Albania will hold parliamentary elections on July 3rd. Prime Minister Fatos Nano's governing Socialists are seeking a third consecutive term, and candidates from twenty political parties and two coalitions are running for one-hundred-forty seats in parliament. U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli commented on the upcoming vote:
"This is a very important event in the history of Albania and it's one that we are watching closely. It is an opportunity for the leadership of Albania, political leadership and civil society of Albania, to show the world, show their neighbors that they are meeting international standards and making progress towards joining the international community as a member of an integrated Euro-Atlantic community."
Past elections in Albania have been marred by irregularities and fraud. This time, however, Albania's government has taken steps to show that it is serious about holding free and fair elections. It has promised to press charges against twenty-seven local polling overseers who missed a deadline for providing information about voting stations. In addition, Mr. Ereli said, Albania's political parties have signed a code of conduct that obligates candidates to engage in a fair and non-defamatory campaign:
"This is an important step forward and an important milestone in their political development. We look to them to act according to that code of conduct."
There are still steps to be taken. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or O-S-C-E, has pointed out that despite the code of conduct, the campaign has become rancorous. Candidates have taken to accusing each other of misuse of government funds and vote buying. The O-S-C-E also warns that Albanian authorities have yet to address issues related to voter lists and transporting ballot boxes.
Albania still has time to address these issues and make these parliamentary elections a model of democratic progress. The world will be watching Albania's parliamentary elections closely. "We have been working for many years with Albanian civil society and with Albanians to help develop a healthy and strong democratic tradition," said Mr. Ereli. "And these elections will be a key indicator of progress they've made on that front and we will be looking forward to it."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.