Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama's Socialist-led coalition Alliance for a European Albania (ASE) has won 44 out of 61 municipalities in the country’s mayoral elections, defeating the main opposition coalition People's Alliance for Work and Dignity (APPD), which won 14 municipalities.
Ethnic Greek minority representative Leonidha Hristo from Kicho Kichu’s Greek Minority for Future party, otherwise called “Mega,” meanwhile won the race for the municipality of Finiqi, Vlore County.
With 99 percent of votes having been counted, the results for the Shkoder and the Great Malesi municipalities are yet to be released, but it is highly expected the municipalities will produce one mayor for ASE and one for APPD. In such an outcome, ASE will have 45 municipalities, while APPD will have 15.
"These elections confirmed huge support to the ruling coalition and provide an impetus to continue reforms already launched," Prime Minister Rama said on Tuesday after his overwhelming victory as head of the left-wing alliance.
Prime Minister Rama also posted a message on his personal Facebook account, thanking to his supporters, while saying that he considered the local elections as the best in the country’s history.
He also listed the problems of the past elections, which, according to him, were not experienced this time.
“For the first time, no school was closed to take students and teachers in a Prime Minister’s or Parliament Speaker’s meeting. For the first time, there was no pressure to the public administration employees. For the first time, the army was not used to pave provisory roads a few days before the elections. No prisons were open for notorious criminals, as in 2013," Rama declared, claiming that the elections were the freest and most honest that had ever been held in the country.
Erion Veliaj, the 35-year-old former Minister of Labour, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities, won the local elections in the capital Tirana against his rival Halim Kosova, who was backed by Lulzim Basha from the Democratic Party.
"Instead of celebrating, let's pull up our sleeves and take the city in the right direction," Veliaj told supporters.
Albania, a NATO member, is host to a fragile democracy, and the elections were seen as a test for the Balkan country as it pushes to join the European Union.
The European Union contributed almost 400 foreign and 5,000 local observers for the Sunday’s elections.
"We want to congratulate the Albanian citizens for the participation and the determination to exert their democratic right to vote. The elections were observed by the OSCE/ODIHR [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights], who published their observations that bring to light a number of challenges,” Maya Kocijancic, the spokesperson of the Highest Representative said.
“We encourage and appeal the competent authorities of Albania to keep treating the issues raised by the international observers, and guarantee that the ODIHR Observing Mission recommendations will be followed in order to improve where necessary."