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Observers report some flaws in Albania vote

 Supporters of the Democratic Party celebrate in Tirana on Sunday, June 28, 2009. Early exit polls are indicating that Albanian Prime Minister Sali Be...
 Supporters of the Democratic Party celebrate in Tirana, Albania, Sunday, June 28, 2009. Early exit polls are indicating that Prime Minister Sali Beri...

Albania Elections

Supporters of the Democratic Party celebrate in Tirana on Sunday, June 28, 2009. Early exit polls are indicating that Albanian Prime Minister Sali Be...

Albania Elections

Supporters of the Democratic Party celebrate in Tirana, Albania, Sunday, June 28, 2009. Early exit polls are indicating that Prime Minister Sali Beri...

Albania's governing party was in a close race with the Socialist opposition on Monday as the votes were counted in the country's parliamentary election.
The ballot is seen as a crucial test of the Balkan country's hopes of EU membership, and a preliminary report by international election observers found signs of both improvement and violations.
Exit polls from Sunday's vote indicated that Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha's Democratic Party had won another term in office. But official results from less than half the ballot boxes counted by 6:40 p.m. (1640 GMT) Monday indicated that the Democrats were neck-and-neck with the opposition Socialist Party, led by Tirana Mayor Edi Rama.
The first nationwide results were expected to be announced Tuesday.
Central Election Commission spokesman Leonard Olli said the voting and counting process had been "free of incidents."
But monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe noted that, despite improvements from previous elections, violations had persisted.
An OSCE statement said observers "noted procedural violations related in particular to inking procedures and widespread family voting."
"The country has matured, it has made progress, and many of the fears we had only some months ago have not materialized," said Wolfgang Grossruck, a top official among the 500 international election observers. "I'm certainly happy about the progress we saw, but there is also a considerable number of issues that need to be tackled, in particular the polarized political climate."
U.S. Ambassador John Withers said he agreed with the monitors' findings.
"I ... urge the Albanian authorities to build on (Sunday's) success to meet higher, more demanding international standards on future occasions," he said.
Berisha and Rama's parties campaigned on similar platforms, pledging to fight poverty and take Albania closer to the European Union.
Ballots were being counted electronically for the first time in Albania and the process would take longer than expected, Olli said.
In its seventh parliamentary election since the fall of communism in 1990, Albania came under intense international pressure to make sure the vote was fair and free of the reports of fraud that have marred previous polls. Albania became a NATO member on April 1 and is seeking to join the 27-nation European Union.
Some 4,300 candidates representing 34 political parties were vying for the 140 seats in Parliament.
Three people have been killed in recent weeks in what local media said were politically motivated attacks, although that remains unclear.
A regional leader for the small Christian Democratic Party was driving when his car exploded earlier this month. A man was shot dead during an argument over a campaign poster, also in June, and an opposition lawmaker was gunned down in May.


Updated : 2021-05-14 21:31 GMT+08:00