Police Arrest Scores of Opposition Supporters Blocking the Setting Up of Polling Stations

Police have arrested at least 32 opposition supporters and local civil servants in the last two days over attempts to prevent the local elections of June 30 forced through by the ruling Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama. Over 130 others were either detained and later released under investigation or put on the wanted list. Former Democratic Party MP Fatbardh Spahia is among the arrested.

Over the last week, 18 municipalities led by the opposition requested the Central Election Commission to stop preparations for local elections and vacate premises in their cities. Local authorities argued they were complying with the presidential decree canceling the election date.

President Ilir Meta canceled the date, stating that one-party elections without the participation of the opposition would be unconstitutional. He called on both sides to negotiate and agree on a new date.

Prime Minister Edi Rama rejected the president’s decision as unconstitutional. His Socialist Party, also supported by the “new opposition” MPs, adopted a resolution condemning the president’s decree and calling on institutions administering the elections to continue with preparations for the June 30 local elections.

Albania has no functioning Constitutional Court to adjudicate whether the cancellation of election date complies with the Constitution.

In the recent days, hundreds of opposition supporters have blocked the setting up of polling stations in several municipalities across the country and damaged election materials. In some municipalities, state police defending polling stations have faced off the police forces of local authorities.

Prime Minister Edi Rama has repeatedly warned the public that those who attempt to damage the election process will face justice. Yesterday, he demanded his Socialist Party to amend the Penal Code with up to a 10-year ban from leaving the country on those who disrupt elections.