bne IntelliNews – Exit poll shows very close race in Albanian general election
An exit poll released shortly after the polls ended in Albania on April 25 indicates an extremely close race between the ruling Socialists and the Alliance for Change formed by the country’s two main opposition parties.
The Euronews exit poll in collaboration with MRB places the socialists of Prime Minister Edi Rama at 43.3-47.5% of the vote, the Democratic Party not far away with 40-44% and its ally the Socialist Movement for integration (LSI) on 6-. 9%.
At this point, either side could come out on top: the Socialists should occupy between 68 and 72 seats in Parliament, the Democrats 60-64 and the LSI six or eight. There are 140 seats in parliament, which means each side would need 71 MPs to form a majority.
Albanian State Election Commissioner Ilirjan Celibashi stressed that it was too early to say who won the elections. A result is expected within 48 hours.
Celibashi wrote on Facebook that he “calls on the electoral entities to calmly go through the following process because no one knows who won this election.” We have to wait for the counting of the ballots to find out who is the winner of the # April 2021 election.
“Any statement without initiating the counting process would not serve the necessary calm that should accompany the counting process,” Celibashi added.
Despite this call, representatives of the two main parties have already claimed victory.
Democratic Party leader Basha said shortly after the election closed that the election was a “clear victory” for the opposition.
“Thank you to all Albanian citizens for choosing change. This is a clear victory for the Albanian people, a clear victory for the Alliance for Change. The will of the people is at the ballot box and I have full confidence that the counting teams and the commissioners will complete the process with responsibility, patience and in accordance with the law, ”Basha said in a statement released by the Albanian media.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj, a leading member of the Socialist Party, told a press conference that his party’s projections indicate he will remain in power with at least 72 seats in parliament.
“It has been a long but beautiful day and I expect to end it that way. The first piece of good news we got is that the exit polls show us the winners. The second good news is that our national projections estimate more than 72 mandates. We will have to wait patiently for the end of the counting process, ”Veliaj said, Euronews.al reported.
Rama took a more measured tone, urging the Albanians to stay home and wait for the outcome. “Now is the time for the citizens to follow the continuation of this process from home,” the prime minister said, as reported by Albanian media.
“Albania must emerge victorious from this [election] process and not just the party that will continue to govern the country, ”he added.
Despite expectations of a very close race and the intense rivalry between the main parties heading into the elections, the turnout was around 48%, barely higher than in the last election four years ago, according to preliminary data.
Several incidents were reported on election day. A man attacked a policeman with a knife at a polling station in the town of Puke. Another man arrived at a polling station in Fier with a Molotov cocktail and threatened to burn the ballot boxes, but was abducted by police. There have also been several reports of scuffles between supporters of different political parties and attempts to photograph ballots, which are prohibited in Albania. In Durres, two people were arrested with envelopes of cash on suspicion of trying to buy votes, according to a police statement.
A car passed through the barriers and headed towards people gathered in Skenderbeg Square in central Tirana, but was stopped by a member of the crowd. However, according to Albanian media, the driver was drugged and the incident was not politically motivated.
Election day events followed two shootings against party activists the week before the poll. On April 19, Bledar Okshtuni, 27, was shot in the leg with a pistol at the offices of the opposition Democratic Party in the town of Kavaja. Two days later, Socialist Party activist Pjerin Xhuvani was killed and four people were injured in a shootout in the Albanian town of Elbasan. The assailant was a bodyguard of opposition Democratic Party politician Gazment Bardhi, who told a press conference that the confrontation erupted over money allegedly distributed to voters from a car belonging to a socialist partisan.
The shootings came at the end of a moody campaign period that saw several other physical clashes between rival supporters of the main parties. The rhetoric used by politicians was also concerning as tensions mounted as the vote approached.
After eight years in power, much of Rama’s campaign has focused on bringing investment into Albania and in particular investing in large infrastructure projects such as new ports and airports – he is considering to increase the number of international airports in the country from two at present to four or five. . The prime minister also sought to capitalize on his handling of the pandemic and the November 2019 earthquake. However, critics have warned that these large-scale projects will do little to address the concerns of ordinary Albanians, who focus on the lack of jobs and massive emigration, especially of young people.
Basha, on the other hand, offers a fresh start to disillusioned voters after eight years of the Socialist Party. As it prepares to return to parliament, the Democratic Party has worked to show voters that it is ready to govern responsibly and guide Albania towards EU membership. While all major parties want to bring Albania into the EU, Basha has spoken out particularly on this issue and pledged to launch accession negotiations within 100 days if he becomes prime minister. He also repeatedly accused the Socialist government of corruption and claimed it was controlled by oligarchs.
As the results were counted, international observers appealed for calm.
“Albanian voters have come in droves to express their will. Election authorities and law enforcement authorities have a duty to ensure the integrity of the vote. Candidates and leaders also have their duty: not to presume the results but to accept the judgment of the voters when the count is finalized, ”said US Ambassador Yuri Kim.
After the vote, “all parties should patiently wait for the results and respect the outcome of the elections in @KQZShqiperi [the Albanian Central Election Commission]Luigi Soreca, EU Ambassador to Albania, wrote on Twitter.