IRI Helps Albania’s Disabled Take a More Active Role in the Political Process of Their Country

The International Republican Institute (IRI) launched a project last year to engage Albanians with disabilities in the political and electoral life of the country.  Beginning in October 2006, IRI began working with the Albanian Disability Rights Foundation (ADRF), Help the Life and the Organization for the Defense of the Rights of People with Disabilities (also known as MEDPAK) to increase the participation of the disabled in preparation of local elections, now scheduled for February 18, 2007.   

ADRF, Help the Life and MEDPAK joined with eight smaller disabled groups to draft the National Platform for the Disabled that declares issues Albania’s disabled want their elected officials and political parties to address.  The platform was released on November 30, and requests legislation that stops discrimination on the basis of disability in education, employment, transportation, housing, health care, social security and social services.

In December, the coalition held a conference for officials from the main political parties, parliamentarians and representatives from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to discuss and promote the new platform and the coalition.  During the conference, Mrs. Bardhylka Kospiri, Chairman of ADRF and a vocal advocate for the disabled, read the platform in the name of all Albania’s disabled.  She thanked IRI for its support and collaboration and invited political parties to consider their pledge in support of the platform, “…Our votes – the votes of the disabled people and their family members – will be cast for the candidates of those political parties that make this platform part of their electoral program.”

The coalition is now focused on lobbying candidate to support the platform through media interviews, television ads and electoral forums.  Their efforts are focused in three cities – Tirana, the capital, Shkodra and Librazhd.  In addition, IRI is training members of the coalition on how to continue their campaign throughout the election season and how to ensure their needs are met at polling stations throughout Albania.

The coalition has officials of major political parties and members of parliament including parliamentarian Albert Çaçi with the Socialist Party and member of the Parliamentary Committee on Health and Social Services; Vice President of the Demochristian Party Anila Joaridha and Secretary General of the Demochristian Party Edmond Stojku; Deputy Chairman of the Socialist Movement for Integration Filloreta Kodra; and Lajla Pernaska a parliamentarian with the Republican Party. 

As a result of the meetings, the coalition has received the pledge of representatives from the Socialist Party, Republican Party, Democratic Party, Demochristian Party and the Party of Socialist Movement for Integration that they will support the platform and an invitation to participate in campaign forums and discuss disability issues in public debates. 

On Election Day, the coalition and IRI will monitor the polls to assess the difficulties that the disabled have in exercising their right to vote.  Following the elections, the coalition will issue a report on their findings.

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