Albania president rejects ruling to hold municipal elections

AP

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  • FILE - In this June 10, 2019 file photo, Albanian President Ilir Meta speaks during a news conference in Tirana, Albania. Meta condemned a decision by electoral authorities in favor of holding municipal elections this weekend, saying on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, that the ruling Socialists should hold talks and not carry out an “imaginary” voting process. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina, File)

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    Antigovernment protesters take part in a rally in Tirana, Friday, June 21, 2019. The opposition is boycotting the local elections planned for June 30 and has threatened to disrupt them.(AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

  • FILE - In this June 10, 2019 file photo, Albanian President Ilir Meta speaks during a news conference in Tirana, Albania. Meta condemned a decision by electoral authorities in favor of holding municipal elections this weekend, saying on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, that the ruling Socialists should hold talks and not carry out an “imaginary” voting process. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina, File)

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    Antigovernment protesters take part in a rally in Tirana, Friday, June 21, 2019. The opposition is boycotting the local elections planned for June 30 and has threatened to disrupt them.(AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania's president on Tuesday condemned a decision by electoral authorities in favor of holding municipal elections this weekend, calling on the ruling Socialists to hold talks and not carry out an "imaginary" voting process.

President Ilir Meta said that full membership negotiations with the European Union wouldn't open if Albania held Sunday's elections without the opposition, which is boycotting them.

The Electoral College ruled unanimously Monday that a small political party must take part in Sunday's vote, a move against Meta's decision earlier this month to cancel the elections. Meta said he feared the balloting would be "undemocratic" without the participation of center-right opposition parties.

Meta said the Electoral College was influenced by "political pressure and blackmail."

"Yesterday, the Electoral College considered the request of a political party against a decision of the Central Election Commission which didn't allow it to deregister from the now imaginary election of June 30," he said Tuesday.

"Only the Constitutional Court may judge the validity of a decree from the president of the republic," Meta said.

The court has been dysfunctional for about a year after most of its judges were fired.

The Democratic Party-led opposition also doesn't recognize the ruling by election authorities.

"There will be no election without the opposition. They won't be allowed, they won't be accepted, they won't be recognized," Basha told journalists Tuesday.

The opposition leader said that the non-profit Civic Alliances for Democracy Protection, which has branches across the country, "are ready" to oppose the elections from being held.

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

"Albanians have united like never before to defend democracy and not allow an electoral farce and the constitutional crime of the autocratic-criminal regime," Democratic leader Lulzim Basha said late Monday.

Left-wing Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama insists the elections will go ahead as scheduled. Rama also said the opposition's main goal is to disrupt the country's efforts to launch EU membership negotiations.

The opposition has been holding protests since mid-February, accusing the government of links to organized crime and vote rigging. The government rejects the accusations.

Basha said the only solution is for Rama to resign and for those convicted of vote-rigging to be sentenced.

Last week, the EU postponed the start of membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia despite warnings a delay could undermine reform efforts and stability in the Balkans region.

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Follow Llazar Semini on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lsemini

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