World Bulletin / News Desk
Albanians struggled to muster enthusiasm for a parliamentary election Sunday, despite hopes that an orderly poll could propel the country towards opening European Union accession talks.
While their reliability is questionable, exit polls after voting closed at 8:00pm (1800 GMT) showed Rama taking the lead -- in line with pre-election opinion polls -- and potentially with an absolute majority in the 140-seat parliament.
First preliminary results were expected later in the night.
Officials said turnout was 45.17 percent based on data from more than half of polling stations -- one of the lowest levels since the fall of communism in the early 1990s. Turnout at the last election in 2013 was over 53 percent.
Rama, 52, is seeking a second term in office with pledges to boost economic growth and complete sweeping reforms demanded by Brussels of Albania's notoriously corrupt judicial system.
The rival centre-right Democratic Party, whose leader Lulzim Basha is an ardent admirer of US President Donald Trump, has pledged to create a "New Republic" with economic reforms including tax cuts and farmer subsidies.
Basha, 43, has accused Rama of having links to organised crime and turning the Balkan state into a "drugstore", referring to Albania's lucrative but illicit cannabis trade. The premier rejects the accusations.
After polls closed, Basha expressed optimism about the result and said voters had made a "great sacrifice" given the heat and the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, in the Muslim-majority country.Last Mod: 26 Haziran 2017, 01:35