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Albania PM set for third term: early results

TIRANA: Albania’s prime minister looked set for a third term in power on Monday, as preliminary election results gave his Socialist party a commanding lead.

Edi Rama, in power since 2013, has not yet claimed victory following Sunday’s poll, which was closely watched in European capitals as Albania pushes to open talks on EU membership.

But the election commission said on Monday morning that the Socialists had captured roughly 50 percent of the vote, after ballots were counted from almost one-third of polling stations.

An alliance of opposition parties under the Democrat Party — whose leader Lulzim Basha claimed victory on Sunday — were on 39 percent and another party opposed to Rama was polling at 7 percent.

The campaign was marked by personal insults between candidates and further deteriorated in the final week when a gunfight between rival supporters left one person dead.

Despite the febrile atmosphere, voting day itself passed off peacefully, with US and EU ambassadors urging all sides to stay calm and wait for the official result.

The early results showed a “clear trend” in favour of the Socialists, who are heading for a bigger victory than in the 2017 election, political analyst Skender Minxhozi told AFP.

But he warned that the early data needed to be treated with caution, with final results expected by Tuesday.

Rama’s Socialists won an overall majority in parliament in 2017, allowing them to govern alone after four years in coalition.

Rama posted a photo of the sunrise on Facebook at dawn with the words: “What a dawn in Tirana!”

During his time in office, he has focused on ambitious infrastructure projects and during the election campaign made much of a promise to vaccinate 500,000 people against coronavirus by the end of May.

But Albania remains one of Europe’s poorest countries and NGOs regard it as one of the continent’s most corrupt.

The European Union agreed to open formal membership talks last year in a country overwhelmingly in favour of joining, but no date has yet been set for the first meeting.

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