Edi Rama’s ruling Socialists on Monday looked set to humiliate the divided centre-right Democrats in Sunday’s by-elections, in another disastrous blow to the opposition.

Rama’s Socialists Crush Divided Opposition in Albanian By-elections

Albanian election commissioner marks the finger of a voter before she votes in the general election at a polling station in Tirana, Albania, April 25, 2021.  Photo: EPA-EFE/MALTON DIBRA

Preliminary results of the six by-elections held in Albania on Sunday show that the ruling Socialist Party under Prime Minister Edi Rama was on course to win five of the six races, while the bitterly divided main opposition Democratic Party, led by Lulzim Basha, won none.

By Monday morning it had won three and was leading in two municipalities.

In Shkodra, northern Albania, an important municipality, a candidate supported by one of the rival leaders of the Democrats, former party leader Sali Berisha, was on course to win under the banner of Berisha’s “Freedom House” coalition.

Votes also took place in Durrës, Lushnje, Diber, Vora and Rrogozhine. According to the Central Election Commission, the turnout was 29.63 per cent, and 165,835 voters voted out of 559,606.

Basha told journalists that the disastrous election results were “an anomaly”, as the country needs election reform first.

“Today we have a political system that serves some politicians who have turned it into a force that enriches them … and impoverishes the citizens,” he told journalists.

Prime Minister Rama said the Socialists had expected victories, but not on this scale.

“Yesterday’s election gave the Socialist Party neither more nor less than what we expected. Five out of six municipalities in the race … with an even bigger gap in votes over our rivals than our projections showed,” he wrote on Facebook.

Voters in the six municipalities elected new mayors after several of those elected in 2019 had to resign over allegations of criminal pasts, related to a law on banning people with criminal records from public office. Others quit for different reasons.

The Democrats stood scant chance on Sunday after the party effectively split into two warring blocks, each if which fielded its own candidates.

The power struggle pitting former Democratic Party leader Berisha against current leader Basha erupted in September last year, when, on US advice, the party suspended Berisha from the party’s parliamentary group.

It heated up in December when Berisha’s supporters then tried to dismiss Basha at an improvised party convention held in a stadium. Weeks later, they faced resistance from party guards and police while vainly attempting to take over the party headquarters.

After losing hope of retaking the party leadership, last month Berisha and his group established a “House of Freedom” coalition with the Socialist Movement for Integration, SMI, run by Monika Kryemadhi, the wife of President Ilir Meta.

Source link: balkaninsight.com