- Title: ALBANIA: Voting begins for Albanian general election.
- Date: 30th June 2009
- Summary: TIRANA, ALBANIA (JUNE 28, 2009) (REUTERS) TIRANA RESIDENTS QUEUING TO VOTE ELECTION WORKER CHECKING DOCUMENTS ELECTION WORKERS / PEOPLE QUEUING VOTERS WAITING TO BE PROCESSED WOMAN SIGNS IN VOTING LIST MAN HANDING OUT HIS IDENTITY CARD POLLING CENTRE OFFICIAL REGISTERING THE VOTER WOMAN CASTING HER BALLOT BALLOT BOX VARIOUS OF MAN CASTING HIS BALLOT (SOUNDBITE) (Albanian) ISMET DUZATI, TIRANA RESIDENT, SAYING: "(I voted) for Socialist Party, for Edi Rama, because he has a new vision and we need a change." PEOPLE REGISTERING ELECTION WORKERS MAN SIGNING THE VOTERS REGISTER ELECTION MONITORS MAN BEHIND VOTING STAND BALLOT BOX MAN SHOWING THE BALLOT TO MONITORS / VOTES (SOUNDBITE) (Albanian) ESAT MYFTARI, TIRANA RESIDENT, SAYING: "We had, or better say we had seen a successful (election) campaign and I expect the realisation of the given promises, as well as continuation of the work that started four years ago." NEWSPAPER STAND / PEOPLE MAN LOOKING AT THE NEWSPAPERS
- Embargoed: 15th July 2009 13:00
- Location: Albania
- Country: Albania
- Topics: European Union
- Reuters ID: LVA2LRMGRYXDI2TUPFU1O51I6KCQ
- Story Text: Albania's vote is seen by the West as a test of the Balkan state's democratic maturity and its suitability to join the EU.
Albanians voted on Sunday (June 28), deciding whether to retain a dominant leader of the post-communist era or turn to the Socialist Party contender as one of Europe's poorest countries bids for EU membership and faces imminent recession.
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, promising to rule with "clean hands".
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.
Very close behind according to the latest polls is Socialist Party leader Edi Rama, 44, the mayor of Tirana who is credited with cleaning up and livening up the once dreary Balkan capital.
"(I voted) for Socialist Party, for Edi Rama, because he has a new vision and we need a change," said voter Ismet Duzati, after voting in Tirana.
Berisha, a former heart surgeon, says he will continue an ambitious, expensive programme of building roads, industrial parks and hydropower plants. Rama, a former artist, says he will modernize Albania and focus on growth, especially in agriculture.
"I expect the realisation of the given promises, as well as continuation of the work that started four years ago," said another voter, Esat Myftari.
Both the Democrats and the Socialists say they will bring Albania into the EU and create jobs and economic growth in a country where per capita GDP is less than $3,500. Each of them accuse the other of corruption.
Europe's most-isolated communist nation a generation ago, Albania joined the NATO military alliance in April and the same month applied for European Union membership.
Under complicated new rules to translate the vote into proportional representation in parliament, a small party could emerge as the kingmaker should Sunday's vote result be close.
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