Albania's president announces new election date, contradicts PM

Prime minister dismisses date change as president pushes local elections to October 13 due to opposition boycott.

    Meta said the intention of the new election is 'to give a positive message to European partners' [File: Florion Goga/Reuters]
    Meta said the intention of the new election is 'to give a positive message to European partners' [File: Florion Goga/Reuters]

    Albania's president has announced a new date for local elections while the prime minister and his ruling Socialists have insisted the vote will go ahead as scheduled on Sunday.

    President Ilir Meta said on Thursday the vote would take place on October 13, having previously announced that he was cancelling this weekend's vote because of an opposition boycott.

    Meta told reporters the intention of the new election was "to give a positive message to European partners".

    The date is a few days before the European Union is due to decide whether to launch full membership negotiations with Albania.

    Earlier in June, Meta told Al Jazeera: "If the crisis is going to last, the chances [of joining the EU] will be undermined for years, not for months. This is clear." 

    "I am sure I have done the best to avoid this fuller escalation of the conflict between the government and the opposition and to give to both sides the possibility to calm down, to reflect, and to enter soon in the local [elections] for the best interests of all Albanians," he said.

    Prime Minister Edi Rama, however, insisted the elections would take place as scheduled on Sunday.

    "June 30 is the only election date," Rama tweeted while Meta was still holding his news conference.

    An anti-government protest in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama's office in Tirana
    The centre-right Democratic Party-led opposition has been holding protests for months [Florion Goga/Reuters]

    The country's political crisis bubbled over in February when the opposition Democratic Party, which is led by Lulzim Basha, withdrew from parliament.

    Since then, opposition supporters have been holding protests over allegations of vote rigging in the June 2017 legislative election and government links to organised crime, demanding Rama step down and an early national election.

    Basha met with Meta earlier on Thursday, while Rama declined to meet him. His Socialists have started a procedure to try to remove Meta.

    The western Balkan country is in political and constitutional turmoil, with the threat of major confrontations on Sunday.

    The opposition is threatening to prevent any voting and to not recognise any election result.

    PM Edi Rama on elections: 'Albania is not ready to join the EU'

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    PM Edi Rama on elections: 'Albania is not ready to join the EU'

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies