Albanian opposition seeks foreign help on elections

TIRANA, Jun 5, 2000 -- (Reuters) Albanian opposition lawmakers, saying they fear the ruling Socialists might manipulate the result of local polls, urged world leaders on Friday to use their influence to save the elections.

The vote, likely to be held in October, is the first political test for the Socialist Party since they threw out the Democratic Party of former President Sali Berisha in 1997. The snap elections were staged to put an end to widespread chaos.

Voting in the poor Balkan nation has never been free from controversy, but these local polls seem doomed from the start over an election law the opposition hotly contests.

Twenty-nine Memners of Parliament, mostly from the opposition Democrats, complained in an open letter that the election law had been passed without taking into consideration amendments presented by opposition groups.

"This law creates the premise for the manipulation of the elections," they wrote in the letter, which was also signed by the leaders of the opposition parliamentary parties.

"We ask your help to solve this vital that the election process be credible to all and equally controlled by all the parties taking part in it," the letter added.

The letter was addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the Foreign Minister of Portugal, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, and Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

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