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 Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid