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Albania cancels local vote, fearing political confrontation

Associated Press logo Associated Press 5/05/2017 By LLAZAR SEMINI, Associated Press

TIRANA, Albania — Albania's ruling Socialist Party on Friday cancelled a mayoral vote in a western town, apparently fearing a confrontation with opposition supporters who were planning a protest there on the same day.

The opposition Democratic Party has threatened "civil disobedience," starting with the mayoral vote Sunday in Kavaja, 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of the capital, Tirana.

Prime Minister Edi Rama on Friday said the Socialists withdrew their candidate in Kavaja, which was followed by the withdrawal of Astrit Haka, an independent candidate, thus making it impossible to hold the vote.

Rama accused the opposition of planning dangerous actions that would destabilize the country. He urged the opposition to instead accept the ruling party's offer to help monitor the nationwide parliamentary vote on June 18.

The U.S. and British embassies hailed Rama's decision, urging "all sides to show restraint."

Opposition supporters in Tirana and Kavaja celebrated after Rama's announcement and said no protest will be held Sunday in Kavaja.

Rama, leader of the Socialist Party, and Democratic leader Lulzim Basha, have failed to reach a compromise on elections after two meetings this week.

Delighted with the cancelled vote, Basha repeated that a caretaker government should take the country into the June 18 election.

"The only solution to join the majority of Albanians who want free and fair elections, getting rid of crime and drugs is a technical (caretaker) government," he told supporters in Tirana.

Basha announced a new rally in Tirana next week that would be followed with protests "in every city and street."

The opposition has boycotted parliament since February, demanding that Rama resign before the election because of fears that his Cabinet will manipulate the vote.

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