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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 February 2007, 17:58 GMT
Western eyes on Albanian polls
Guards outside the national TV headquarters
Troops are patrolling key buildings during the polls
Albanians have been voting to elect municipal councils in polls that are being closely watched by the European Union and the United States.

The polls are being seen as an indication of Albania's progress towards democracy and possible future integration with the EU and Nato.

They have been postponed once, amid allegations of corruption and threats of an opposition boycott.

The economy is deeply troubled, causing a third of Albanians to emigrate.

The count will be monitored by hundreds of observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Edi Rama
The Tirana mayor - ready for national government?
The BBC's Nicholas Walton says a lot is at stake in this small, ex-communist country in the Balkans.

Street protests against the hardships of every day life, such as corruption, unemployment and electricity shortages, are common.

Our correspondent says that, with widespread dissatisfaction at current politicians, the polls are being seen as a test of a new generation of politicians.

The most notable of these is Edi Rama, the mayor of the capital, Tirana.

Before becoming mayor he was an artist; since taking office he has adopted a number of high profile initiatives, including painting many of Tirana's drab apartment blocks in bright colours.

The vote in Tirana is considered a test of his ambitions for national government. He is up against another high profile candidate, Sokol Olldashi, who until recently was the interior minister for the ruling party.




SEE ALSO
Albania tries image makeover
18 Aug 02 |  Europe
Country profile: Albania
12 May 04 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Albania
08 Feb 04 |  Country profiles

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