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Albanian government calls no-confidence vote in president

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania's governing Socialist Party called a no-confidence vote against President Ilir Meta, saying Monday it was unconstitutional for him to cancel upcoming municipal elections.

The vote will be held at Thursday's parliamentary session, Socialist spokeswoman Elisa Spiropali said. The Socialists need 94 votes to oust Meta which they don't have in the 140-seat parliament. Even if they get the numbers, the Constitutional Court makes the final decision. The court has been dysfunctional for about a year after most of its judges were fired.

Meta decided to cancel the June 30 municipal elections, saying they would be "undemocratic" and that he feared tensions would rise if they were held. "There is the danger Albania goes toward an unpredictable escalation of the social tension that may cause uncontrollable consequences," Meta said at a news conference.

The center-right Democratic Party-led opposition had said it would boycott the municipal elections and was threatening to prevent them from taking place. Since mid-February, the opposition has been holding protests accusing the government of links to organized crime and demanding a new general election. The opposition lawmakers also have relinquished their seats in Parliament where the Socialists have a comfortable majority.

Prime Minister Edi Rama denies the allegations, and insists the municipal elections will go ahead as scheduled to prevent political "blackmail" from being used to force the calling of early parliamentary elections.

Speaking after a meeting of the governing left-wing Socialist Party's leadership, Spiropali condemned the president's move. "Ilir Meta has lost his right to stand in that post," she said. Meta is a former Socialist leader who became president about two years ago with help from that party. He was leading a small party at the time called the Socialist Movement for Integration, which is now in opposition and led by his wife.

Follow Llazar Semini on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lsemini

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