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Albania sets local elections date, as lack of electoral reform remains major issue

On Monday, it was announced the upcoming local elections will be held on June 30, 2019, as per President Ilir Meta’s decision, although the countries government and opposition still haven’t agreed on the electoral reform.

Last week, Meta also consulted the heads of the parliamentary groups on the issue, while on Monday he conducted a meeting with Chairman of Parliament Gramoz Ruci.

During the last local elections, the left-wing coalition led by Prime Minister Edi Rama’s Socialist Party and the Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI) won the overwhelming majority of 61 municipalities in the country.

The SP managed to get a total of 45 municipalities, with almost all the country’s major cities passing under its control with the exception of Shkodra, which maintained its traditionally right-wing political affiliation.

The right-wing coalition only managed to win 15 municipalities, while the Finiq municipality in the country’s south was won by the Greek Ethnic Minority for the Future (MEGA) Party.

The lack of an electoral reform remains a persisting issue when it comes to elections, particularly because it is one of the most important conditions for Albania to open accession negotiations with the EU.

Although a special parliamentary commission for the electoral reform has been established for two years now, there is still no agreement between the parties regarding its functionality and the way to achieve an electoral reform.

Meanwhile, EU representatives have said numerous times after Albania failed to open accession negotiations back in June, that without achieving the electoral reform before the 2019 local elections, Albania has no chance to open negotiations in the near future.

The last to speak about it in the media was Gunther Krichbaum, chair of the Commission on EU Affairs in the German Bundestag.

Back in September, Krichbaum, at an interview for local Panorama newspaper, expressed disappointment over the weak progress the Albanian government has made to meet the conditions set by the EU and the German Bundestag.

“Negotiations can only begin after Albania has carried out the necessary reforms. In addition to the complete verification of judges and prosecutors, the electoral reform should also be mentioned here. If the 2019 local elections take place under the old electoral law, I see no real chance of opening accession negotiations in 2019,” Krichbaum said on Sept. 4.

Although the Albanian majority has made the electoral reform one of its main priorities, last October it called on foreign representatives to closely monitor and assist the process in a similar way they did the judicial reform ,but so far there have been no results.

A main issue that requires attention is the conflicting conditions and expectations of the ruling majority and the opposition parties in regard to the electoral reform.

The Socialist Party has placed importance in counting the votes of all Albanian citizens abroad, especially those of immigrants, whereas the main opposition party, the Democratic Party, had declared non-negotiable the condition to implement electronic voting and electronic vote-counting, as well as looking to change the electoral system to make lawmakers more directly accountable to voters. The latter suggestion has also been supported by the Socialist Movement for Integration Party.