- Title: ALBANIA: Albanian leaders cast votes
- Date: 30th June 2009
- Summary: SLATE INFORMATION
- Embargoed: 15th July 2009 13:00
- Location: Albania
- Country: Albania
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA1P91WVFM7ZK579J0HTHUCNI16
- Story Text: Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha and challenger Edi Rama from the Socialist party cast their ballots in country's national election.
The leaders of Albania's main political parties voted on Sunday (June 28) in elections seen as a test of the Balkan state's democratic credentials, with a dominant leader of the post-communist era facing a Socialist in the race for Prime Minister.
Sali Berisha, 64, helped end communism and served as president from 1992 until 1997 when the country plunged into chaos after pyramid investment schemes collapsed. He returned as Prime Minister in 2005.
"In these elections there will not be any losers. In these free and fair elections every Albanian will be a winner. These are the elections that will stamp our European project," Berisha told reporters after casting his ballot.
The Adriatic country of 3.2 million has grown more than five percent annually under his recent leadership, although experts foresee stagnation or even recession this year.
Both the Democrats and the Socialists say they will bring Albania into the European Union, creating jobs and economic growth in a country where per capita GDP is less than $3,500 (U.S. dollars).
Just trailing behind, according to the latest polls, is Socialist Party leader Edi Rama.
The 44-year-old mayor of Tirana is credited with cleaning up and livening up the once dreary Balkan capital.
"I will repeat my appeal for the country's Prime Minister to contribute and accept the elections results in a peaceful manner," Rama said after voting.
Local media have reported that some polling stations were unable to start at indicated opening times because of problems with voting materials, but voting is generally believed to have started in an orderly fashion in most areas.
Two people were killed during the campaign.
Washington and the European Union have urged Albania to hold what they say would be its first fully free and fair vote.
Western monitors have fanned out across Albania to observe whether the vote will meet international standards and they will announce their assessment of the election on Monday afternoon (June 29).
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