Vote count delay stirs up tensions after Albania key polls

TIRANA (AFP) – A delay in the ballot count after legislative polls seen as crucial to Albania’s aspirations to join the EU sparked opposition claims of fraud Tuesday, after European election observers’ gave cautious praise for the voting process.

The ruling Democratic Party of Prime Minister Sali Berisha, which held a narrow lead on Sunday according to exit polls, hailed the vote as “free and fair.”

But Berisha’s main rival, Tirana mayor Edi Rama, the leader of the Socialist Party, accused the “people in power of preparing scenarios to manipulate the outcome of the election”.

He warned of “possible incidents” overnight and called on the police to do “everything in order to secure the normal process of the vote count”.

“The Socialists are leading and no one should dare touch the results,” Rama told reporters.

But Berisha rejected claims of fraud, describing them as “absurd”.

“It is in the government’s interest to have the results as soon as possible,” Berisha said at a press conference.

He insisted that Sunday’s vote – the seventh election since the collapse of the communist regime in the early 1990s – and the ballot count were “the most transparent and observed electoral process ever held in Albania”.

Berisha refused to comment on the partial results, saying that only “less than a half of the votes have so far been counted”.

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