Albania: Voting ended, minor incidents reported,exit polls released
09. May 2011. | 23:52 07:53
Source: Emg.rs, Balkaninsight, Alsat, Reuters
The participation figure, released by the Central Electoral Commission, reflects the number registered at 7:00pm when voting officially ended, though people were still casting ballots at that time and polling hours were extended.Albania parties released two exit polls on Sunday evening, one predicting that current Tirana mayor and opposition leader Edi Rama will win the key battleground city and the other that the capital will be won by his challenger, ruling Democratic Party candidate Lulzim Basha.
Nearly 50.9 per cent of Albanians of voting age are estimated to have a cast a ballot in Sunday’s local elections, seen by many observers as crucial to the country’s EU accession hopes.
The participation figure, released by the Central Electoral Commission, reflects the number registered at 7:00pm when voting officially ended, though people were still casting ballots at that time and polling hours were extended.
According to a coalition of local observers, voting today was “generally normal with some technical problems and incidents.”
The coalition had observers in 12 per cent of the polling stations, the ODIHR/OSCE mission in two percent, media in one per cent and political parties covered 68 per cent of the stations.
But by the afternoon there were reports of incidents in several places. In Shkodra, an official of the opposition Socialist Party said that he had been beaten by pro-government militants.
In the capital Tirana, a television crew of national broadcaster Top Channel was attacked in a stronghold of the ruling right-wing Democratic Party.
There were also reports of intimidation from opposition militants and allegations of voting irregularities.
Independent analyst Lutfi Dervishi however told media here that the incidents were “minimal” and that in general the situation was calm.
In a statement the Albanian police said that they had to intervene and quell numerous scuffles between rival political activists across Albania during Sunday’s poll.
The statement listed 11 incidents in the village Seman i Ri, in the region of Tropoja, in the village of Zhelizhan, in the region of Fier, in the Afrimi neighborhood of the city of Fier, in the village of Nepravishte in the region of Gjirokastra, in the villages of Pogdorie and Vreshtas in Korca, in the village of Novosele in the region of Vlora, in the village of Kuc in the region of Shkodra as well as four incidents in Tirana.
The victims of the violence range from poll commissioners, their children or independent poll observers.
At 5pm (1500 GMT) the central election commission said turnout was at 35.4%.“Compared to the total number of the voting centers, the problems comprise 0.1 percent. We are fewer in number compared to 2009 and 2007. Until now, the level of participation reaches to 20 percent.
It seems that 8 voting centers will be considered as unable to give a result, and I believe that if this will affect the result of the local power unit, we will repeat the elections in that unit.
Nevertheless, the voting process was not blocked in any of the voting centers. The Election ink was taken by a German company, as the one that was used in the previous elections.
It was tested in laboratories and this is a good election ink. It seems that the situation might improve during the end of the voting process, but until now there has been a low level of participation in the local elections compared to the general elections; it is less than 50 percent. But there is a tendency to increase,” said Ristani.
Albania parties released two exit polls on Sunday evening, one predicting that current Tirana mayor and opposition leader Edi Rama will win the key battleground city and the other that the capital will be won by his challenger, ruling Democratic Party candidate Lulzim Basha.
Both exit polls are generally viewed as unreliable and their publication politically motivated.
The Socialist Party Exit-Poll:
Edi Rama –Socialist Party -53 % of the vote
Lulzim Basha – Democratic Party – 42 % of the vote
Hysni Milloshi – Communist Party – 1.5 % of the vote
Socialist led ‘Alliance for the Future’ - 48 %
Democratic Party led ‘Alliance for the Citizen’ 42%
Gani Bobi Institute Poll [commissioned by TV Klan, a broadcaster close to the Democratic Party.]
Edi Rama –Socialist Party -39.8 % of the vote
Lulzim Basha – Democratic Party – 58.4 % of the vote
Hysni Milloshi – Communist Party – 0.4 % of the vote
* Margin of error 10 %
"We expect that after democratic elections there will also be acceptance of the results,"Eugen Wollfarth, the head of the presence of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), told the press.
The OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which is coordinating the work of 526 foreign observers on the ground, will announce its assessment of the elections on Tuesday after the vote count.
Wollfarth and Albanian President Bamir Topi spoke to the press as they visited a voting center outside Tirana.
"The rules of democracy require that the candidates for office accept the results," Topi said.
Speaking to the press after casting his vote, Prime Minister Sali Berisha urged all political parties to accept the election results and engage in cooperation.
"I express my respect for all the voters and all commissioners throughout Albania," said Berisha. "The voters are the most important decision-makers and today the Prime Minister is a simple voter."
"These were the best elections on the screens. But they were the ugliest in the reality of common people," opposition Socialist leader Edi Rama said shortly afterwards.
"The election process provided spectacular examples and evidence of a mismatch with international standards," he added.
Each side claimed victory, but neither was celebrating.
The results are expected on Monday.