Albania PM Denies Using Govt Funds to Blackmail Voters

Albania's Socialist Prime Minister, Edi Rama, has rejected opposition claims of blackmailing voters over access to government funds.

On Wednesday he said his threats to block funds to municipalities run by opposition mayors were a consequence of opposition leader Sali Berisha's designation by the US State Department as "being involved in significant corruption".

Most of the state budget is controlled by the central government in Tirana, and taxes directly collected by local government do not provide enough funds to keep local services running.

As such, municipalities that enjoy the support of the central government usually get more investment than those controlled by the opposition.

Rama issued the threat while inspecting a park and a bridge in the Municipality of Kamza, home to some 100,000 voters on the outskirts of Tirana, where the opposition has very strong support.

Its control is important for coming parliamentarian elections, as it makes up part of the wider Tirana's County, which elects one-third of all MPs.

"We will never be pushed to collaborate with individuals designated 'non grata,"" Rama added, referring to the US decision to designate former Albanian President and former Prime Minister Berisha, who now leads the main opposition party Bashke Fitojme" (Together We Win"), along with former PM and President Ilir Meta.

Berisha responded by accusing Rama of using state funds as if they belong to him personally and not to the taxpayers.

"If you use government funds, that makes the competition unfair," Berisha said. "The threat that, if you do not vote for him there will be no funds, shows that he considers the funds as if they were inherited from his father and not as they are, taxes paid by citizens,...

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