Working group for electoral reform established in Albania

Albanian National Assembly, Tirana; Photo: WikiCommons / Pudelek

TIRANA – Representatives of three main political parties in Albania agreed to create a working group to develop electoral reform, Balkan Insight reports.

Representatives of the ruling Socialist Party and the opposition Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration signed a statement on Tuesday promising to reach an agreement on electoral reform by the March 15 deadline.

The agreement establishes a political council, the aim of which is to address the disputes over the electoral conditions, which have gotten worse following the opposition’s decision to boycott local elections in June 2019.

Among other accusations, the opposition claims that the government has been cooperating with criminal groups to organise vote buying.

Two discussions on electoral reforms took place in an ad hoc Committee in September and November 2019 under the mediation of OSCE, but no breakthrough took place. The next general elections are due to take place in 2021.

Read also: Western Balkan countries dangerously close to electoral crises in 2020

The electoral reform is crucial for further progress of Albania on its EU integration path. In September last year, German parliament adopted a resolution allowing the government to support opening of accession negotiations with Tirana, but stipulating that the first chapters will not be opened until the conclusion of the electoral reform in line with the recommendations of OSCE/ODIHR.

The agreement to form a working group was hailed by the US and EU embassies as a positive sign for a return to normality.

“We applaud the parties for agreeing to work together on electoral reform,” the US embassy said in a Facebook post.

Leader of the Democratic Party (DP), Lulzim Basha, announced that the opposition has mandated DP’s Oerd Bylykbashi and SMI’s Petrit Vasili as mediators with the majority for the adoption of the Electoral Reform, Albanian Daily News reports.

In his reaction, Prime Minister Edi Rama congratulated the opposition for “a reasonable return to the table”, stressing at the same time that more than a year is lost in the conflict taken up to the extreme.

President Meta returns controversial media laws to the Parliament

Earlier this week, President of Albania Ilir Meta refused to sign into law the so-called “anti-libel package”, adopted by the Parliament in December. Critics have said that the provision would be used to curtail the freedom of online media critical to the government.

The Constitution allows the President to return a law to re-consideration once.

According to Meta, the law contradicts the constitutional provisions protecting the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right to information.

The European Union, the Council of Europe and the UNDP called for a revision of the third version of the draft laws, or the resumption of work on laws that have an impact on the media.