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Carter Center Urges Albanian Parties to Cooperate on Elections

ATLANTA, GA...A Carter Center delegation that visited Albania last week has urged the major political parties and new parties to cooperate to resolve outstanding disputes about preparations for the June 2001 parliamentary elections.

The Center, a nongovernmental organization headed by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, advances peace and health worldwide. It has observed some 30 elections in 20 countries. The delegation, which was in Albania Jan. 30-Feb. 3, was headed by Ambassador Gordon Streeb, associate executive director for peace programs. The purpose of the visit was to review concerns that have been raised about the October 2000 local elections and to assess the status of preparations for the June 2001 parliamentary elections. The delegation did not review in detail previous analyses of the October 2000 elections, but sought to gain an understanding of how identified shortcomings were being addressed.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe, as well as domestic nongovernmental observers, such as the Society for Democratic Culture, observed the October 2000 elections and reported that the elections made progress toward meeting the standards for fully democratic elections, although they all noted procedural and technical deficiencies.

"We urge all parties to move ahead with planning and implementing electoral processes for the vote in June 2001 in a spirit of good will and mutual trust, putting national interests above partisan concerns," Streeb said. "The parliamentary elections can be used as an opportunity to initiate dialogue and end confrontation."

The delegation urged immediate steps be taken to resolve pending appeals regarding the local elections and encouraged the parties to cooperate to resolve procedural issues now in dispute. Those include: reconstitution of the Central Elections Commission (CEC), modification of the electoral code, specifications for the voter registry, strengthening complaint procedures, and redrawing parliamentary constituency boundaries.

"The Albanian people are weary of political confrontation, and the danger exists that many Albanians will become alienated from the political process if the situation is not reversed. This development would threaten the continued growth of democracy in the country and undermine efforts to transform Albania into a society in which the rule of law prevails" Streeb said. "A stable political environment is critical to the confidence that investors, financial institutions, and donor agencies require to contribute to the economic growth of Albania so critical to the basic needs of the Albanian people."

Streeb said The Carter Center strongly supports the Albanian democratization process and will continue to support all efforts to ensure that the results of the June elections accurately reflect the will of the Albanian people. He added that the Center applauds efforts by the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and governments lending their support to Albanian authorities and organizations working to strengthen the democratic process. "The Carter Center is prepared, if requested, to assist in resolving current and other election-related problems that may arise," he said.

During its stay in Albania, the delegation met with President Rexhep Meidani, Minister of State Ndre Legisi, Head of OSCE Presence Amb. Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, U.S. AmbassadorJoseph Limprecht and members of his staff, and a broad spectrum of political leaders and representatives of international organizations, NGOs, and the Albanian media.

The Carter Center is currently active in Albania through its Global Development Initiative (GDI). GDI is working together with the Government of Albania and civil society to produce the "Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy" for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund as the first step in creating a comprehensive National Development Strategy through a participatory process. The goal of GDI in Albania is to support the creation of an economic and social development strategy based on local participation and national consensus that will strengthen international development cooperation.

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