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Albanian vote seen as key for EU entry

Albanian vote seen as key for EU entry
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Albanians turned out in force on Sunday for an election which could determine whether they eventually join the European Union and Nato.

Voting started strongly and polling stations stayed open beyond the official closing time to accommodate a last-minute rush. Officials say turnout is likely to exceed the 56 per cent mark seen in 2001. A result is expected on Monday. But according to one news agency an election observer has been shot dead outside a polling station in the capital Tirana. Some 2.8 million people were eligible to vote for 140 members of parliament. The two main parties were both cautioned for claiming victory with hours of balloting to go. Although the country has no history of reliable exit polling, one private television channel said the opposition Democratic Party of ex-President Sali Berisha looked likely to defeat the Socialists of Prime Minister Fatos Nano, based on exit polls. The EU has made it clear it wants to see election standards met before signing an agreement with Tirana which could pave the way to EU membership.