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Albania: Shooting Erupts In Capital

Tirana, 3 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Gunfire erupted today in the center of Tirana following a rally by supporters of the pretender to the Albanian throne, Leka. There are no confirmed reports of injuries. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is responsible for the recent elections in Albania, says it is concerned about political pressure on Albanian election officials.

It was not immediately clear who was involved in the shooting. First reports say several loud explosions were also heard.

About 500 supporters of Leka had taken part in a march from downtown Skanderbeg Square to the headquarters of the Central Electoral Commission. Leka has charged fraud in a Sunday referendum, early results of which apparently showed Albanians rejected a restoration of the monarchy.

In another development, international observers warned today that counting problems from the first round of parliamentary elections last Sunday are threatening to delay a second round due in three days.

And representatives on Albania's electoral commission from the opposition Socialist Party and the Democratic Party of President Sali Berisha are trading accusations of irregularities and obstruction of the commission's work.

Incomplete results indicate the Socialists won the first round, but final official results have not yet been released.

The OSCE's special representative for Albania, Franz Vraitzky, said in Vienna today that some Albanian members of the Central Election Commission (CEC) are no longer participating in the process of authorizing election results because of political pressure.

OSCE officials said that as the election results come in, officials of the CEC are required to sign a protocol declaring they are the official results. These are needed for drawing up the candidate lists for the second round. OSCE officials said there are widespread reports in Albania that some members of the CEC have been told that their wives and children might be harmed if they sign the protocol.

A statement issued by Vranitzky in Vienna today says that if the absent members of the Central Election Commission do not return immediately, they should be replaced in order to proceed with the election, which he says the Albanian people so clearly desire.

Vranitzky also disclosed that the Central Election Commission is still waiting for the first-round election results from 20 districts. He said this was apparently also due to political interference. His statement gave no details of the political interference.

Vranitzky added that all Albanian forces have consistently called for the second round of elections to be held one week after the first. He said the international community has helped make this possible. He said the OSCE strongly calls on the Albanian leadership and political parties to live up to their agreements and to work co-operatively in re-establishing stability and full democracy.

Earlier Vranitzky said the OSCE, together with the Italian government, had undertaken to print the ballots for Sunday's second round of voting.