Albania holds local elections amid political turmoil

TIRANA, Albania (AP) – Albanians began to cast ballots yesterday to elect mayors and city councils, or parliaments, amid a tense political conflict with the opposition boycotting the municipal elections.

While the Socialist-run government is insisting on holding the election, the opposition wants to stop it taking place. The opposition, led by the centre-right Democratic Party, blames a corrupt government linked to organised crime and is demanding fresh national elections.

Albania’s President Ilir Meta is sympathetic to the opposition and declared that the vote is cancelled, but the government under Prime Minister Edi Rama has refused to abide by that decision.

Votes will be cast to pick authorities that will run 61 districts across the country for the next four years.

Late last Saturday the Democratic Party’s leader Lulzim Basha called on Albanians to boycott the vote and said they would hold non-violent protests. Police have said protests are not allowed the voting day.

Rama cast his ballot in Surrel, a village near Tirana where he lives.

“This day confirms that no one can play with the people… and who dares take sovereignty from the people finds no other end but a failing and a shameful one,” he told journalists.

The opposition has been holding anti-government protests since mid-February when they also relinquished their seats in parliament.

A woman casts her ballot at a polling station in the city of Kamza. – AFP