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Albanians Run in Greek Elections as Greek Mayor Remains Behind Bars in Albania

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Seven Albanian candidates have announced their run for mayoral positions in Greek elections as the situation with the ethnic-Greek winner of the local elections in Himare, Albania, who remains behind bars due to allegations of vote-buying, remains unresolved.

Seven of them are seeking the seat of the deputy, but chances of them getting it are believed to be slim.

Two of the candidates, Fatos Malaj and Niko Bilika, are running for the PASOK party, one in Athens and the other in Thessaloniki. While three other candidates, Adiljan Koxhaj, Makrina Koci and Angjelos Jahollari, compete with the “Syriza” Party in Thessaloniki and Evia. Sidorela Kalthi is running for the Greek Communist Party in Crete and Paty Vardhami is running in Athens with the “MERA 25” initiative.

There are more than 80,000 Albanians in Greece to have the right to vote, with 9000 in Athens alone. There are a total of 285,842 Albanians with residence permits also living in the country, accounting for over 60% of all foreign residents.

Malaj, told Albanian media that Albanian immigrants are fully integrated into society and should have involvement in political decision-making.

“Majority of the population had a positive reaction towards the candidacy of Albanians in the Greek elections. Right now, Albanian immigrants are integrated into society and are not discriminated like before,” he said.

“Now it’s time for Albanian immigrants, after so many years in Greece, especially the second generation that were born here and will be the future, to make decisions in politics and other relevant fields of the Greek society,” he added.

Meanwhile, Fredi Beleri, an ethnic-Greek mayoral candidate for the Hiamare region, home to a Greek-identifying community, was arrested on suspicion of vote-buying two days before the 14 May local elections.

According to evidence leaked to Albanian media, wiretapping revealed Beleri and his plan for buying local election votes. It is alleged a person provided him with a list of names of people who would vote for him if he gave them 5000 Lek (€45). He allegedly then promised to give the person passing him the list of names around €300.

The file states that the money was not handed over by Beleri but by a third person who met the intermediary in a bar in Himara, exchanging the money in the toilets.

Beleri denies the charges, and his imprisonment led to a diplomatic spat between Athens and Tirana, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias threatening to block Albania’s EU accession if the situation is not resolved.

Dendias stated that on Monday that he will go to Brussels to participate in the EU Foreign Affairs Council, where he will raise the issue of the arrest of the mayor of Himara.

“Since the matter is extremely serious, I will be in Brussels on Monday morning. There we have a lunch with the foreign ministers of the Western Balkans. The issue should be raised in the Council of Ministers,” Dendias said last week.

Beleri’s lawyer Genc Gjokutaj over the weekend published documents that purportedly show the individual who “trapped” Beleri has a previous conviction for fraud and was used by the police to set up the candidate.

“This is terrible! Arrest the opposition candidate two days before the elections, with one convicted of fraud. I give you the court’s decision that he is convicted of fraud”, said Gjokutaj.

Aside from the individual’s conviction, Gjokutaj did not provide further evidence to support his statement.

Source : Euractiv

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