Albania’s ruling Socialists set to win general election: exit poll

Socialist Party leader Edi Rama leaves after casting his vote during the parliamentary election in Surel, near Tirana, Albania, April 25, 2021. /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 percent 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 percent of the vote, while another opposition party, the Socialist Integration Movement, was forecast to come third with 6.9 percent. 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.”

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.

Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha casts his vote during the parliamentary election in Tirana, Albania, April 25, 2021. /Reuters

With a population of 2.8 million, Albania has 3.6 million voters due to its large diaspora. The voting turnout at national level, according to official data published by the Central Election Commission, was about 48 percent.

Over 23,000 Albanians currently positive with COVID-19 were prohibited from voting due to isolation requirements.

Voters cited widespread corruption as one of their main motives for voting.

“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),” said Orestia Nano, an artist. “It (corruption) is pretty bad at really high levels.”

The new government will also 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.

Speaking on Sunday, the head of the Central Election Commission Ilirjan Celibashi said the vote had been held in accordance with the electoral code.

The voting process is considered crucial for Albania as it seeks to launch full membership negotiations with the European Union later this year.

The Balkan country was granted EU candidate status in 2014, but there has been little progress since then.

(With input from Reuters, Xinhua)