Albania reforms election law to fight endemic fraud

Albania's parliament on Monday approved a set of laws intended to simplify a complex election system tainted by allegations of fraud throughout the country's 18 years as a democracy.

Albania reforms election law to fight endemic fraud

Albania's two main parties, the ruling Democratic Party of Prime Minister Sali Berisha and their bitter rivals, the opposition Socialist Party, joined forces in a rare show of consensus, mustering 115 votes in the 140-seat chamber.

"We faced a sequence of crises due to this system and were stigmatized because of it," Prime Minister Sali Berisha told MPs. "Enough is enough. We now turn a page to help Albanian progress".

Albania's Stalinist regime collapsed in 1991 but the impoverished country has yet to hold elections deemed free and fair by Western monitors, a shortcoming the European Union wants fixed before advancing its bid for eventual membership.

The new laws mean that the 2009 general election will be run according to a regional proportional system, a move likely to greatly diminish parliament seats for smaller parties.

Both Democrats and Socialists had been accused of fraud and exaggerated use of tactical voting under the previous system, usually aimed at boosting the seats of their small-party allies so they end up with more powerful coalition blocks.

But the practice often backfired and contributed to instability, as small parties bargained for favours and slowed the pace of reforms, or switched allegiances in return for official posts.

"This vote will mark the end of a system that caused distortions to politics and huge problems in Albania," said Valentina Leskaj, head of the Socialists' parliamentary group.

Although generally applauded from abroad, the new measures have attracted criticism from smaller political groups, which accused the two main parties of wanting to create "a two-party neo-dictatorship" and weaken independent institutions.

Other new measures include provisions for immediately calling an early election if the government is ousted by a no-confidence vote, simplifying the parliamentary vote for Albania's president, and limiting the mandate of the prosecutor general to two terms of five years each.

Reuters

Last Mod: 22 Nisan 2008, 12:15
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