Albania’s Electoral College, a group of judges with final say on election matters, has decided to cancel a recount of ballots in the northwestern county of Lezha, reversing an earlier decision by the Central Elections Commission. Neither this latest ruling nor the recount changed the number of seats in parliament allocated to each of the two main coalitions.
The decision voids the recount, which as already taken place, finding some discrepancies, but not big enough to change the original distribution of parliamentary seats in the county, which stands at four for the Democrats’ coalition and three for their Socialist rivals.
The decision probably means another recount CEC decided for the neighboring county of Shkodra will also be voided, but CEC officials said a different decision by the judges was needed for them to stop working on the recount. The recount in Shkodra, which is under way, came at a request by the Republican Party, a member of the center-right coalition, which claimed it had been stripped of one MP seat, given wrongly to its bigger ally, the Democratic Party.
The Electoral College ruling angered the Democratic Party, which lost the general election in a landslide. Oerd Bylykbashi, a Democratic Party legal legal representative described the decision as unprecedented.
“The decision by the college has created a huge handicap. This is open theft of about 1,200 votes by the Socialist Party, an MP mandate has been stolen by the SP,” said Bylykbashi, referring to the vote recount.
He said the Democrats would still address the Electoral College based on facts unveiled during the ballot recount and the discrepancy between the recorded results and the ballot recount.
Hailing the decision by the Electoral College, a Socialist Party legal representative said this ruling should have an automatic effect even on the Shkodra region.
“The important thing is that the college interpreted the laws correctly and identified that CEC’s activity on the recount has openly violated the law,” said Koli Bele, SP’s legal representative.
Since last April, CEC, a seven member body, has been functioning with only four members proposed by the center-right Democratic Party-led coalition, following a political row over the replacement of leftist coalition members.
The Electoral College, a judicial body comprising of eight Appeals Court judges, is now expected to assume final decision making, as a result of CEC’s inability to adopt decisions requiring a qualified majority of five votes.