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Ruling Socialists Defeat Divided Opposition in Albanian Local Polls

The Socialist Party led by Prime Minister Edi Rama is ahead in most municipalities in the country after Sunday’s local elections and has already won three, Kamza, Vora and Elbasan, where the voting took place electronically and the Central Election Commission was able to declare the results a few hours after polls closed.

Albanians voted in 61 municipalities including the capital city Tirana, where the Socialists are also ahead, according to the CEC.

According to preliminary data, the turnout at the local elections was 35 per cent, the worst so far. At the last elections in 2021 the turnout was 47 per cent.

In Tirana, where votes from 534 out of 941 ballot boxes have been counted, Socialist candidate Erion Veliaj has won 54.35. of the vote so far and the opposition candidate Belind Kellici 34.90 per cent.

In the city of Shkodra, a traditional Democratic Party stronghold, votes from 208 out of 247 ballot boxes have been counted and Socialist candidate Benet Beci has 60.25 per cent to 39.75 per cent for Bardhi Spahia from the opposition.

In Himara, opposition candidate Fredi Beleri, who is in custody on vote-buying charges, won over the Socialist candidate Jorgo Goro with just 19 votes difference.

The opposition entered the elections divided. One of the two rival opposition fations, the United for Victory coalition led by former Democratic Party head Sali Berisha and former President Ilir Meta, is currently in second place behind the Socialists, leading in only six small municipalities.

Berisha was the first to reacted after the CEC declared the results in the first three municipalities, and refused to accept the results in one of them, the Kamza municipality.

“Reliable data proves that Kamza is a monstrous digital manipulation,” Berisha told the media.

Socialist leader Rama has not yet made any statement, but only published his own prediction for the results, suggesting that the Socialists will win over 50 municipalities and the opposition from zero to 11.

The other opposition faction, the ‘official Democratic Party’, led by Enkelejd Alibeaj, has not achieved any significant results, according to the CEC data so far.

Several incidents and irregularities were registered during the voting on Sunday, including malfunctions of devices that were used to identify voters electronically, which delayed the voting process. The head of the CEC, Ilirjan Celibashi said that “we apologise”.

Other irregularities included ‘family voting’, in which one person voted on behalf of an entire family, and assisted voting, in which members of the Roma community were assisted to vote electronically by members of the voting commission, which is not allowed.

A Socialist candidate was punched in the face and a candidate from the opposition claimed to have been threatened and followed by a car.

Local media in several cities also reported several incidents of vote-buying.

In the last local elections in 2019, the opposition boycotted the polls and the Socialists won every municipality apart from Shkodra.

This year’s election campaign was marked by dozens of complaints from civil society organisations and the opposition about the use of adminstrative resources to aid the ruling Socialist Party.

The CEC has also asked the prosecution to verify ten candidates and several municipal councilors in order to check if they have had “problems with the law”.

Source: Balkan Insight