On 26 June with more than 82 percent of the ballots counted, opposition leader Edi Rama can definitely claim a landslide victory over Prime Minister Sali Berisha in the 23 June parliamentary elections.
While sources still differ on the exact vote count, anywhere from 52 percent to 57.8 percent of the votes are secured by Rama’s left wing Alliance for a European Albania, gathered under the name Renaissance (Rilindje). Most sources mention that 84 of 140 seats in parliament are in hands of the Socialist-led alliance of Edi Rama. Berisha’s Democrats so far can claim 56 seats. Berisha has not been seen in public in the days following the election. Rama is calling on the prime minister to concede defeat. ‘We calmly wait for our opponent to concede defeat,’ Rama said at a press conference. ‘This is the time for all parties to work together so that the counting process can end, and Albania can move on,’ he added.
Despite a shooting which left one dead on the day of the elections, international monitors noted overall improvements in Albania’s elections.
EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Füle welcomed the ‘smooth voting process’ and urged the rapid completion of the count. ‘Albania needs to complete the process in line with international standards to move ahead with EU integration’ Füle said.
Two conflicting sides
On 24 June Rama called on Prime Minister Berisha to ‘prepare the transition’, and told a cheering crowd at his party headquarters: ‘Our data says we won over the forces of destruction.’
Berisha’s Democratic Party was quick to dispute the claim, stating instead: ‘I assure you it is our full belief that Albanians voted convincingly for our alliance.’Sali Berisha is seeking a third time in office, but is facing strong competition from the younger candidate Edi Rama, former mayor of Tirana.
Both men are pro-European, promise tax reforms, job creation and new investments.
The European Union has rejected Albanian membership twice in the past, in part because of corruption and the lack of democratic reforms. The EU said the election is a test of Albania’s democratic institutions and its progress towards 27-members bloc.
A dramatic election
During the elections, an opposition activist was fatally wounded in a shooting in the northwestern part of the country. Mhill Fufi, candidate for the ruling Democratic Party, was also wounded in the shooting, which raised concerns of a confrontation in a country deeply polarized between the Democrats and the Socialists.
A day before the vote, the Central Elections Committee remained paralyzed, as no progress has been made to replace three of the commission’s seven members. The members resigned in April over a dispute between the rivaling parties. A court will now certify the results.