Local Authorities and Government Clash Over Canceled Local Elections

Clashes between local authorities and election administration occurred yesterday in Tropoja and Shkodra over preparations for the June 30 local elections, which were canceled by President Ilir Meta.

Several municipalities controlled by the opposition had announced that they would take steps to prevent the government from forcing through the June 30 local elections. Following President Meta’s decision to cancel the election date, they had requested the Central Election Commission (KQZ) to vacate municipality premises used by electoral administration.

The majority of the KQZ members was appointed by the ruling Socialist Party (PS). Its non-PS members called for election preparations to stop after the president canceled the date. However, a majority in the KQZ supported Prime Minister Edi Rama’s claim that the cancellation of election date was absolutely invalid. The PS-controlled Parliament also deemed the presidential degree to be absolutely invalid and demanded that KQZ ignore it and continue to prepare for the elections.

Yesterday, the KQZ rejected the requests by several municipalities to vacate premises on their territory, stating that municipalities were overstepping their authority. The KQZ called on local authorities not to interfere in the preparations of the electoral process, adding that violators of the process would be punished.

The situation got tense in Tropoja and Shkodra yesterday with scuffles between local authorities and municipal police on one side, and state police and electoral administration on the other.

In Tropoja, a group of citizens entered the premises of the local election administration (KZAZ), took out the election materials and threw them onto the streets.

In Shkodra, the municipality asked the help of the police to vacate the premises of a school occupied by local election administration.  The premises were surrounded by the state police protecting them, with the municipal police wanting to vacate them. In one voting center, unidentified individuals believed to be opposition supporters threw Molotov cocktails while trying to storm in to prevent preparations for the local elections.

Yesterday’s events in Tropoja and Shkodra might be a first glimpse into a situation that could get worse with the election date approaching rapidly.

Both the government and the opposition are firm in their positions regarding the June 30 local elections. The government states it won’t comply with the “unconstitutional” presidential decree cancelling the date, while the opposition says it won’t allow “undemocratic, unconstitutional, single-party elections” to take place.

The constitutionality of President Meta’s decree can only be adjudicated by the Constitutional Court, which is dysfunctional due to a badly planned and poorly implemented justice reform.