After calm vote:
Albania faces tense wait
ALBANIA: Albanians face a tense wait Monday for results of closely
fought general elections that passed off smoothly, a crucial improvement
in a country where violence has marred post-communist polls.
Exit polls from Sunday’s elections gave a slight lead to the
governing Democratic Party of Prime Minister Sali Berisha, which his
rival Edi Rama of the Socialist Party played down.
Both appealed for calm until results are announced, but several dozen
Berisha supporters gathered in front of his party’s headquarters in the
capital Tirana, some driving along streets honking car horns. “I call on
Albanians to follow the results (of the ballot count) with maturity,
without evoking ideas of those triumphing or those losing,” said Berisha.
His rival Rama, the mayor of Tirana, urged voters to “wait for the
results and do not join in the game of (exit) polls as long as the
“The real result is still in the ballot boxes, patience is needed,”
Commission spokesman Leonard Olli said the official count would only
begin as late as midnight. Preliminary official results are due to be
announced at a media conference at 5 pm (1500 GMT) on Monday. Around 3.1
million voters were eligible for the election seen as crucial for the
European future of the Balkan state.
It comes almost three months after Albania joined the NATO military
alliance and took its first steps towards joining the EU by filing for
Opinion polls had shown the race was too close to call between the
governing Democratic Party of Berisha and Rama’s opposition Socialist
Party. This was the seventh election since the collapse of the country’s
Stalinist regime in 1991, with some 4,000 candidates vying for 140
All previous elections in the post-communist era have been disputed
and sullied by violence.
The electoral commission said Sunday’s vote passed off normally, with
a turnout of between 40 and 45 percent by 4:00 pm (1400 GMT) in various
towns throughout the country.
But the Socialists alleged “intimidation of voters by people from the
Democratic Party and problems with voter registers,” although the
Democrats brushed this off and hailed the poll as “calm and correct”.
Casting his ballot earlier at a Tirana school, Berisha said: “With
these elections, which will be free and fair, Albanians will sign (their
support) for the European project.”
Rama, the mayor of Tirana, said: “The vote is the only possibility to
make history and today every Albanian has such an opportunity.”
President Bamir Topi said the vote “will show the world our country
wants to consolidate democracy in order for Albanians to be able to
circulate freely through Europe, with which Albania is determined to