Albanian President Ilir Meta and US Ambassador Yuri Kim have exchanged accusations over electoral campaign issues on Friday evening.
Speaking on live television on a political show tonight, Meta urged Albanians to protect their vote from being stolen by the ruling Socialist Party even by using “pitchforks”. It follows similar rhetoric used by the President in the last week of the electoral campaign in Albania regarding alleged attempts for vote buying.
A few minutes later, Meta paused answering journalists’ questions and replied to a message received on his phone. Asked whether it was the US Ambassador, Yuri Kim to whom he was replying, the President confirmed. He explained that Ambassador Kim had asked him to stop speaking of pitchforks.
Meta stated that he replied to Kim that she should stop supporting Prime Minister Edi Rama in his attempts to hijack elections.
He further accused the US Ambassador of having not pushed strongly for investigations into the fatal firearm incident in Elbasan this week, and of having supported Rama to violate the electoral reform agreed with the opposition at the US Embassy last year by supporting one-sided changes made by the ruling majority.
The President also claimed the Ambassador had called him on behalf of Rama to ask for his approval to return Judge Ardian Dvorani to one of the newly reformed justice institutions in the country. Upon his refusal, Meta claimed that Kim had told him on the phone: “we know some things about you”, but that he nevertheless didn’t comply with her request on Dvorani.
US Ambassador Yuri Kim then posted her condemnation of President Meta’s rhetoric, accusing him of inciting violence.
It is unacceptable for anyone to threaten that citizens will take up “pitchforks” on April 25 or if they don’t like the result of elections. These threats deserve condemnation. Those who incite violence will be held responsible for the results of their words and actions. Stop.
— Ambassador Yuri Kim (@USAmbAlbania) April 23, 2021
Meta replied that he had not threatened anyone with citizens who don’t like election results, but had called on them to defend their vote from being stolen. He called on the US Embassy to stop interfering in Albania’s affairs at Prime Minister Edi Rama’s benefit.
The President alleged that lobbyists paid by Serbia pit representatives of the United States against him, adding that he told Ambassador Kim in their first meeting that she is not responsible for relations with Serbia but with Albania.
On Sunday, Albania will hold its 10th general elections since the fall of the communist regime amidst raising tensions in the last week of the electoral campaign that ends on Friday midnight.