The ongoing CEC crisis
Following recent and largely unsuccessful roundtable talks on issues pertaining to the disputed Central Election Commission (CEC), in which all political parties represented in Parliament took part, the ruling Socialist Party (SP) has suggested that the dialogue should continue constructively through the use of expert negotiators. Socialists say this would facilitate the process of reaching solutions in compliance with the Constitution.
Senior officials of the Democratic Party (DP), however, have opposed the proposal, claiming there is no room for such negotiations in the absence of political consensus concerning the establishment of the CEC. Democrats added that the expert panels might take up their work if the political parties were to reach agreement on amendments to the law that would change the composition of the CEC.
With the resignation of Fotaq Nano and Mimoza Arbi, the two CEC members nominated by the High Court of Justice (HCJ), the HCJ has followed constitutional procedures and accepted nominations to fill the CEC vacancies. As a result, Ilirian Celibashi and Igli Toska have been chosen as the new CEC members. At the first meeting of the newly constituted commission, Celibashi was elected chairman by a majority of votes, and Gasper Koka, whose membership had been proposed by opposition parties of the Right Union and approved by a majority of votes in Parliament, was elected deputy chairman.
Democrats oppose CEC reorganization
Senior DP representatives regard the latest developments in the CEC, including the latest appointments to the commission and the election of the CEC chairman and his deputy, as misguided and hasty. Saying that the measures will complicate matters rather than resolve them, the DP deputies reiterated their party's demand to have all CEC members resign and to reconstitute the commission on the basis of a new structure. According to the DP, the CEC matter is an emergency that must be settled, and the deputies ruled out the possibility of continuing action by the CEC until a new commission has been created.
Reformist Democrats applaud CEC developments
The New Democratic Party, recently founded by a group of former Democratic leaders and known as the Reform Movement, hailed recent CEC developments, including the fact that CEC members proposed by the opposition had not been removed from office. The group has issued a statement affirming that the three remaining CEC members have successfully carried out their responsibilities in compliance with the law and that they enjoy good public repute.
They praised the election of Gasper Koka as the new CEC deputy chairman, which they see as an expression of appreciation of Koka's performance in the earlier CEC. At the same time, the Reformists have said they will maintain their efforts to achieve a balanced CEC. They have also demanded amendments to the Electoral Code that would provide the opposition greater representation in the lower commissions and a greater role at the ballot box.
A new DP strategy
Sali Berisha, leader of the Democratic Party (DP), has recently made some political movements towards certain small right-center political parties. The Republican, National Front and Christian Democrat parties have recently forged a pre-electoral alliance with the DP, although earlier these center-right parties had come out in favor of reorganizing a new DP with more moderate positions.
Fatmir Mediu and Shpetim Rroqi, the Republican and National Front leaders respectively, have been strong promoters of Reformist Democrats. Some analysts say the new alliance is a blow to the Democratic Party of Reformists, who have hoped to unify the center-right political parties against the ruling center-left parties in a different way than Berisha intends.
HRU leadership looks at chaos in the party
Vasil Melo, leader of the Human Rights Union Party (HRU), part of the ruling coalition, seems to have disciplined his party. Last week, Melo demanded that the current party secretaries submit their resignations, a demand supported by the HRU's leadership. According to press sources, the party's Secretary General, Leonard Solis, who is also Minister of Health; Deputy Chairman Gjergji Leka, who is also Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs; and senior party official Andrea Marto submitted their resignations.
In its upcoming meeting, the party leadership will vote on the entire secretariat. Melo's relations with these senior party officials, who are also part of the present government, have been difficult, and the conflict worsened following Melo's unfavorable statements about certain events in the northern city of Tropoja. Melo had publicly opposed Solis, Leka and Marto's support of recent Government actions in Tropoja.
USD 2.7 billion to Albania in last ten years
The annual report of the Tirana office of the United Nations Development Program states that Albania's poor infrastructures is due not to the lack of financing but to poor organization. The report traces the problem to the limited capacities of Albanian institutions that administer the republic's infrastructure, to unresolved questions of property ownership and to the lack of coordination between donors and local Albanian institutions.
According to the report, a general survey of European Union (EU) financing in the transportation field in Albania (the EU is the sole financier of such projects) shows clearly that funding has not been inadequate. In fact, Albania has received USD 2.7 billion in the last ten years, of which USD 680 million was given in the two last years. From 1991 to 1998, only 50 percent of the total funds available were actually spent.
The EU and the World Bank are multiparty donors to Albania, while Italy, Germany, the USA and Greece are bilateral donors.
Albania signs agreement with China
According to sources in the Public Economic and Privatization Ministry, the Finance Ministry and Albanian Electro-Energy Corporation have signed three agreements with China covering financial, mortgage and technical aspects of constructing a new hydroelectric power facility—to be known as Hydro Central—in northern Albania.
The Chinese government has pledged USD 126 million on credit, with an interest rate of 3.5 percent. Debt liquidation will begin after 12 years. According to ministry sources, the construction phase of Hydro Central will begin in March 2001 and will be implemented by the Chinese company Hainhan SIT. The agreements establish that the first turbine of Hydro Central will go on line during the project's third year.
Albtelekom to change owners
Representatives of the telecommunication sector of the Public Economic and Privatization Ministry have announced that Albania's "Albtelekom" privatization will be complete by the end of December 2001. Albtelekom is the only telecommunications company in Albania, and experts say the legal criteria for strategic investment will be defined in March of this year.
Artur Nura, 16 February 2001
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