Albania turnout low in vote seen as EU test

The election commission extended the voting period by an hour owing to poor turnout on a day of soaring temperatures, while Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama took to Twitter and Facebook urging people to "vote, vote, vote".

Albania turnout low in vote seen as EU test

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.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Haziran 2017, 01:35