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Count begins in key Albanian election

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Count begins in key Albanian election

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Voting has closed in Albania in a parliamentary election seen as key to the country’s immediate chances of joining the European Union.

Current centre-right prime minister Sali Berisha said after casting his ballot that the vote would be free and fair and would bolster Albania’s European plans. The last opinion polls gave him a slight lead over his socialist rival Edi Rama. Rama is the mayor of the capital, Tirana and has been praised for cheering up what used to be a drab city. In April Albania joined NATO and applied to join the EU. This election is seen by the West as a test of the country’s democratic maturity. Voting ended without any controversial incidents but the head of a team of around 400 international observers says there had been some irregularities. Both main rivals seek EU membership and share similar economic policies but they accuse each other of corruption and manipulating the vote.