Albanian socialists win elections and win third consecutive term
TIRANA, Albania (AP) – The Albanian Left Socialist Party won its third consecutive term in a parliamentary election, winning nearly one in two votes and enough seats in parliament to govern alone, election officials said on Tuesday .
The Central Election Commission said that with 98 percent of Sunday’s ballots counted, Prime Minister Edi Rama’s socialists won 49 percent of the vote and 74 of parliament’s 140 seats. That’s as many seats they won in the previous elections.
The main center-right Democratic opposition party won 39% of the vote and 59 seats.
Thousands of socialist supporters gathered in Tirana’s main Skanderbeg square to celebrate the victory, defying restrictions linked to the pandemic.
Rama addressed the crowd waving flags.
“My dream… is to make Albania during this decade… the champion of the Balkans, of tourism and agrotourism, of energy and agriculture and of fast, qualitative and incorruptible digital services”, did he declare.
Much of the speech was directed against opposition Democrats, whom he urged to join the “national mega project”.
Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha admitted defeat in a speech at his party headquarters, but also pledged to continue the fight “for democracy”, accusing the socialists of manipulating the electoral process.
“I thought that because of the wonderful power of our people, we would win and bring democracy back to Albania. It was not enough this time, ”he said.
The Central Election Commission said the final results would be officially announced later on Tuesday. The count will then continue for the candidates – this was the first time that Albanian voters selected individual candidates in addition to political parties. It may take a week to complete.
The preliminary turnout on Sunday was nearly 48%, slightly higher than four years ago.
Voting went relatively smoothly, although there were some logistical issues and allegations of photographing the ballots. The main problem was the electronic identification of voters, which was applied for the first time in the country. It did not work in 167 of the country’s 5,199 polling stations.
International observers praised the electronic voting technology, but also raised allegations of vote buying and the death of a political supporter in a shootout ahead of the elections.
The European Union urged Albanian political parties to ensure a democratic counting process.
“We expect the new Albanian parliament and government to pursue with determination the country’s reform program, in particular with regard to the rule of law,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and European enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi in a press release.
Rama said he received congratulatory phone calls from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio and neighboring North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
The new parliament will meet in September to elect Rama’s new cabinet. Until then, his former cabinet ministers will keep their portfolios.
Albania, a NATO member since 2009, hopes to launch full membership negotiations with the 27 EU members later this year.
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