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Adoption of cross-party consensus in Parliament 17 Nov as lawmakers approved creation of parliamentary commission for electoral reform and passed 2 laws. Followed agreement by ruling DP party and opposition SP 15 Nov on pact addressing major European Commission progress priorities. Move welcomed by EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele as bringing end to 2-year political stalemate, however several issues remain unresolved. Follows Oct European Commission assessment that Albania failed to meet political criteria needed to attain EU candidate status.
8 May election dispute concluded 8 July as Electoral College refused opposition appeal to invalidate results, confirmed ruling DP party candidate Lulzim Basha for mayoral seat of Tirana. Opposition SP leader and incumbent mayor Edi Rama decided against street protests; senior party members urged Rama to end party boycott of parliament. International officials called for thorough review of election legislation.
Dispute over outcome of 8 May Tirana mayoral election continued. Electoral College 3 June rejected second appeal by opposition Socialist Party (SP) against Central Election Commission’s (CEC) controversial recount, which awarded victory to ruling Democratic Party candidate Lulzim Basha; 13 June passed final verdict ordering full recount of contested ballots in Tirana race. CEC 27 June declared Basha winner by 93 votes. SP continued to push for rerun.
Local elections took place 8 May against backdrop of campaign violence in lead-up; uncertainty over outcome of Tirana mayoral race fuelled tensions between rival sides. Initial results put opposition Socialist party candidate and incumbent mayor Edi Rama ahead of ruling party candidate, Interior Minister Lulzim Basha, by 10-vote margin out of some 250,000 votes. Instigating controversial recount, Central Election Commission (CEC) 18 May overturned Rama’s majority. Rama called for popular revolts against govt; hundreds of opposition supporters clashed with police outside CEC building. CEC 23 May declared Basha winner with 81-vote lead. Electoral College rejected Socialist appeal against legality of recount; expected to rule on Tirana vote early June.
Coalition of local observers 21 Apr issued report warning of increased fear and tensions ahead of 8 May local elections, amid incidents of violence between supporters of rival campaigns during month. Tirana municipal official shot dead in capital 4 Apr; candidate in Balldre municipality in north shot, injured 2 Apr; explosion in Socialist Party official’s apartment 17 Apr.
3 National Guard members cleared by Court of Appeals 2 March of responsibility for 21 Jan protester deaths. OSCE warned of deeply polarized political environment, harsh rhetoric ahead of 8 May local elections. EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele warned political crisis affecting country’s EU progress.
Following deadly violence at 21 Jan anti-govt protests, several further days of demonstrations passed without incident. President Topi 9 Feb condemned PM Berisha’s attempted blocking of prosecutor’s probe into Jan violence, 23 Feb urged political parties to cooperate. First parliament session after demonstrations 10 Feb degenerated into fistfights. Parliament lifted immunity from prosecution for former deputy PM Ilir Meta and former economy minister Dritan Prifti, paving way for corruption charges against them. Republican guard retaliated against state prosecutor Ina Rama, who brought charges against 6 of its members over Jan protester deaths, by replacing her handpicked bodyguards – widely seen as attempt at intimidation.
3 people shot dead, over 100 injured during clashes between police and opposition supporters as thousands joined anti-govt protests 21 Jan. Protests called by opposition leader and Tirana mayor Edi Rama after publication of video reportedly showing former deputy PM Ilir Meta and former economy minister Dritan Prifti discussing corrupt deals. State prosecutor Ina Rana issued arrest warrants for 6 senior members of Republican Guard over protester deaths, prompting PM Berisha to accuse her of helping opposition; warrants yet to be enforced. Parliament 23 Jan ordered probe into violence, Berisha called rally attempted coup. EU and U.S. called for calm, dialogue. Estimated 10,000 28 Jan attended peaceful memorial for those killed. Police 28 Jan arrested 3 suspected of planning assassination of Rama.
Key witness in 15 March arms depot explosion investigation killed early Sept. Thousands of opposition Socialist Party supporters rallied in response in Tirana 10 Sept, demanding resignation of PM Sali Berisha and cabinet.
