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The BBC's Nicholas Wood
"This election campaign has been very calm"
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The BBC's Gabriel Partos in Tirana
"Some 250 international observers have been involved in monitoring Sunday's first round parliamentary elections"
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Monday, 25 June, 2001, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
Socialists claim Albania poll victory
Electoral posters showing Socialist Party Leader Fatos Nano
The Socialist Party is hoping for a repetition of its victory
Albania's ruling Socialist Party has claimed victory in the first round of the country's general election, held on Sunday.

These were the best elections the country ever had

Prime Minister Ilir Meta
The leader of the opposition Democratic Party, former President Sali Berisha, claimed victory for his party overnight, but later appeared to back down.

He accused the socialists of trying to rig the vote, saying police had prevented thousands of his supporters from voting by closing polling stations early.

In a preliminary assessment, international monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said the vote marked progress towards international standards on democratic elections.

Second round row

Sali Berisha
Berisha: Claims supporters were disenfranchised
Socialist officials said their figures suggested they would win 45 out of 100 directly elected parliamentary seats, compared to 17 for the Democratic Party.

They said a second round of voting would be necessary in 37 seats, where no candidate secured a majority.

Mr Berisha said a second round would be needed in nearly all seats.

Asked whether he would recognise a socialist victory, he said: "Everything will depend on how many people were disenfranchised and excluded from voting because Albanian police closed polling stations in violation of the law."

The Albanian parliamentary elections mark progress towards international standards

OSCE special co-ordinator, Bruce George
In some areas voting hours were extended beyond the deadline of 1800 local time (1600 GMT) on Sunday to clear queues of voters at the polling stations.

Official results will not be announced until later on Monday.

Calm poll

The BBC's Gabriel Partos, in the capital Tirana, says initial reports suggest the polls were largely free of the violence and electoral fraud that has marred previous elections.

Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta
Prime Minister Ilir Meta: Proud of "calm" vote
Among the isolated outbreaks of violence were a shooting incident at a polling station in Tirana, while elsewhere armed men set fire to voting papers.

The OSCE's preliminary report gave a generally favourable assessment both of the campaign and the voting.

Observers visited about one quarter of polling stations.

Prime Minister Ilir Meta said he was proud of the "calm and democratic" poll.

The last parliamentary elections four years ago followed an uprising against Mr Berisha's administration, which many Albanians blamed for the collapse of several fraudulent investment schemes.

The result was a heavy defeat for Mr Berisha's party, a defeat that triggered his own resignation from the presidency.

Repeat landslide

This time the governing Socialist Party is hoping for a repetition of its landslide victory, not least because the party's chairman, Fatos Nana, is widely believed to be aiming for the presidency himself.

Election station
Voting officials were largely spared the disturbances seen in earlier elections
To be sure of election, he will need a three-fifths majority among the members of parliament who will choose a new president next year.

The socialists are hoping that their achievements in restoring public order after the chaos of 1997, and the solid economic growth of recent years, will reward them with a good result.

For its part, the Democratic Party expects to be reaping the benefits of widespread dissatisfaction with corruption and economic hardship in what remains one of Europe's poorest countries.

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08 May 01 | Europe
Timeline: Albania
24 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Albania
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