On June 28th 2009, Albania held its parliamentary elections. These elections were supposed to mark a watershed moment in the country's democratic transition: a break with the tradition of manipulated and contested elections. Unfortunately the story was to repeat itself.
The Socialist led opposition complained about multiple irregularities in the electoral process and its claims were supported by the OSCE-ODHIR report that observed serious irregularities, the most disturbing of which concerned the fact that ballot counting in a full one third of the counting centers was bad or very bad. However, all the complaints of the opposition were dismissed by the relevant institutions, through decisions taken under extreme political pressure from the government.
Following the scandalous certification of the electoral results through a tainted legal process, the opposition declared that it recognized the results of the June 28th elections, but that nevertheless, it demanded full and thorough transparency of the process through a parliamentary inquiry; an inquiry which would include the opening of the ballot boxes and the examination of the electoral materials contained therein; an inquiry, which would not serve to change the results of the elections, but simply to save future elections from falling prey to the same machinations and manipulations.
However, although the demand of the opposition was constitutional, and although there existed a precedent for such an inquiry from the elections of 2005, the majority of Prime Minister Sali Berisha in an arrogant display of power and in violation of the Constitution continued to deny the opposition its right to transparency. The proposal for the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry was voted down by the majority. All other attempts to achieve transparency through dialogue and negotiations met the same fate and the government of Sali Berisha turned a blind eye to the massive demonstrations of the opposition which on April 30th gathered 200,000 thousand Albanians in the capital Tirana.Open the Boxes (Thanks, Philippe!)
Faced with the obstinate denial of its right to transparency, a right enshrined in Albania's constitution, the opposition decided to escalate its democratic action: since April 30th, 200 opposition MPs and ordinary citizens have been camped in Tirana's Martyrs of the Nation Boulevard, engaged in an open ended hunger strike in the name of free and fair elections.