Editorial by Edi Rama with regard to the ODIHR report on May 8 elections
No previous report issued by ODIHR has ever been clearer and more straightforward. Everything people saw with their own eyes in the dramatic mayoral contest in Tirana that we have unceasingly claimed after the counting process, which proved us victorious, finds a complete confirmation in the international arbitrator’s stance. We were very unhappy with the ambiguities included in the 2009 final report, because despite serious problems that ODIHR objectively pointed out in the course of the process, that report put the lid on frauds and spoke of an inexistent progress and lack of evidence for eventual manipulation.
But this final report not only confirms what the mission led by Jonathan Stonestreet has stated in the intermediary reports, but also completes the picture of the May 8 elections with selected paragraphs that do not leave any doubts for the lack of standards and the negative role of CEC and Electoral College. I am deeply grateful to this mission for the objectivity shown till the end. We thank them for the good work they did, especially, the omission of the already repeated recipe: “These were the best elections, but not as good as required”, which has constantly hindered the relevant handling of the chronic election crisis in Albania. This crisis is thoroughly observed in the present ODIHR report and relevant recommendations have been given to address it appropriately so that the next elections could meet the international standards.
The least we can say is that with the current CEC and Electoral College, no free elections can be held in Albania. Nor with the voter lists that grant free hand to the ruling party to do as it pleases with the ballots of Albanians residing abroad. This is not being pointed out by us, the opposition that was deeply affected by the brutal illegitimate activities of these two institutions, but by the international arbitrator, which unveils some other ugly truths that have been in the forefront of the opposition battle in the last two years, but which, unfortunately, unfolded themselves in their entirety in the May 8 elections, violating the right of Albanians to elect and mounted their distrust of the electoral process. This report is a solid point of reference for all those Albanians and international partners who want to contribute in disassociating Albania from rigged and contested elections for good. We are among them and will do all we can to liberate Albanians from the nightmare of elections without standards.
I am well aware of the deep disappointment and sadness the masquerade of Tirana left behind as well as the large numbers of those who criticize us, me personally, for the peaceful approach with which we faced the manipulation of the election outcome in broad daylight. I have followed up closely fumes of a revolted mood spiraling up and crashing down on editorials, analyses and blogs, where opposition is portrayed as too feeble to face the evil that is strangling Albania and unable to protect the popular vote from being stolen.
I understand the revolt of everyone who feels frustrated in this dramatic situation, but I can’t share the same opinion that the stand-off can be settled only by a violent reaction on the part of the opposition. I do not regret our peaceful approach toward the process, or the legal steps taken for our cause, or the discouragement of violence when u bunch of lowlifes dressed in black gowns issued a court order that sealed the robbery of our mandate in Tirana. By the same token, I have no doubt in the necessity of our new political course, in our parliamentary battles to reform the Electoral Code based on all the findings and recommendations of ODHIR report, the increase in ways and intensity of communication with citizens on the serious problems of the country, the necessity to give Albanians a new governing alternative and the need that a fact be understood nationwide that the opposition is not to be held accountable for the evil the government inflicts on the people, nor can it become a government but with the votes of the people.
These are difficult hours for those who do not live in the court of Sali’s rule, and undoubtedly for opposition too, but in times like these, every citizen, interest group or community must carry out its task to fight this regime with all means of peaceful resistance, with all the strength of words and civil protests, not wait for the opposition to solve the grave problems that torment all of us through magic or go every day before the public just to pretend it’s doing its job. No western opposition does this and it’s not the opposition that lead the revolts in London, Athens, Paris or wherever else the citizens rise in protests of such nature.
These being said, we are of course more determined than ever to carry out our mission to never allow the repetition of what happened during the last elections, which is now not only the belief of the opposition, but the international community’s as well.
translated by A.Kola