Ongoing investigation of March arms depot blast: 4 defence ministry officials arrested 3 May; opposition accused PM Berisha of delaying indictment of former FM Mediu. 5 high- level officials including former transport minister convicted of corruption 19 May. Govt, opposition parties reached deal 13 May lifting MPs’ criminal prosecution immunity. Opposition Socialist Movement for Integration 10 May started campaign to support petition against Apr electoral reforms.
Governing Democrats and main opposition Socialists 21 Apr passed constitutional changes to electoral system increasing proportional representation; small parties opposed. Thousands in 4 Apr rally demanding resignation of PM Berisha after deadly 15 March weapons depot blast; prosecutor general asked parliament to lift resigned defence minister Mediu’s immunity for investigation.
Parliament approved Gazemend Oketa as defence minister after Mediu resigned 17 March over 15 March weapons depot blast near Tirana killing 24. Continued deadlock over electoral reforms: opposition Socialist Party proposed proportional system; ruling Democratic Party welcomed, small parties remain opposed.
5 opposition parties 13 Feb withdrew challenge to key electoral reforms after ruling Democratic Party and leading opposition Socialist Party rejected demands for open candidate lists. SMI party left opposition coalition 21 Feb; established “Left for Integration” movement.
Ruling Democratic Party ally Human Rights Union Party vowed 13 Jan to leave government unless reshuffle undertaken.
Parliament lifted FM Lulzim Basha’s immunity 27 December, opening path for corruption investigation.
Parliament approved appointment of new General Prosecutor Ina Rama 22 November after President Topi dismissed Theodori Sollaku for failures in investigations of organised crime. New Justice Minister Enkeled Alibeaj appointed 20 November after Ilir Rusmajli resigned over corruption allegations. OSCE proposed electoral system reform to increase number of parliamentarians and lower electoral threshold. New Christian Democratic Movement party formed around former leader of Christian Democratic Party Nikolle Lesi 8 November.
Parliament began procedure to strip immunity of FM Lulzim Basha over investigation into corruption allegations. EU granted Tirana €200m for economic, political and judicial reform 18 October.
Deputy leader of ruling Democratic Party, Bamir Topi, sworn in as president 24 July after parliament elected him in fourth round of voting; vowed to stay above party politics.
Parliament failed, for second time, to hold presidential vote 27 June after no candidate presented.
President Moisiu urged governing and opposition parties to focus on reform and seek consensus over presidential selection; current term ends 24 July.
FM Besnik Mustafaj resigned; PM Berisha denied subsequent reshuffle would destabilise government.
Local elections held 18 January; OSCE found procedural shortcomings, some disenfranchised.
President Moisiu set local elections for 18 February after parties compromised on changes to constitution and electoral code: voters must produce 2 identity documents at polls.
PM Berisha proposed local elections delay to 18 February after opposition Socialist Party announced boycott of January poll. Constitutional Court ruled parliamentary inquiry into Chief Prosecutor Theodhori Sollaku’s conduct and alleged organised crime links unconstitutional.
President Moisiu set local elections for 21 January; parties unable to agree whether to participate with some calling for delay until after Serbia elections. PM Berisha supported announcement by Athens to offer citizenship to “ethnic Greeks” (anyone who can prove in writing their Greek ethnicity) in and from Albania; opposition in Tirana and Athens criticised plan.
Parties remained divided over date for municipal elections due in December or January; President Moisiu said would set date if no agreement by 15 November. PM Berisha called on parliament to renew efforts to have Prosecutor General Theodhori Sollaku dismissed after Moisiu refused, saying Sollaku had not violated constitution.
Ruling Democratic Party and opposition Socialist Party failed to agree date for winter local elections; President Moisiu warned he would set date if no agreement. European parliament endorsed Stabilisation and Association Agreement.
All 7 seats of Central Electoral Commission filled 4 August after months of wrangling between ruling Democratic Party and opposition Socialists. Further opposition threats to boycott winter elections followed, before parties compromised 31 August to increase number of electoral commissioners to 9 and local government terms from 3 to 4 years.
