Once Europe’s most-reclusive state, Albania holds elections tomorrow seen as a crucial test of its ambition to join the EU family of nations. Long-time Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha, who has been President and is now Prime Minister, insists the election will be free and fair, after previous votes were condemned by monitors for failing to meet international standards.
His Socialist opponents, the re-formed Communists led by Edi Rama, have already cast public doubt on the government’s ability to organise a fair vote, and opinion polls say the election is nicely balanced. The parties’ manifestoes are broadly similar, based on EU entry, more jobs and stability, while accusing each other of corruption. The International Monetary Fund predicts a dramatic fall in growth this year, after a decade of robust expansion. The anticipated closeness of the election has led to sporadic violence: last week an opposition Christian Democrat official was killed when his car blew up, and a member of the ruling Democrats was shot dead in a row over election posters.