CEC still in crisis
The Central Electoral Commission (CEC) has been left confused after recent member resignations. Following the resignations of CEC Chairperson Fotaq Nano and Deputy Chairperson Mimoza Arbi, it was announced that even the new member proposed by the Socialist Party (SP) and appointed by the Parliament had resigned.
The senior Democratic Party (DP) leader said that a DP proposal would not change the unfavorable six-to-one or five-to-two balance in the CEC and did not contribute to an improved dialogue between the majority and the opposition. SP Deputy Speaker Namik Dokle had repeated his earlier invitation to DP leader Jemin Gjana to initiate a dialogue about the draft proposal, but Gjana was unreceptive to the invitation and added that any dialogue would be senseless as long as decisions were being taken in the meantime.
The DP had offered to start talks about the new electoral division draft, the CEC issue, voter register and amendments to the Electoral Code, but the Socialists rejected the offer, arguing that there was no room for dialogue outside of Parliament. The SP majority reiterated its invitation to start dialogue in the Parliament and later pointed out that the DP was ignoring its institutional responsibility, inventing excuses to justify a destructive attitude. According to the SP, the DP intends to violate the deadlines and avoid institutional participation.
In a press conference last week, Luan Rama, SP Secretary for public relations, stated that all CEC members should submit their resignations. Those who have not yet resigned are Pandeli Varfi, Klement Zgur (appointed by the President of the Republic), Maks Shimani (appointed by the Higher Court of Justice) and Gaspër Koka (elected by the Parliament). The SP expect that the remaining resignations will be tendered and are meanwhile thinking of possible candidates to fill the empty seat that by law should be proposed by their party.
OSCE appeals for cooperation
The Tirana office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has appealed to all Albanian political parties to help alleviate tensions in relation to the contentious CEC issue. The appeal was addressed to the Socialist and Democrat Parties in particular. OSCE Ambassador Geert Ahrens met last week with SP leader Fatos Nano concerning efforts to create a better environment for cooperation in general and for the upcoming election, in particular.
OSCE representatives told reporters there should be no misunderstanding on the term of "consensus." It is absolutely necessary to bring all political forces to the table for discussions. The representatives said that both major parties, the SP and the DP, are playing games with their invitations to sit down and discuss issues related to the electoral process.
For their part, the Socialists have ruled out the possibility of holding discussions under any circumstances other than within official institutions, such as the Parliament. Both Nano and DP leader Berisha have publicly claimed to be in favor of starting a dialogue, but each has refused to accept the other's invitation. The SP has said, in addition, that they will not negotiate on any items already settled in the Constitution.
Berisha extends invitation to talks
Sali Berisha last week asked the SP to consider the opposition's latest invitation to discuss issues related to electoral preparations. Berisha expressed regret that the DP invitation had earlier been met with either a refusal or indifference and commented that the ruling coalition has chosen to violate its own laws rather than participate in an open dialogue. Berisha claimed that the majority was still working on compromised voter lists that had not been processed in compliance with the law, which requires that the lists be based on Civil Office registers.
The DP leader said that the invitation sent to the Majority a few days earlier followed an initiative undertaken by the Democrats to make a new start for Albanians. Berisha declared that the DP was intensively involved in efforts to achieve a fair and free election and is committed to having an open dialogue with the other political parties.
Meta in Sweden
Welcoming Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta to Sweden last week, Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson said he appreciates Albania's foreign policy with regards to Yugoslavia. Persson stressed the importance of establishing regional cooperation in order to strengthen stability and security in the region and praised Albania for re-establishing diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia.
The two Prime Ministers affirmed that relations between their two countries were very good, and Persson assured Meta of his support for Albania's ambitions to join European Union bodies. Persson also accepted with pleasure Meta's invitation to visit Albania.
This is the two leaders' second meeting following their participation in a forum organized by the European Union at the Zagreb Summit. Meta appears to be actively pursuing a friendship with the Swedish Prime Minister. Sweden will assume the EU Presidency in June of this year, at the very time that Albania hopes to fix a date to start negotiations for forging an Association and Stabilization Agreement with the EU.
Hombach visits Tirana
Stability Pact Special Coordinator Bodo Hombach arrived in Albania last week. He met with Ermelinda Meksi, Albanian Minister for Economic Cooperation and Trade and National Coordinator for Stability Pact projects, and with Transportation Minister Sokol Nako and Public Works and Construction Minister Spartak Poci.
Observing that Albania has made progress towards European integration, Hombach said that the country is getting closer in terms of economic and political aspects, as well. Hombach remarked that funds designated for Yugoslavia would not affect aid to Albania or other countries in the region, as they will be raised independently. Hombach was confident that the second-phase Stability Pact projects would be implemented as successfully as were the first-phase projects and called the work carried out by Albania so far "praiseworthy."
In a meeting with Transportation Minister Nako, Hombach confirmed his commitment to accelerate the pace of the Albanian projects, noting that a number of bureaucratic obstacles had been removed.
Political agreement reached by DP's founders
Reform Party Deputy Genc Pollo, former Tirana mayor Albert Brojka, former Vice Prime Minister and leader of the Movement for Democracy Dashamir Shehu and former Agricultural Minister and leader of the Right Democratic Party Petrit Kalakula—all founders of the Democratic Party (DP) and former senior DP leaders—have announced a political agreement regarding the future of the Democratic Party.
Saying they remain open to cooperation with other individuals or parties sharing their views, the four politicians declared that the parties they represent, which had earlier withdrawn from the Democratic Party, had decided to unite. Declaring their loyalty to the so-called December ideals defined at the founding of Albania's first Opposition party in December 1990, the leaders of this new political movement say they represent an example of unification at a time when other parties have made it a common rule to divide.
Artur Nura, 2 February 2001
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