Albanian president stops elections, gets no-confidence vote

Albanian president stops elections, gets no-confidence vote

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania's governing Socialist Party called a no-confidence vote against President Ilir Meta, saying Monday it was unconstitutional for him to cancel upcoming municipal elections.

The vote will be held at Thursday's parliamentary session, Socialist spokeswoman Elisa Spiropali said. The Socialists need 94 votes to oust Meta which they don't have in the 140-seat parliament.

Even if they get the numbers, the Constitutional Court makes the final decision. The court has been dysfunctional for about a year after most of its judges were fired.

Meta announced Saturday that he planned to cancel the June 30 municipal elections. He explained Monday that made the decision because he thought they would be "undemocratic" and feared tensions would rise if the elections were held.

"There is the danger Albania goes toward an unpredictable escalation of the social tension that may cause uncontrollable consequences," Meta said at a news conference.

The center-right opposition, led by the Democratic Party, had said it would boycott the municipal elections and threatened to prevent them from taking place. Since mid-February, the opposition has been holding protests accusing the government of links to organized crime and demanding a new general election.

Prime Minister Edi Rama denies the allegations, and insists the municipal elections will go ahead as scheduled to prevent political "blackmail" from being used to force the calling of early parliamentary elections.

The Central Election Commission, which is dominated by Socialist-nominated members, refused to recognize the president's decree and said preparation for local elections continued.

Rama met for 90 minutes Monday with ambassadors from the European Union, the United States and other institutions. The EU and U.S. have repeatedly urged the Albanian opposition to disavow violence and sit down with the government to resolve the political crisis.

"These are very, very complicated legal questions, with many different views, and we will find out," Bernd Borchardt, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe ambassador to Albania, said. "The Albanian institutions will find a wise decision on who has a better legal argument. "

Meta is a former Socialist leader who became president about two years ago with the governing party's help. At the time of his election, he led a small party called the Socialist Movement for Integration, which is now in political opposition and led by his wife.

After a meeting of Socialist Party leaders, party spokeswoman Spiropali said "Ilir Meta has lost his right to stand in that post," she said.


This story has been corrected to show Meta first announced canceled elections on Saturday, not Sunday.


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