Socialists win Dibra mayoral by-election

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 13, 2016 16:31

Story Highlights

  • Muharem Rama, the Socialist candidate of the Alliance for a European Albania, received 18,597 votes (56.3 percent). His Democratic Party opponent, of the Alliance for Work and Dignity, Sherefedin Shehu, received 14,435 votes (43.7 percent).

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TIRANA, Sept. 13 – Albania’s ruling Socialist-led coalition has won the mayoral race in the northeastern municipality of Dibra, a by-election that drew national focus as an early test for parties heading to national elections next year.

Muharem Rama, the Socialist candidate of the Alliance for a European Albania, received 18,597 votes (56.3 percent). His Democratic Party opponent, of the Alliance for Work and Dignity, Sherefedin Shehu, received 14,435 votes (43.7 percent).

Mayor-elect Rama said in his victory speech that he would carry the municipality along the path laid by the coalition, and he would work hard to improve Dibra’s “miserable infrastructure.”

Minister of Energy Damian Gjiknuri, who acted as coordinator of Rama’s campaign, said that the victory is a sign that the people trust the ruling majority.

Prime Minister Edi Rama thanked all people of Dibra for placing their trust in the ruling majority. “This victory represents a huge obligation to the people of Dibra,” Prime Minister Rama said in a statement.

The loss in Dibra is a blow to Opposition Leader Lulzim Basha’s center-right Democratic Party, which had high hopes in Dibra, trying to build momentum after two electoral losses.  

Basha described the electoral race as “an elimination of political process” and said the elections were nothing more than a “clash between citizens united with the opposition and a drug cartel managed by the ruling majority.”

He added the people of Dibra were “charmed by the money of crime, corruption and drugs,” becoming victims to what Basha said was “vote buying and pressure from those in power.”

The electoral campaign saw widespread use of central government resources in favor of the ruling party’s candidate, while the opposition deployed much of its national staff to the poor rural municipality.

Both parties accused each other of violence, undue pressure on voters and vote buying.

During Sunday’s vote, there were repeated claims that supporters from both camps had been caught taking photographs of the ballot paper to prove which way they had voted. Usually such photographs are needed to show benefactors that the vote went to the side providing money or other benefits.

Regardless of several shortcomings, the Central Election Commission said that the vote and ballot counting process was largely acceptable.

The outsized attention on the by-election came as the top national parties saw the results in Dibra as a test of how people felt about the the central government and its Socialist-led coalition.

Dibra had for many years been ruled by the Democrats, but it now has moved to the left.

In 2015, the left wing coalition won the elections in Dibra by less than 400 votes.  

In May 2016, the elected mayor, Shukri Xhelili, representative of the governing Socialist Party was fired after he offered a job to a municipality employee in exchange of sexual favors.

The country’s Council of Ministers and Court for Serious Crimes discharged and ordered the arrest of Xhelili for abuse of power.  Xhelili appealed the case at the Constitutional Court but failed to be reinstated back to office.

His firing triggered Sunday’s by-election.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 13, 2016 16:31