Albania's vote count gets near the end

LLAZAR SEMINI
June 25, 2013
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Supporters of the opposition Socialists celebrate in capital Tirana after counting results show a clear lead of their party, Tuesday, June 25, 2013. Albania’s national elections, seen as key test for the country’s hopes for closer ties with the European Union. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The opposition Socialists are holding their lead as counting continues in Albania's election but a dispute over the makeup of the Central Election Commission could leave the outcome up in the air.

At the moment, the Commission doesn't have enough members to legally certify election results.

Socialist party leader Edi Rama again on Tuesday urged the governing Democratic Party of Prime Minister Sali Berisha to acknowledge the loss and also called for a quick conclusion of the counting process.

"We continue to calmly wait for the opponent to accept the loss and join Albania's big victory," he said as activists clapped and shouted "victory, victory."

Other Socialist supporters in cars decked with party flags honked their way around the city center.

"It is Albania that has won out of these elections," said the 48-year-old Socialist leader.

Despite a shooting which left one dead, international monitors noted overall improvements in Albania's election — seen as key test for the country's hopes for closer ties with the European Union.

They said, however, that the distrust between the two main political forces "tainted the electoral environment."

Political feuding potentially could prevent the Election Commission from certifying the winners in Sunday's balloting.

In April, Berisha's junior partner left the coalition, and the prime minister then fired the party's representative on the commission and replaced him with a different coalition figure. Representatives of the opposition parties then walked out.

That left the commission with only four members, and its takes at least five of the seven members to certify the election results.

Politicians have said little about how they would resolve the problem.

Both Berisha, 68, and Rama hope Albania can gain eventual entry to the EU, and Sunday's election was seen as a test of whether the country can run a fair and safe vote.

Following a generally peaceful electoral campaign, during the voting Sunday one supporter of an opposition party died and a candidate for Berisha's Democrats and his relative were injured in an exchange of fire in the north Albanian city of Lac.

With about 80 percent of the national vote counted on Tuesday, CEC figures show the Socialists' coalition taking 52 percent while the Democrats of Prime Minister Sali Berisha had 36 percent, 12 points less than four years ago.

Berisha and other Democratic Party leaders have remained quiet.

Because of Albania's voting system, the popular vote does not directly translate into the number of seats each party will get in the 140-member Parliament.