Tentative signs of Socialist PM taking lead in Albania vote

Tirana (AFP) – Albania’s Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama looked likely Monday to top parliamentary polls and secure a second term, in which he hoped to lead the Balkan country into European Union accession talks.

The 52-year-old was holed up in his office in the capital Tirana after Sunday’s vote, in which less than half the electorate turned out.

But according to local media, Rama sent messages to his Socialists MPs telling them that their party would remain in charge.

Preliminary results based on a very small percentage of the votes showed the party taking around a 50 percent share, and their main rivals from the centre-right Democratic Party taking around 40 percent.

While their reliability is questionable, exit polls after voting closed at 8:00pm (1800 GMT) also showed Rama taking the lead — in line with pre-election opinion polls.

“Exit polls show a landslide victory for the socialist (Edi Rama) in Albania — a victory of progressive politics, reform agenda, EU ambitions,” wrote his Socialist ally and Tirana Mayor, Erion Veliaj.

The crucial question was whether Rama would win an absolute majority in the 140-seat parliament, allowing the Socialists to rule alone.

After the last election in 2013, they formed a rocky alliance with the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), the party of President-elect Ilir Meta who for 10 years has played kingmaker in Albanian politics.

Democrat chief Lulzim Basha, an ardent admirer of Donald Trump who promised economic reforms including tax cuts, nevertheless said he was “optimistic” of victory after polls closed.

The 43-year-old opposition leader has accused Rama of having links to organised crime and turning the Balkan state into a “drugstore”, referring to Albania’s lucrative but illicit cannabis trade.

The premier rejected the accusations, campaigning with pledges to boost economic growth and complete sweeping reforms demanded by Brussels of Albania’s notoriously corrupt judicial system.

– Election went ‘calmly’ –

The election…

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