Albanians vote today in a parliamentary poll that will be closely watched outside the Balkan nation’s borders. With the two main parties neck and neck, the country is keen to meet election standards the West has tied to its future in Europe and NATO. Isolated under a Stalinist dictatorship for decades, Albania has travelled a rocky road to democracy. But the last few years have been relatively stable, bringing Tirana’s dreams of European Union and NATO membership closer to reality. The Democratic Party of ex-President Sali Berisha hopes to return to power after years in opposition. He resigned in 1997 amid popular unrest sparked by the government’s failure to rein in shady savings schemes that bankrupted many people. Ever since, the Socialists have ruled, with current Prime Minister Fatos Nano at the helm for the last four years. Under their tenure, real incomes have doubled and the economy is growing. However, many in Albania appear ready for change. And that could be expressed in the vote for another party – the recently-formed Socialist Integration Movement, which opinion polls put in third place with 10 percent of the vote.
Tight election race in Albania