The Central Election Commission in Albania decided to registering the “House of Freedom” coalition in the March 6 by-elections in six municipalities but refused to recognize the Democratic Party Refoundation Group led by Sali Berisha as part of the coalition.
In their registration request earlier this week, the coalition included the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), PD Refoundation Group and Demochristian Party as members.
The CEC recognizes Lulzim Basha as leader of the Democratic Party (PD) based on a court notification.
Today’s decision followed discussions on whether CEC should register the coalition with/without the PD Refoundation Group, or not register it at all because of the presence of the same group, which the formal PD claims has no legal status.
They decided to refuse recognizing Berisha’s group as an official member party of the coalition and representative of the PD.
However, mayoral candidates elected last week by PD members in the primaries led by the Refoundation Group will be able to run in by-elections under the “House of Freedom” coalition logo.
A total of 18 candidates will be running in six municipalities on March 6 – Shkoder, Durres, Lushnje, Diber, Vore and Rrogozhine. The contenders are the ruling Socialist Party, House of Freedom coalition, and Democratic Party.
A split occurred in the PD last year, when Basha excluded Berisha from the PD parliamentary group after the US barred him from entering the country over corruption allegations.
Berisha then initiated a movement to remove Basha from party leadership. PD members called a meeting of the highest party body, changed the PD status and dismissed Basha and the party leadership.
The PD leadership under Basha responded by expelling Berisha and a number of senior PD officials from party leadership positions.
As a result, the groups led by Basha and Berisha do not recognize each-other’s leadership.
The upcoming March 3 by-elections are widely considered as another battle over the legitimacy of the two PD leaders – Berisha and Basha – within the opposition party.