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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Albanian Split Threatens Planned Vote

TIRANA, Albania -- Albanian political parties remained deeply divided over a new election law Tuesday as Western officials attempted last-minute talks to avoid the collapse of a deal aimed at paving the way for new elections.


The elections planned for the end of June are seen as vital to stop a repeat of the February and March riots that followed the collapse of pyramid investment schemes.


The parties were still arguing over a new election law, which was to have been approved yesterday by the nine main parties under a political contract brokered by European envoy Franz Vranitzky.


Under the deal, parliament must pass the law in order that President Sali Berisha may call a vote by May 15. The law says the president must call elections at least 45 days before the voting date.


But Socialist politicians said Berisha's ruling Democratic Party was trying to push a law through parliament on its own, while the Socialists said it should be approved by the nine-party Government of National Reconciliation and then presented to parliament.


Differences remained unresolved over the proposed division of seats to be decided by proportional and majority voting, which has been at the center of arguments between the Democrats and the rest of the government.


As the politicians argued, officials of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is brokering the talks, were busy trying to find a compromise.


"I am trying to resist in this game [against the Democrats, but I am very much available for a compromise," Fatos Nano, leader of the Socialist Party, told Reuters.


The Socialists want more seats to be decided by a proportional vote to allow smaller parties a voice in parliament and lead to the formation of a coalition government.


The Democrats want more seats on a majority system, as in the 1996 elections when they won 122 of 140 seats.


International observers said that poll was flawed and it was boycotted by the Socialists on the last day.


"It is indispensable the procedure be quickened if we want to respect the political contract. Today is the deadline if elections have to take place in the required date," said Ali Spahia, chairman of the Democratic Party parliamentary group.


Under the proposed new Democrat law, 115 seats would be decided by a majority vote and 40 by a proportional system.


The Socialists said they were also opposed to that formula.


"We do not accept a discussion of this collection of amendments ... The arrival of this draft shows you [the Democratic Party] want to play political games which Albanians can endure no longer," Socialist Party parliamentary group chairman Namik Dokle told parliament.