The Council of Europe has cancelled its election monitoring mission to Albania due to “continuing uncertainty concerning the organization of the local elections on June 30 and possible security risks in certain deployment areas.”
An email to collaborators sent from the Council of Europe Office in Albania clarified that the decision was taken by the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the CoE.
The OSCE spokeswoman Katya Andrusz confirmed that the CoE had cancelled its monitoring mission to Albania. She added that the OSCE will not withdraw its observers from the June 30 local elections in Albania.
The date of local elections was cancelled by President Ilir Meta, following a prolonged political crisis in Albania, resulting in the opposition boycotting the parliament and elections. The president invited both parties to seat in talks, and agree on a new election date. Prime Minister Edi Rama said the cancellation of elections was unconstitutional and the Socialist Party started a procedure to dismiss the president.
Today, opposition leader Lulzim Basha stated that this was the first time in the history of post-communist Albania that the CoE has decided not to send a local election monitoring mission to Albania. He added that the decision was a political one, stemming from the fact that elections held by the Rama government would be illegal and in violation of the Constitution.
Prime Minister Edi Rama disputed Basha’s statement: “How can you tell Albanians that the CoE took a political decision to withdraw from elections because they are illegal? Can’t wait to see what you will say when the lie is exposed,” he wrote on Twitter.
Head of Socialist Party Parliamentary Group Taulant Balla implied that the decision was possibly taken due to internal issues in the CoE, related to budget, or the summer heat in Albania. He downplayed the role of the CoE monitoring mission, adding that the news was “not so important”. Balla said that the most important election monitoring mission was that of the OSCE.
Speaking to a crowd of Socialist Party supporters, Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj stated that the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is not the Council of Europe but just a “voluntary organization”. He added that he had talked to the Congress today, assuring them that despite threats they had received by opposition mayors, their mission would be safe in Albania. According to Mayor Veliaj, after his reassurances, the Congress assured him back that they will deploy their election observation mission to Albania.
The Presidency of the Congress just released a statement confirming the cancellation of their election observation mission due to lack of “meaningful political competition”. The Congress stated that they will not make any statement regarding the lawfulness of elections in Albania.
Below is the full statement by the Presidency of the Congress of the CoE.
PRESIDENCY STRASBOURG, FRANCE 26 JUNE 2019
Albania: Statement by the President of the Congress
“In the light of recent developments and the uncertainty in Albania with regard to the full participation of the political spectrum of candidates and parties in the local elections on 30 June 2019, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has decided not to deploy its election observation mission.
Considering the fact that in 31 out of 61 municipalities only one candidate is standing for the local vote, it is difficult to expect a meaningful political competition, and this implies the logistical risk for the Congress of not being able to deploy a full mission throughout the country, which is a standard procedure during Congress Election Missions in accordance with our rules. What missions of the Congress are based on is the observation of local and regional elections with broad participation of the different political forces of a country, and so the Congress has never observed elections without meaningful participation of the opposition. Related to this question is our own assessment of a safe deployment for our Congress observers.
The decision of the Congress was taken in consideration of all the information available to us, both in regard of the political and the logistical situation. The Congress does not make any statement here about the lawfulness of these elections and this has nothing to do with the question of whether and when local elections will be held. That is Albania’s sole autonomous decision.”