Albania’s Electoral College orders go-ahead of local polls

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania’s top legal election institution on Monday decided in favor of holding municipal elections this weekend, turning down a move from the country’s president to cancel them.

The five-judge Electoral College ruled unanimously that a small political party, which had asked to deregister based on President Ilir Meta’s action, must take part in Sunday’s vote.

Earlier this month, Meta said he was canceling the elections, saying he feared the balloting would be “undemocratic” without the center-right opposition parties that have boycotted it, and would spark social conflict. The opposition has led protests since mid-February, accusing the government of links to organized crime and demanding a new general election.

Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama insists the elections will go ahead as scheduled, accusing the opposition of political blackmail. The 140-seat parliament has started a lengthy procedure to oust Meta for allegedly violating the constitution, though the Socialists don’t have the 94 votes that would need.

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The opposition Democratic Party said Monday it does not recognize the college’s verdict because a presidential decree can be judged only by the Constitutional Court. The court has been dysfunctional for about a year after most of its judges were fired.

The opposition has threatened to physically prevent the holding of Sunday’s vote. Last week, opposition supporters damaged ballot boxes and other election documentation to prevent the vote in some opposition-held districts.

The president has called a news conference for Tuesday, though it is not clear if he himself will speak.

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