Exit polls: Tight race in Albania's parliamentary vote

An Albanian woman casts her vote ballot during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
An Albanian woman casts her vote ballot during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

An exit poll for Albania's parliamentary election suggests the ruling Socialist Party is in a tight race with the opposition Democratic Party

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — An exit poll for Albania's parliamentary election on Sunday suggests that the ruling Socialist Party is in a tight race with the opposition Democratic Party.

The exit poll run for Euronews Albania from the MRB, part of the London-based Kantar Group, projects that the left-wing 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 71 seats in the 140-seat parliament to govern alone.

Some 3.6 million eligible voters in Albania and abroad voted to elect 140 lawmakers for a four-year mandate in the Balkan nation.

“The process was characterized by a calm situation, security and integrity,” said Ilirjan Celibashi, head of the Central Election Commission. He said the winner would be known in 48 hours.

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 is considered a key milestone on that path.

The hope is that post-communist Albania’s 10th parliamentary election will be free and fair. To date, voting always has been marred by irregularities.

Preliminary turnout Sunday was almost 48%, slightly higher than four years ago.

There were some glitches. The electronic identification machines did not operate in 167 out of 5,199 polling stations after no operators to work them were found in those remote areas, according to Celibashi.

A police officer was injured with a knife attack in northern Puke town. The reason why he was attacked by a man at a polling station is not clear.

There were also some efforts to photograph ballots, which is not allowed by law, and a few physical arguments among opposing political supporters.

Prime Minister Edi Rama of the Socialists, who are seeking their third consecutive mandate, wants to boost Albanian efforts in tourism, energy, agriculture and digital projects.

“Now let’s listen to the people,” Rama said after the polls closed. He also claimed victory saying “Albania will come out victorious from this process, not only the party that will keep on governing the country.”

Lulzim Basha of the Democrats has accused the government of corruption and links to organized crime, and has pledged to lower taxes, raise salaries and provide more social support.

Speaking to supporters Basha claimed that his party had won but said counting should be held in line with the law.

Confrontations between supporters culminated Wednesday in the central city of Elbasan, where a Socialist Party activist died. Police said the victim was shot, allegedly by a member of the Democratic Party, during an argument.

Though officially impartial, President Ilir Meta turned into a strong government opponent, accusing Rama of concentrating legislative, administrative and judicial powers in his hands and running a “kleptocratic regime” that has bungled Albania's pandemic response and delayed the country’s EU integration.

Scores of foreign observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Western embassies monitored the vote.

U.S. Ambassador Yuri Kim urged candidates and political leaders “to accept the judgment of voters" while EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca also urged them to respect ”the voice of the Albanian citizens.”

Albania has seen a significant fall in daily coronavirus cases in the past week despite political rallies being held around the country. More than 400,000 people have received a vaccine jab. An overnight curfew has been enforced with restrictions on gatherings and mandatory mask-wearing.

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An Albanian man casts his vote during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
An Albanian man casts his vote during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

An Albanian woman's finger is scanned during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
An Albanian woman's finger is scanned during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Albanian president Ilir Meta flashes victory sign as he casts his vote during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
Albanian president Ilir Meta flashes victory sign as he casts his vote during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Albanian leader of the opposition Lulzim Basha flashes victory sign as he casts his ballot during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
Albanian leader of the opposition Lulzim Basha flashes victory sign as he casts his ballot during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Albania's socialist party leader Edi Rama casts his ballot during parliamentary elections in Surel, near Tirana, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanians are voting in parliamentary elections amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the two largest political parties. Some 3.6 million eligible voters, including Albanians overseas, will elect 140 lawmakers among some 1,800 candidates from 12 political parties or coalitions and those running independently. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
Albania's socialist party leader Edi Rama casts his ballot during parliamentary elections in Surel, near Tirana, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanians are voting in parliamentary elections amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the two largest political parties. Some 3.6 million eligible voters, including Albanians overseas, will elect 140 lawmakers among some 1,800 candidates from 12 political parties or coalitions and those running independently. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

Credit: Hektor Pustina

Credit: Hektor Pustina

A woman casts her ballot during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanians are voting in parliamentary elections amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
A woman casts her ballot during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanians are voting in parliamentary elections amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

An election official carries a ballot box to a counting center during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
An election official carries a ballot box to a counting center during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Election officials wait in line to deliver ballot boxes to a counting center during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
Election officials wait in line to deliver ballot boxes to a counting center during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

A man casts his ballot during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanians are voting in parliamentary elections amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
A man casts his ballot during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanians are voting in parliamentary elections amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

An Albanian man casts his vote during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
An Albanian man casts his vote during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

A police officer stands near to a damaged car on central Skanderbeg square, after an incident, in Tirana, Sunday, April 25, 2021. A man drove his car into the Albanian capital Tirana’s main square where vehicles are not allowed, the local media and police reported on Sunday. The driver broke the barriers to enter the Skanderbeg Square. A young man managed to stop the driver entering from the window. Then people dragged him out of the car. No one was injured. The car stopped near two big tents where people get vaccines and a smaller tent raised from the Syri Televizion private channel to cover the voting. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
A police officer stands near to a damaged car on central Skanderbeg square, after an incident, in Tirana, Sunday, April 25, 2021. A man drove his car into the Albanian capital Tirana’s main square where vehicles are not allowed, the local media and police reported on Sunday. The driver broke the barriers to enter the Skanderbeg Square. A young man managed to stop the driver entering from the window. Then people dragged him out of the car. No one was injured. The car stopped near two big tents where people get vaccines and a smaller tent raised from the Syri Televizion private channel to cover the voting. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

Credit: Hektor Pustina

Credit: Hektor Pustina

An Albanian man casts folds his ballot during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania,  Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
An Albanian man casts folds his ballot during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

A man casts his vote during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
A man casts his vote during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

A woman casts her ballot during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanians are voting in parliamentary elections amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
A woman casts her ballot during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanians are voting in parliamentary elections amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

A man casts his ballot during parliamentary elections in Tirana, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanians are voting in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter rivalry between the two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
A man casts his ballot during parliamentary elections in Tirana, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanians are voting in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter rivalry between the two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

Credit: Hektor Pustina

Credit: Hektor Pustina

An Albanian woman casts her vote during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
An Albanian woman casts her vote during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

Credit: Visar Kryeziu

A police officer stands near to a damaged car on central Skanderbeg square, after an incident, in Tirana, Sunday, April 25, 2021. A man drove his car into the Albanian capital Tirana’s main square where vehicles are not allowed, the local media and police reported on Sunday. The driver broke the barriers to enter the Skanderbeg Square. A young man managed to stop the driver entering from the window. Then people dragged him out of the car. No one was injured. The car stopped near two big tents where people get vaccines and a smaller tent raised from the Syri Televizion private channel to cover the voting. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
A police officer stands near to a damaged car on central Skanderbeg square, after an incident, in Tirana, Sunday, April 25, 2021. A man drove his car into the Albanian capital Tirana’s main square where vehicles are not allowed, the local media and police reported on Sunday. The driver broke the barriers to enter the Skanderbeg Square. A young man managed to stop the driver entering from the window. Then people dragged him out of the car. No one was injured. The car stopped near two big tents where people get vaccines and a smaller tent raised from the Syri Televizion private channel to cover the voting. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

Credit: Hektor Pustina

Credit: Hektor Pustina

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