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Albania: Berisha Confirms Elections For June 29

Kavaja, Albania; 14 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - Albanian President Sali Berisha announced today that legislative elections will be held on June 29, despite threats by most other political parties to boycott the poll.

Berisha told a crowd of several hundred in Kavaja, some 50 kilometers southwest of Tirana, that he would decree the election day and dissolve parliament this afternoon. In Berisha's words, "We will elect a more powerful and wiser parliament."

Berisha's announcement comes just hours after his ruling party pushed a new electoral law through parliament. That law has already drawn condemnation and concern from the United States, Albania's opposition Socialists, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Opposition parties today reaffirmed their threat to boycott the vote if Berisha signs the controversial election law. After a meeting of eight opposition parties, Skender Gjinushi of the opposition Social Democrats said that if Berisha goes ahead with the law "there will be only one constituency in Albania, and only one victor".

A short while ago, an OSCE spokeswoman announced that special envoy Franz Vranitzky will return to Albania tomorrow in a bid to mediate the differences between Berisha's Democratic party and the main opposition Socialists The opposition, which abstained from voting yesterday, says the new law stacks the odds in the ruling party's favor as it is not based on proportional representation. Berisha earlier hailed the law as a good one, saying it conformed to European democratic norms.