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

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora