TIRANA, Albania — Preliminary results on Monday showed the ruling Socialist Party ahead in Albania's parliamentary election.
With one-third of the votes counted, the left-wing Socialists of Prime Minister Edi Rama have 50% of the votes, followed by the main opposition center-right Democratic Party of Lulzim Basha with 39%.
An exit poll for Euronews Albania from the MRB, part of the London-based Kantar Group, projected that the Socialists will win about 46% of the vote while the Democrats are expected to capture about 42%. It is still unclear whether Socialists will get the 71 seats they need to govern alone.
Preliminary turnout Sunday was almost 48%, slightly higher than four years ago.
Some 3.6 million eligible voters in Albania and abroad voted to elect 140 lawmakers for a four-year mandate in the Balkan nation.
Voting Sunday took place relatively smoothly, though with some glitches. The main issue was voters' electronic identification, which was applied for the first time in the country. Some 167 out of 5,199 polling stations did not function.
Ilirjan Celibashi, head of the Central Election Commission, considered the election a success and said "the process was characterized by a calm situation, security and integrity." He said the winner would be known by Tuesday evening.
Albania, a NATO member since 2009, is looking forward to launching full membership negotiations with the 27-member European Union later this year and Sunday's vote — post-communist Albania's 10th parliamentary election — is considered a key milestone on that path. To date, voting always has been marred by irregularities.
Rama is seeking a third consecutive mandate, wanting to boost Albanian efforts in tourism, energy, agriculture and digital projects.
Opposition leader Basha says he will bring a change from what he claims is a government of corruption and links to organized crime. He has pledged to lower taxes, raise salaries and provide more social support.
Foreign observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Western embassies monitoring the vote will issue their preliminary findings later Monday.
U.S., EU and other Western countries' ambassadors called on Albanian political leaders "to accept the judgment of voters."
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