Polling battles in the Republic of Eagles

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Koplik, Albania, Montenegrin border, May 2011. On the eve of the municipal elections, streets of the northern impoverished town of Koplik are overcome by a kind of feverishness. Wracked by more than 40 years of communist dictatorship under the absurd Enver Hoxha rule, the Balkan republic is now looking for a new breath of democracy. The fight against corruption and organized crime features the challenges to be met by the poorest country in Europe. Since 1991, Albania experiments a multiparty political scene as well as regular and tense political majority change.

The 2011 municipal elections are expected with feeling nervous. A climate of suspicion has dominated the Albanian polarized political scene divided between the DP-led Alliance for the Citizens and the SP-led Alliance for the future. In June 2009, the narrow victory of the neo-liberal Democrat Party (DP) for the parliamentary elections has divided the country. In January 2011, anti-government demonstrations took place in Tirana and were severely repressed by special police units causing four deaths among the supporters of the SP. Beyond the local issues, these elections are a test of democratic maturity for Albania. Their holding will be key to the opening of Albania’s accession negotiations to the European Union. Every one focuses on the capital. The mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama, highlights his ambitious program to beautify the facades and shabby Hoxha era buildings. His opponents stigmatize his poor governance and his corruption. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, in Shkodra northern region, supporters of the two political alliances are mobilizing. Like elsewhere in the country, voters do not rush to the polling stations. All counting center are equipped with digital screens allowing to broadcast to the numerous local observers the image of each ballot filmed in real time. Three days and a thousand cigarettes consumed later, the counting is over in the all 55 polling stations in the District. The SP-led alliance won one mayor. The victory of DP contender in Koplik municipality is loudly celebrated by night.

It will still take two weeks before consolidating the results of Tirana. After a first count announcing the renewal by 10 votes of the mandate of the Mayor of Tirana and SP leader Edi Rama, the CEC eventually ordered a recount of ballots and announced the narrow winning of the DP-led alliance. Since then, the opposition keeps on protesting. The Republic of Eagles still seeks its democratic breath.

A story created in May 2011.