Albanian opposition slams PM, threatens poll delay

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama faces allegations by right-wing opposition that he has allowed the expansion of cannabis cultivation to raise money to manipulate voting

Albania's opposition stepped up pressure Monday on Prime Minister Edi Rama, calling for him to resign and agree to a transitional government to prepare free and fair elections.

The Democratic Party will not stand in legislative elections scheduled for June 18 in the impoverished Balkan country, its head Lulzim Basha said, calling for the polls to be delayed.

"We decided not to participate .. because there is not political agreement on creation of a transitional government," which was the only way to ensure fair polls, he said opposition parties met Rama.

The opposition has decided not to submit lists of candidates to the central electoral commission "until a political agreement is reached on free and fair elections prepared by a technical government," Basha said.

The deadline for submitting the lists expired on Monday.

The right-wing opposition scheduled a protest for May 7 in Kavaja, a small western Albanian city, where local elections would be held that day.

Since mid-February its supporters have been protesting and occupying a tent in front of the main government offices in the capital Tirana.

They demand the departure of Rama, whom they accuse of having allowed the expansion of cannabis cultivation to raise money to manipulate voting.

The Socialist prime minister has denied the allegations, refusing either to resign or delay of the polls.

Since the fall of communism in the early 1990s, the results of elections have often been contested by the losing side, including with street protests that sometimes turned violent.

A NATO member since 2009, Albania has become a candidate for EU membership and hopes to open negotiations by the end of the year.