Albania's ruling Socialists set to win election -exit poll

Fatos Bytyci
·2-min read

By Fatos Bytyci

TIRANA (Reuters) -Albania's ruling Socialist Party looked set to win Sunday's national election and secure a third term for Prime Minister Edi Rama, an exit poll showed.

According to Top Channel TV's exit poll, Rama's Socialists were set to win 46.9% of the vote. That would give them a slight majority of 71 seats in the 140-seat parliament.

The Democratic Party, led by Lulzim Basha, was set to win 43.5% of the vote, while another opposition party, the Socialist Integration Movement, was forecast to come third with 6.9%.

Official results are not expected before Monday.

"People have spoken. Now we have to listen to the people," Rama told reporters at his party headquarters after exit polls came out. The 56-year-old painter and former basketball player has been in power for eight years.

Basha said at his party headquarters: "Thanks to all of the Albanian citizens who chose the change."

Albania, which has a population of 2.8 million, but 3.6 million voters due to its large diaspora, has a history of violence and allegations of fraud during elections in the three decades since the end of communism.

On Wednesday, a Socialist Party supporter was killed and four people were injured during a shootout following a dispute between Socialist and Democratic Party supporters.

Albania was granted European Union candidate status in 2014, but there has been little progress because of enlargement fatigue across the bloc and the lack of reforms within Albania.

Voters are eager for an end to widespread corruption. Albania ranks 104th in Transparency International's 180-nation list for 2020 and is accused by the United States of being a major source for marijuana production and other drug shipments.

Orestia Nano, an artist, said her main motive to vote was to end corruption.

"When I entered the University of Arts, there were people of my age who paid money to get into the school. There are people who have to pay money to get health treatments (in state hospitals)," she said.

"It (corruption) is pretty bad at really high levels.”

The new government will have to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and rebuilding homes after a 2019 earthquake that killed 51 people and damaged more than 11,400 residences.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Susan Fenton and Peter Cooney)