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Albania's Ruling Democrats Claim Victory in Sunday's Elections

Albania's ruling Democratic Party has claimed victory in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

A party spokeswoman, Majlinda Bregu, says the Democrats will have 71 deputies in the 140-seat parliament. But a spokesman for the opposition Socialists, Dimiter Bushati, rejected the ruling party's claim and accused the Democrats of seeking to manipulate the election. Prime Minister Sali Berisha earlier called such Socialist charges "absurd."

With 98 percent of Sunday's vote tallied, the Democrats carried just more than 46 percent of the vote, to 45 percent for the Socialists. Authorities say the center-left Socialist Party for Integration won more than five percent.

Sunday's election was seen as a key test for Albania in its quest for European Union entry. The country joined NATO in April.

International monitors called the vote an improvement over the six other elections since the fall of communism in the early 1990s, but said Albania must do more to meet democratic standards.

The monitors say they observed violations Sunday including people casting ballots for family members and missing bottles of ink, which were supposed to be used to mark voters so they do not vote twice.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.