Low voter turnout in Albanian municipal elections a victory for opposition

Just 21.6 per cent of Albanians voted in the country’s municipal elections on June 30, a significant drop from 48 per cent in 2015. This comes after the opposition Democratic Party boycotted the election, accusing Prime Minister Edi Rama’s Socialist Party of corruption, demanding general elections along with Mr Rama’s resignation. The opposition has been actively protesting since mid-February, when its MPs abandoned their parliamentary posts, threatening the government’s institutional legitimacy. 

Lulzim Basha, leader of the Democratic Party has declared the local election results a victory for the opposition, claiming the electoral process to be “anti-constitutional and illegal.”

On June 8, President Ilir Mera sympathised with the opposition’s cause and called for the elections to be suspended until October. On Mr Rama’s orders, they went ahead regardless. Despite the mounting criticism of the government and expectations of violent clashes, the elections were relatively peaceful, highlighting the passive resistance of the opposition.

It is widely believed that the Socialist Party will claim a sweeping victory, with candidates unopposed in 31 municipalities, and against weak opponents in the other 30. Mr Rama claimed that the Opposition is entirely at fault for these results, telling Al-Jazeera, “I hope our friends in the opposition will realise what they did is a disaster for themselves.” For many,  the monopolisation of the elections is a return to the politics of the communist era.

The Central Electoral Commission (CEC) has faced criticism for possibly inflating the number of voters. However, in a press statement released on July 1, the CEC stated that, “these are not the final results and as such there might be discrepancies, which will be addressed before the final results are published.”

The quality of these elections is not only of great importance to Albanians but to the country’s broader international standing as a democratic country. Notably, the EU is closely watching Albania’s electoral processes regarding their case for admittance into the union. 

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