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Albanian elections seen as key milestone on road to EU membership

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Albanian elections seen as key milestone on road to EU membership
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Two of Albania's bitter political rivals held closing rallies on Friday ahead of Sunday's parliamentary elections that are seen as a key milestone on the country's road to EU membership.

Prime Minister Edi Rama, the leader of the Socialist Party, addressed supporters in Vlora. His party pledges to turn Albania into a "champion" in sectors including energy and tourism.

But the country has been hard by COVID-19 and the devastating earthquake that struck in 2019.

Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha held a rally in the capital Tirana. He accuses the government of corruption and links to organised crime.

He is pledging lower taxes, higher salaries, and more social and financial support.

Albania has been a NATO member since 2009 and is aiming to launch its membership negotiations with the European Union later this year.

3.6m people are eligible to vote, including many Albanian nationals living abroad.

They will elect 140 lawmakers from some 1,820 candidates belonging to 12 political parties or coalitions.

Reformed electoral law

Last year, Albania's main political parties approved electoral reforms following two days of meetings at the residence of the US ambassador in Tirana.

The new laws followed recommendations from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has monitored the country's post-communist elections that have always been marred by irregularities.

It guarantees free and fair elections, focusing on voters' electronic identification, partly depoliticising the electoral commission, and a pilot project on full digitalization of the voting and counting process.