Socialists seek do-over election for Lezha County

Shkodra recount shows no changes from earlier results
About 81,000 people cast ballots in Lezha County.

Albania’s northestern Lezha County includes the city of Lac, where the worst incident of the election took place.

The Socialist Party has officially filed a request with Albania’s Electoral College to repeat the elections in the northwestern county of Lezha.

If approved, in terms of time and logistics, the request could have the largest consequences of any other appeal to the college, a group of judges with final say on election appeals.

“The irregularities have been of the type that can only lead to voiding the election and having a do-over,” Bele, a Socialist lawyer told the judges. “We expect a ruling on this matter.”

The Socialists’ lawyers argue voters in Lezha County faced intimidation and people who were known to be outside the country appeared on the list of people who had cast their ballots. Lezha County includes the city of Lac, where one person was killed and others wounded in the worst incident on election day.

The request comes as the Socialist Party withdrew an earlier appeal to the Electoral College to stop a recount in neighboring Shkodra County, because it had already been completed, not changing the earlier mandate distribution. An earlier recount in Lezha showed more discrepancies, but it too did not result in changes to the distribution of MP seats.

The Socialists and their allies won the July 23 general election in a landslide. But in an election that had otherwise gone smoothly – with the loser gracefully accepting defeat and the winner humbly celebrating victory – disputes, recounts and appeals in three northern countries have delayed the process of issuing the final election results. Now more than a month after the election, the complaints and appeals continue, delaying the official certification of the election.

As it stands, the disputes could only affect one or two seats and would not overall alter the results of the election. But the two sides are fighting every decision of the Central Election Commission as it could shift one MP from the Democratic Party-led coalition to the winners of the election, the Socialist Party-led coalition, bringing its total seats in parliament to 84, and giving it a three-fifths majority required for many important reforms.

The first preliminary results had the Socialists at 84 seats, but the CEC shifted one seat to the Democrats in Lezha County. The ruling came after the Democrats’ lawyers at the commission argued there were irregularities with the tables of results from some of the voting centers, which had been handed in photocopies rather than original documents.

Lezha is one of the smaller 12 counties in terms of population and representation in parliament, represented by only seven out of the total of 140 MPs. As the results stand now, the Democratic Party coalition has four seats. The Socialists follow with three. Under Albania’s electoral law, a county (qark) doubles as an electoral district.

The Electoral College is expected to rule on the latest Socialist request early next week.

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Posted in Elections 2013, Featured
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