Shootout mars crucial Albania vote

AFP-JIJI

A shootout that killed an opposition activist cast a shadow over Albania’s crucial general election Sunday, with both sides claiming victory in a vote that could determine whether one of Europe’s poorest countries has a chance of joining the EU.

The first official preliminary results for the election of the lawmakers for the 140-seat assembly were expected Monday or no later than 72 hours after the polls close, as mandated by law.

But the electoral commission — the agency in charge of certifying results — remains paralyzed as it has not yet replaced three of its seven members who quit in April over a dispute between the government and the opposition.

In the absence of preliminary results, the ruling coalition of departing Prime Minister Sali Berisha and his rival Socialist leader, Edi Rama, both told supporters they had won.

“The Renaissance has won,” said Rama, the 48-year-old former mayor of Tirana, of his leftist coalition.

The Socialists based their claims on the exit poll released by a private TV station, which said that Rama’s coalition was leading the vote with 55.5 percent compared to 43.5 won by Berisha’s bloc.

But just a few blocks away, Berisha said he was “convinced of our great victory.”

Berisha’s party quoted an exit poll carried out by a private research group that said their coalition led the vote with 48 percent, compared to their rivals with 46 percent.