Thursday, June 30, 2005

Ex-legislator to observe critical Albanian election

By Courtney Kinney
Post staff reporter

Former state Sen. Joe Meyer is on his way to Albania to observe that country's elections, the second time in a year he has monitored elections in a fledgling democracy.

Meyer, an attorney from Covington, is one of 400 observers who will monitor the set-up of polling places, casting of ballots, counting of ballots and tabulation of results for the parliamentary election Sunday. The observers, who come from a variety of nations, work with the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, part of the international Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Meyer is one of 45 Americans in the group.

Meyer in October observed municipal elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a Balkan state that was part of the former Yugoslavia until 1991. It was the country's first election under a new regime following years of civil war.

He left Tuesday for Albania and will return next Tuesday.

Meyer, who currently works as an adviser in the Kentucky Auditor's Office, said it is an honor to be a part of helping a new democracy.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to help the spread of democracy to countries that have not participated in it very much," said Meyer, a Democrat who served in the state Senate from 1989 to 1996 and in the state House from 1982 to 1988.

Meyer applied for the position, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, in January of 2004 and was selected for the Bosnian election last fall.

"It's a tremendous educational opportunity. Plus, you get to go places you'd never otherwise go," he said.

Sunday's election is considered a milestone for Albania, a European country adjacent to Greece that broke with communism in the early 1990s. Elections since then have been fraught with irregularities and fraud, but officials have promised to be more vigilant this year. The country wants to join

NATO and the European Union, and free and fair elections are a requirement to join both.

Meyer and the other observers will be briefed on specific problems to watch for, then dispatched in pairs to polling stations across the country, which is roughly the size of Maryland.

The country was largely isolated from the rest of Europe and the world until the fall of communism in 1992, and still only has one international airport, no international railways and only 120,000 phone lines for its more than 3.5 million residents, Meyer said.

"Albania is a fascinating country about which I - and we as Americans - know very little," he said.

No comments: