Albanian left-wing takes lead in polls

Albanian left-wing takes lead in local polls amid complaints of 'irregularities' by opposition

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama's Socialist-led coalition Alliance for a European Albania (ASHE) are ahead of their right-wing rival coalition People's Alliance for Work and Dignity (APPD), headed by Lulzim Basha, in most towns across the country in the mayoral elections.

In the capital Tirana, the ASHE coalition's candidate Erion Veliaj - the former Minister of Labour, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities - won 53.5 percent of the votes, while his APPD rival Halim Kosova won 39 percent. The results was shown after ballots were counted at two thirds of polling stations.

Albania’s opposition, however, condemned what it called voting "irregularities" in local elections as Albanians went to vote on Sunday.

"There have been irregularities, manipulations as well as pressure and threats against voters from the right," Edi Paloka, a member of the Assembly of the Republic of Albania for the main opposition Democratic Party (PD) said in a statement shortly after the polls closed, while also claiming a clear win for his party.

The main opposition Democratic Party is part of the APPD coalition, which includes a total of 15 political parties. Prime Minister Edi Rama, who is the head of the Socialist Party of Albania (SP), which is part of the ASHE coalition with the Socialist Movement for Integration party along with 38 other parties, said the elections were "the freest and the most honest" that had ever been held in the country.

The European Union, with almost 400 foreign and 5,000 local observers, watched and monitored the election.

After the elections, the International Election Observation Mission in a statement said the election day "proceeded peacefully throughout the country in general."

"While partisan observers were largely noted throughout all electoral stages, non-partisan observers were present to a much lesser extent. Although opening procedures were assessed negatively in 25 per cent of observations, mainly due to the late opening of voting centres, voting was assessed positively in 93 per cent of observations," the statement said. 

"However, many cases of group voting were observed, as well as proxy voting and seemingly identical signatures on voter lists. Concerns were noted about possible intimidation by groups of party activists in and around voting centres. The closing and initial stages of counting were assessed positively, although the counting process is still ongoing in all BCCs observed,” it added.

Around 6,000 police were also deployed to ensure security and supervise the transport of the ballot boxes.

Albania, a NATO member, is host to a fragile democracy, and the elections are seen as a test for the Balkan country as it pushes to join the European Union.

"More than the results, the real importance of these elections are the values of democracy which must triumph," said parliamentary speaker Ilir Meta, according to the AFP news agency.

Over 1 million of 3.3 million registered voters cast their ballots in 5,301 polling stations across the country.

Preliminary data from the Central Election Commission shows that only about 45 percent of 3.37 million registered Albanian voters actually voted, compared to a 53 percent turnout in 2013. This is the lowest turnout in 25 years.

TRTWorld and agencies