5 opposition parties held rally 12 July calling for more democratic rights. Authorities seized assets of individuals suspected of al-Qaeda links and froze 7 bank accounts.
Stabilisation and Association Agreement signed with EU in Luxembourg 12 June.
Parliament set up committee to investigate Chief Prosecutor Sollaku on allegations of organised crime ties.
PM Berisha called on chief state prosecutor to resign, citing failure on corruption cases. U.S. Millennium Challenge fund agreed to donate $13 million to fight corruption.
PM Berisha reconfirmed Albania’s commitment to existing borders after FM Mustafaj’s controversial comments that Albania could not guarantee inviolability of borders if Kosovo becomes independent.
First component of Stabilisation and Association Agreement signed with EU 18 February; EU approval of full agreement expected later in year. EU Commission President Barroso urged Albanian consensus on solving priority issues of judicial reform, organised crime and economy.
World Bank and IMF announced new 3-year deals; former urged Tirana to manage aid better.
Defence Minister Fatmir Mediu said Albania hoped to join NATO in 2008. Bomb damaged Tirana offices of newspaper Shekulli 18 December.
Country paralysed by power cuts in worst energy crisis in 5 years. Greek president cut short visit to Albania after Cham minority group held Tirana protests.
Tirana Mayor Edi Rama elected new leader of opposition Socialist Party after former PM Nano’s resignation. EU concerned over possible purges of administration after government change. Transparency International indicated Albania most corrupt country in South East Europe.
New PM Sali Berisha sworn in 11 September; appointment welcomed by U.S. and EU. Tenth round of Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations with EU started 29 September.
Former President Sali Berisha’s Democratic Party won all 3 constituencies where elections re-run due to irregularities in 3 July parliamentary elections. Coalition led by Berisha to hold 81 seats in 140-seat legislature (Socialist-dominated coalition led by outgoing PM Fatos Nano to hold remaining 59). OSCE said election procedures improved, but still not up to international standards.
In 3 July parliamentary elections former President Sali Berisha’s Democratic Party and coalition partners won 73 of 140 seats; Socialists led by former PM Fatos Nano won 64. EU foreign ministers gave tentative approval however OSCE, and European monitors stated election complied “only partially” with international standards.
Preparations for 3 July parliamentary elections increasingly plagued by accusations of intimidation and corruption. Country remained split between opposition Democratic Party led by former president Sali Berisha, and ruling Socialists led by PM Fatos Nano. OSCE’s international monitoring mission highlighted irregularities with voter register.
OSCE agreed to send over 400 observers to monitor 3 July parliamentary elections. Poll conducted by NDI suggested opposition Democrats have 6-point lead over governing Socialists with 30% of electorate undecided.
President Alfred Moisiu declared 3 July 2005 date for parliamentary elections. Parties signed Code of Conduct for electoral process and acceptance of results.
Political forces split on date for June/July parliamentary elections. PM Fatos Nano briefed North Atlantic Council in Brussels 24 March on political and defence reform. NATO Sec.-Gen. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer stressed importance of successful elections for Albania’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan completed official visit pledging support for NATO membership. EU warned of “lack of sufficient progress” in preparations for mid-year general elections.
PM Fatos Nano declared intent to sign stabilisation and association agreement with EU in 2005 - to join in 2014. Failure to enact key political reforms and fight organised crime delayed any agreement in 2004.
Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia agreed 28 December on construction of $1.2bn oil pipeline to pass through Balkan peninsula.
PM Fato Nano accused of involvement in arms- trafficking; parliament voted against launching special inquiry. Minister of Foreign Affairs Kastriot Islami said 19 November Albania will conclude Stabilisation Association Agreement with EU by 2005 - observers suggested target date only possible if May/June 2005 elections conducted without irregularities and opposition accepts result.
8th round of EU Stabilisation and Association Agreement talks dealing with reform efforts and preparations for 2005 parliamentary elections concluded 22 October.
EU Presidency noted, 14 September, insufficient progress on organised crime and corruption, lack of electoral and general reform.