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Parliament approves new election law
TIRANA, Nov 19 - Albanian parliament approved a new election law, ignoring demands of a group of ten lawmakers on hunger strike.

The law passed by 112-1 votes late Tuesday, with the support of Albania's two largest parties. The 10 deputies called off their hungers strike shortly before the vote. General elections are due next year.

Albania was invited to join NATO earlier this year and hopes the election reforms will signal a commitment to strengthen its democratic process _ a condition for further integration with the European Union.

But many Albanians are sensitive to voting changes after enduring decades of oppressive Communist rule.

Small parties say the reforms could exclude them from parliament, and attracted several thousand people to a protest outside parliament Tuesday in favor of the deputies on hunger strike.

They argue the new system will also make it harder to ensure a correct tally of the votes in a country where past elections have been fraught with organizational problems.

The protesters included supporters of the small Christian Democrat party that is in Prime Minister Sali Berisha's governing conservative coalition.
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