Voting day affected by low turnout, incidents

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 25, 2017 13:18

Voting day affected by low turnout, incidents

TIRANA, June 25 - Albanians have  voted to elect the country's new parliament and determine who will lead Albania's next government.

More than 3.4 million people were eligible to vote; however, at least a third of Albanian citizens reside abroad and were  unable to vote unless they travel to Albania to do so in the 5,362 polling stations  open today across the country.

11:20 p.m. - Counting started across Albania as polling stations closed across the country. Although the Central Election Commission postponed the closure of polling stations by an hour to encourage greater turnout, participation remained one of the lowest in Albania's recent history. CEC data showed a 45.17 percent turnout, down from 53 percent in 2013.

Ballot boxes were transferred to counting centers in the 90 zonal election commissions, a start of a counting process which takes far longer than it does in other European countries. If history repeats itself, it could take two to three days to get the full results.

Exit polls place the Socialist Party ahead of its Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration rivals.

In a message to Socialist MPs, Prime Minister Edi Rama said it was clear the party had won.

"According to all the data, we will be at the helm. Please, please, total mobilization for each ballot to be counted and calmness and patience for any provocation! We need a clean and undisputed process," Rama wrote in his message.

Opposition leader Lulzim Basha of the Democratic Party said he remained optimistic.

"The process is still ongoing, but according to our reports of the Democratic Party's structures, I am very optimistic about our result and our victory," Basha said in a statement to the media, adding that "now that voting is over, it is crucial to the democratic process to have a proper counting process. Therefore, I want to make a call to all those involved in this process, to ensure and guarantee a thorough implementation of their legal duties so the will of the people can be fulfilled."

The Socialist Movement for Integration predicted a loss of the ruling Socialist Party.

"The sun has set on the helm of the [Socialist] Renaissance and its gangs. Albania spoke. Let's all stand together to protect the verdict of Albanians," said Ilir Meta, who until recently led the SMI and is about the become the country's new president.

7 p.m. - The Central Elections Commission has postponed the closing of polling stations until 8 p.m. across the country to make sure voters don't miss out due to heat and celebrations for the Bajram (Eid) holiday. "CEC has postponed until 8 p.m. the voting process due to low turnout," CEC said in a statement. As of 6 p.m. only 35 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballots.

1 p.m. - Turnout as of midday was lower than it had been in the last general elections of 2013, according the Central Elections Commission. The figures will be updated as they come in. In addition to other factors, it is a very hot day in Albania today, with the mercury hitting 37C, which means voting can pick up later in the day, with polling stations closing at 7 p.m.

12 p.m. - Several violent incidents have marred the first half of the day.  In Shengjin, Lezha County, an activist of the Socialist Movement for Integration was beaten with a heavy objects, the party said through a spokesman. Witnesses told local media there was a brawl near the center and gunfire was also heard. At an Elbasan polling center, there was a fight that ended up with a Socialist Party commissioner being hit and substituted. Local media reported he was trying to stop a group vote, which is illegal under the elections code.

Voters will choose representatives proportionally through closed lists of 18 parties in Albania's 12 counties, with Tirana holding the lion's share of seats in parliament thanks to its higher population. Fier, Elbasan, Durres, Korca, Vlora, Shkoder, Berat, Lezha, Diber, Gjirokaster and Kukes follow as the regions that will choose the lawmaker lists.

The reporting for this article is done in cooperation with the Tirana Center for Journalistic Excellence.  

Last updated, June 25, 2017, 11:22 p.m.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 25, 2017 13:18