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Low Turnout as Albanians Head to the Polls

  • VOA News

An Albanian man casts his ballot at a polling station in Tirana, June 25, 2017.

Albanians voted in parliamentary elections Sunday as the country looks to bolster its democratic credentials ahead of potential European Union membership talks.

After polls closed, officials said preliminary turnout was just over 45 percent based on data from more than half of the polling stations, compared to 53.5 percent four years ago.

Preliminary election results are not expected until Monday.

The ruling Socialists and the rival Democrats are the leading parties looking to gain an outright majority in the parliament of the NATO-member country of 2.9 million people.

The country gained EU candidate status in 2014, but movement has been slowed by its perceived lack of reforms, including those involved with the election process.

Eighteen political parties are running for 140 seats in parliament in Sunday's vote. The main contenders are Prime Minister Edi Rama's Socialist Party and the opposition Democratic Party led by Lulzim Basha.

Opinion polls showed the Socialists slightly ahead of the center-right Democratic Party.

All main parties campaigned on a reform agenda, pledging faster economic growth, pay increases and lower unemployment, which stands at about 14 percent.

Some 6,000 police officers were on duty for election security, while more 300 international observers came to monitor the vote.

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