštunica, Berisha reminded reporters that his objection to the meeting between Nano and Milošević in Crete was based solely on his opposition to Milošević. Berisha, who is Nano's strongest political and personal opponent, said that he saw nothing wrong with meeting Koštunica, except for the veil of secrecy with which the event had been covered. He stated that he too might have had to meet with the new Yugoslav president, as there were important issues to discuss, such as the release of Albanian political prisoners.
Berisha praises visit to USA
Sali Berisha had a wonderful trip to the USA last week to attend the inauguration ceremony of President George W Bush. Berisha told reporters that it was magnificent to observe the grandeur of the US transfer of power. Saying that he had met President Bush (Senior) twice and President Clinton once, Berisha still considered his most recent visit to Washington to be his best. The former Albanian president remarked that a great friend of the Albanians, Bill Clinton, has left the White House, but another great friend of ours has entered it. Berisha said he had gone to meet friends in the US, not to complain, but to ask their assistance in offering Albanians a new and secure start.
Shehu speaks out for ties with Yugoslavia
Former Foreign Minister Tritan Shehu has expressed approval of re-establishing diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia as a pragmatic political move. Shehu maintained that foreign policy must not be guided by prejudice but should rely on principles relevant to the region's present situation and the move towards an integrated, open, co-operative and borderless Balkans. According to Shehu, public opinion was wrong to react when Albanian diplomats did not condition their votes for Yugoslavia's membership in the OSCE on the resolution of such issues as the release of political prisoners. The former foreign minister regards these recent reactions as extreme nationalist positions.
Artur Nura, 27 January 2001
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