From: Alice Taylor
Mayor Erion Veliaj’s Propaganda Fine Repealed

The Central Election Commission has repealed the fine against Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj for alleged breaches of the rule regarding the use of state resources as propaganda prior to the general elections.

Last week, the CEC fined Veliaj 70,000 ALL (EUR 565) for carrying out prohibited activities, not reporting such activities to the CEC for approval prior to carrying them out, and for promoting prohibited activities.

The matter was brought to the attention of the CEC by the LSI political party who showed footage of Veliaj visiting houses that were rebuilt following the November 26 earthquake.

Veliaj said he was being fined for working and he would appeal the decision. He also accused the CEC of favoring opposition parties.

The CEC previously adopted a decision banning the use of state resources, including reconstruction following a national disaster, for the benefit of the electoral campaign.

As per the decision, some of the country’s top officials are banned from conducting propaganda with state initiatives. Areas include transport, energy, environment, health, culture, and education. They are also be prohibited from advertising reconstructed buildings or projects due to natural disasters, or the public distribution of legalization permits.

The CEC refers explicitly to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, ministers and deputy ministers, mayors, deputy mayors, general directors of agencies, or companies such as OSHEE, Water Supply, or Posta Shiptare, etc

The government will also not be allowed to make decisions on salary increases, pensions, economic or social support, tax cuts or abolitionist, fiscal amnesties, privatization, or the award of assets.

In their decision to lift the fine, the CEC Appeals and Sanctions Commission assessed that Veliaj was not responsible for reporting the activities and that there was no violation as permits or ownership certificates were not issued during the activity.

The Democratic Party reacted to the news by saying the decision of the Commission had resulted in a loss of credibility as a structure that could guarantee free and fair elections. They also said that the decision runs counter to OSCE standards for separating the state from the party.