Cameramen cover a protest in front of Albania's Central Election Commission in Tirana, May 21 2011. The opposition said its victory in the Tirana mayor's race has been overturned by the counting of so-called stray and misplaced ballots while the CEC says it is living up to its duty to count every vote.
Socialist Party supporters shout slogans as police stand guard during a protest in front of Albania's Central Election Commission in Tirana, May 21 2011.
Opposition Socialist Party lawmaker Namik Dokle, centre, shouts slogans in front of police during a protest at Albania's Central Election Commission (CEC) in Tirana, May 20 2011. The opposition said its victory in the Tirana mayor's race has been overturned on the CEC table by the counting of so-called stray and misplaced ballots. The CEC says it is living up to its duty to count every vote.
Protests by supporters of socialist leader Edi Rama in Tirana on May 21 2011 were among the latest episodes in the drama around the disputed mayoral election in the Albanian capital.
Provisional results of the May 8 mayoral election produced a 10-vote victory for Rama, but the central election commission embarked on a recount that reportedly produced a victory for Lulezim Basha, the candidate backed by Albania’s governing Democratic Party.
Political tensions in Albania have been running high since the disputed 2009 elections.
In the run-up to the May 8 2011 elections, there were violent incidents and media reports alleging electoral abuses including manipulation of voters’ rolls.
In a joint statement on May 20, the foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Greece and Slovenia expressed concern about developments after the election and said that the polarised situation and the lack of trust between the ruling party and the opposition showed the need to overcome differences in the name of dialogue and understanding.
A stable and democratic Albania was crucial to stability and development of the Western Balkans and upholding democratic standards was crucial to Albania’s EU prospects, the joint statement said.
On May 20, the European Commission called on Albania's electoral commission to announce the results of May 8 local elections without delay.
Albanian opposition demonstrators clashed with police outside the election commission building on May 19 where the recount was being conducted, the Voice of America reported.
The protestors attempted to push past a police cordon outside the building.
Protests also erupted in three other towns, including Kavaja, where roads were blocked and people burned tyres, CNN said.
The political tensions prompted European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to cancel his visit to Albania scheduled for May 20.
European Commission spokesperson Natasha Butler denied the cancellation indicated a disengagement from Albania, VOA said.
Butler said that the European Commission was closely monitoring the situation.
On May 19, US assistant secretary of state in the bureau for European and Eurasian affairs Philip Gordon called on Albanian politicians to "focus on constructive engagement actions befitting a future member of the European Union and not on negative rhetoric or actions, which serve only to denigrate the process".
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on May 19 for a peaceful resolution.
"The narrow result in the mayoral elections in Tirana means that both sides need to reach out, overcome differences and find solutions," Ashton said.
"Developments today have shown the fragility of the political situation," Ashton said. "I urge all political leaders in Albania and in the city of Tirana to support the finalisation of the election process calmly, constructively and with a focus on the future."