The parliamentary election in Albania is in full swing with Prime Minister Sali Berisha seeking a third term in office, but facing a strong challenge from a younger candidate.
The campaign has been acrimonious and is already marked by allegations of vote rigging. The result itself could be thrown into doubt because the Central Electoral Commission, which legally must have at least five members, currently only has four because of a dispute between Berisha’s coalition and the party of the man who is running him a close second, Edi Rama, the former Mayor of Tirana.
Both men are pro-European, and promise job creation, tax reform, and economic development in one of Europe’s poorest countries.
More than 6,900 candidates from 66 parties are contesting 140 seats. Trying to ensure everything is fair are 400 international election observers and more than 8,000 Albanian monitors.
As voting got underway on Sunday an activist from Rama’s party was killed and a ruling party candidate was injured in a shootout between the two men.
The EU, which has twice rejected an Albanian membership application, says the election “represents a crucial test for the country’s democratic institutions and its progress towards the European Union”.