News / Europe

Opposition Ahead in Tense Albania Election

Albanian election officials count votes in Tirana, June 24, 2013.Albanian election officials count votes in Tirana, June 24, 2013.
x
Albanian election officials count votes in Tirana, June 24, 2013.
Albanian election officials count votes in Tirana, June 24, 2013.
Reuters
Albania's opposition Socialist Party took the lead in early counting on Monday after a tense election watched closely by Western allies worried over democracy in the NATO country.

Both the Socialists and the ruling Democratic Party claimed victory within minutes of polls closing late on Sunday, raising the specter of a disputed result in the Adriatic nation.

The Central Election Commission was initially silent, and only a trickle of results had come in by Monday morning. But the trend pointed to victory for the Socialist-led coalition of Tirana's former mayor, Edi Rama.

With about 10 percent of the vote counted in most regions, Rama was ahead in the capital, Tirana, and the large regions of Fier, Berat, Elbasan, Korce, Vlore and Gjirokaster.

Victory for Rama would deny Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Albania's dominant figure since the fall of communist rule in 1991, an unprecedented third four-year term.

At 68, defeat could spell the end of his political career. He brought the country into NATO and onto the first rung of EU membership but is criticized by opponents for undermining democracy and allowing graft and organized crime to flourish.

Rama says he will reboot Albania's stalled bid to join the European Union and transplant his success in reviving the capital to the rest of the rundown country. He has talked of introducing a progressive tax rate and easing the burden on small businesses.

Sunday evening's claim and counter-claim raised fears of a disputed result in a country that has seen post-election confrontation before.

Since 1991, the impoverished country of 2.8 million people has never held an election deemed fully free and fair, and failure again would further set back its ambitions to join the European Union.

Concern was high after a political row left the Central Election Commission short-staffed and unable to certify the result.

Confrontation

A shooting during the election in the northwestern Lac region, in which an opposition activist was killed and a Democrat candidate wounded, deepened fears of unrest. The police said they had not yet arrested anyone.

“Will the world accept the election?” asked a newspaper seller in central Tirana who gave her name as Naze.

“A person killed on voting day is regrettable, but that is nothing compared to what some people feared,” she said.

Foreign election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) scheduled a news conference for 5 p.m. (1500 GMT).

“Important that all parties in Albania fully respect the result of their parliamentary election today,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said on Twitter.

Rama lost the last parliamentary election in 2009 and four people were shot dead by security forces when opposition protesters took to the streets.

“Our data says we won over the forces of destruction,” the towering former basketball player and artist told cheering supporters at his party headquarters.

Berisha has dominated Albanian political life since the collapse of its Stalinist rule triggered a breakneck and sometimes violent transition to capitalism.

The Socialists and Democrats differ little on Albania's goal of joining the European Union or its pro-Western policy. But their confrontational relationship does not sit easy with Brussels or Albania's NATO allies.

Albania applied to join the 27-nation EU four years ago but has not yet been made a candidate for membership due to concerns over the state of its democracy.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs