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Albania president calls for dialogue to end political crisis

Associated Press logo Associated Press 2/05/2017 By LLAZAR SEMINI, Associated Press

TIRANA, Albania — Albania's president on Tuesday urged political party leaders to negotiate a compromise for ending the opposition's boycott of parliament and of next month's parliamentary elections.

President Bujar Nishani aimed his message at Prime Minister Edi Rama of the governing Socialist Party and Lulzim Basha of the main opposition Democratic Party, calling on them to resolve the political crisis.

Both Rama and Basha responded positively to the president's call for a meeting between the two sides, though it was not clear whether and when they might meet. Nishani's term as president ends in July.

The opposition has boycotted parliament since February, demanding Rama's resignation before the June 18 elections. His opponents say they fear his Cabinet will manipulate the vote.

The opposition also has threatened to disrupt voting with "civil disobedience," starting with the local election taking place Sunday in the western town of Kavaja. Democrats plan to stage a demonstration in Kavaja, 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of the capital, Tirana.

After the opposition coalition did not register its candidates for the parliamentary polls by the Saturday midnight deadline, election authorities extended the registration period until Wednesday in an attempt to get participation from the opposition.

After a meeting of the Democratic Party's leadership Tuesday evening, Basha repeated that Rama's resignation and a caretaker government remained the party's basic demands for agreeing to engage in dialogue.

"His resignation to open the way to a technical (caretaker) government with a popular mandate is enough as a guarantee," said Basha.

Albania is a candidate to join the European Union. Members of the EU parliament haven't been able to persuade the opposition to change its stance.

In a video conference call Tuesday night, Joseph Daul, president of the center-right European People's Party, and European Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn could not convince the Democrats their boycott should be stopped. "Any boycotts of elections or of the Parliament are by no means in line with the standards of the European Union or of the EPP," they said.

"The registration and the participation in the upcoming elections of all parties is indispensable," an EPP statement said.

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