The Democratic Party has agreed today to seat in talks on electoral reform with Socialist Party MP and former minister Damian Gjiknuri, whom the opposition has accused of rigging the early local election in Diber in 2016.
Gjiknuri has also been one the leading figures that the opposition has insisted keep Albania away from free and fair elections.
However, the newly appointed opposition representatives Oerd Bylykbashi and Petrit Vasili today sat in talks with Gjiknuri and agreed on completing the electoral reform in the two months ahead. “New opposition” representative Rudina Hajdari was also present in the meeting.
Gjiknuri and Hajdari are co-chairs of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform, which the opposition has so far refused to join, unless Gjiknuri, accused of vote-rigging, resigned from the post.
To this day, bringing Gjiknuri to justice has been one of their main demands that also inspired several large national protests during last year.
More recently, Gjiknuri’s dismissal from the committee on electoral reform and criminal charges against him were among opposition’s main conditions to take part in the drafting of the reform.
In its program for solving the political crisis in Albania, in October 2019, the Democratic Party presented 5 points, with a focus on electoral reform. One of the points was the removal not only of Gjiknuri, but also of Hajdari from the parliamentary committee.
“No parliamentary committee chaired by individuals who should have been in prison for electoral crimes can have the legitimacy to achieve the electoral reform. No committee comprised of and co-chaired by individuals that do not represent the opposition can determine rules for opposition political parties to participate in elections,” the opposition platform states.
Democratic leader Lulzim Basha has repeatedly stated that Gjiknuri should be behind bars.
“Damian Gjiknuri was caught colluding with organized crime [member] Ymer Lala in Dibër in stealing votes in 2016. He must go to jail,” he stated in February 2019.
Also in May, Basha stated:
“A serial election rigger cannot be the electoral guard. That’s why we need a real electoral reform for which citizen are asked for their opinion. I have a message for those sitting with Damian Gjiknuri [in the Electoral Reform Committee], who should have been in prison for rigging the elections, those who are sitting with those who were caught in wiretaps while buying and selling votes and threatening democrats.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is not the electoral reform committee. That is, in most of its part, the pretrial detention committee of Gjiknuri and co. None of their products is anything else but shameful! We do not recognize it [the committee], we will not recognize it, don’t waste your time!”
Today’s sudden agreement to seat in talks and co-draft the electoral reform with Gjiknuri marks a 180-degree turn for the opposition.