TIRANA, Albania — Albania's parliament on Thursday approved electoral reforms aimed at guaranteeing free and fair elections and considered a key condition to starting entry negotiations with the European Union.
The left-wing governing Socialist Party, which dominates the 140-seat Assembly, joined forces with opposition lawmakers to pass the legislation in a 99-6 vote with four abstentions.
The electoral reforms center on the electronic identification of voters, partly depoliticizing the electoral commission and other recommendations from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has monitored the country's elections.
Albania's post-communist elections have continually been marred by irregularities, including vote-buying or manipulation in ballot counting.
Thursday's vote came nearly seven weeks after Albanian political parties reached an electoral reform deal on June 5. The agreement came after two days of meetings between opposing political forces at the residence of U.S. Ambassador Yuri Kim, who facilitated the dialogue along with her European Union and British counterparts.
"We applaud all parties for ensuring that the June 5 agreement has been achieved, honored, and implemented in a manner that is inclusive and transparent," the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.
The OSCE said that "implementation is key, and we stand ready to assist the Albanian authorities in this path, as well as with the development of further reform steps."
Parliament will vote next week on political parties offering open lists of candidates, political coalitions and the electoral threshold to enter parliament, a move that so far hasn't been accepted by the center-right Democratic Party-led opposition that boycotted parliament last year.
"All parties should participate in good faith; explain their positions clearly and fully to each other and to the Albanian people; and seek a resolution that benefits all of the Albanian people and continues to move the country forward on its democratic path," the U.S. Embassy said.
In March, Albania and North Macedonia were given the green light by the European Union to begin membership talks, though a starting date has yet to be set.