June 24, 2013
Albania’s ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s Democratic Party and the leftist opposition led by Socialist Party leader Edi Rama both claimed they had won most votes in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, media reported.
As polling stations closed at 7 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) after 12 hours of voting, both parties urged the Central Election Commission and other local commissions to allow late voters to cast their ballots.
Rama was first to tell his supporters that his party’s data suggested they had gained a comfortable lead over the coalition of Berisha, who is seeking a third mandate after two four year terms in power. Rama likened his party’s program for Albania a real re-birth and an end of its long democratic transition.
|Sali Berisha (L) & Edi Rama (R)|
The Democrats were quick to reject Rama’s claim of victory, saying their data showed they had won and Rama would suffer his most tragic defeat.
The tense contest in Sunday’s elections left one person dead and two wounded but it avoided a major confrontation despite some reported irregularities.
A supporter of the Socialist Integration Movement (SIM) party, which is allied with the Socialists, was shot dead in what appeared to be a fight between four shooters just outside a polling station.
Mehill Fufi, 49, a candidate for parliament of the ruling Democratic Party was also wounded in the shootout, but his life was not in danger. Kastriot Fufi, his cousin, was in much more serious condition, with a bullet shot to his neck.
“The incident took place in the town of Lac, about 50 kilometres northwest of the capital, Tirana, and started with an argument in a polling station. It was not clear who exactly did the shooting,” said the police spokesman Tefik Sulejmani.
Berisha declined to comment on the killing, saying he needed more information first.
Meanwhile, Laura Vorpsi, the spokeswoman for Democratic Party, said Mehill Fufi was toping some opposition supporters who were trying to buy votes.
The Democrats criticized Rama and his ally Ilir Meta, the SIM leader, of trying to gain political capital by rushing to the scene of the killing and said the attack was against their candidate.
Meta blamed the police and “criminal elements” of the ruling Democrats, whom he alleged were exerting pressure at polling stations.
Rama also accused the police of siding with groups of armed people that were reported threatening and harassing voters in some poor areas of Albania.
Ambassador Ettore Sequi, Head of the EU Delegation to Albania, who was monitoring the elections in Bajram Curri school polling station in Tirana, expressed concerns over the tragedy in Lac. He said European and international standards reject violence. “Violence is unacceptable on election day regarding the killing and wounding in Lac,” he said.
No one has been arrested yet.
Sunday’s vote was crucial for determining whether Albania, one of Europe’s poorest countries, has a chance of joining the EU. Some 600 international monitors fanned outcross the Balkan nation to monitor the vote and they would assess the election on Monday.
As voters began choosing lawmakers for the 140-seat assembly, the electoral system appears to be struggling to meet international standards. Some 3.27 million registered voters were eligible to vote, according to the Central Election Commission.
The body tasked with certifying the vote works only with the government’s appointees after the opposition quit in protest at the sacking of one commissioner in April.
The vote counting is expected to be delayed until late Sunday evening. Two exit polls gave different forecasts, with one predicting a landslide victory for the opposition, and the other expecting a win of the ruling coalition. First official preliminary results were expected on Monday.