By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
TIRANA/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– Albania’s Prime Minister Sali Berisha and his Socialist rival Edi Rama both claimed victory in parliamentary elections that were overshadowed by violence in which at least one person died.
An opposition activist was killed in an apparently politically motivated shooting during Sunday’s vote that observers said could determine whether one of Europe’s poorest countries has a chance of joining the European Union.
Albanian police said 53-year Socialist activist Gjon Gjoni died “after being shot in an exchange of fire” with the candidate of the rival governing Democratic Party.
Candidate Mhill Fufi, who is 49, and other man were injured in the clashes near a polling station in the city of Lac, outside the capital Tirana, police said.
The involvement of a candidate of his party in the gun battle came as another setback for the country’s conservative Prime Minister Berisha.
SEEKING THIRD TERM
He was seeking a third four-year term in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, but faced a tough challenge from Socialist leader and former Tirana mayor Rama.
Once one of the world’s hardest-line Communist countries where Christians and political dissidents were severely persecuted, Albania joined the NATO military alliance in 2009. But it has failed to gain even candidate status from the European Union because since 1991 it never held a ballot deemed fully free and fair.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule has warned that failure again would further set back Albania’s ambitions to join the European Union.
“We have repeatedly stressed that concluding the parliamentary elections in June in line with European and international standards, is essential for further progress towards the European Union,” he told reporters.
Albania voted Sunday despite an ongoing dispute over the country’s election commission that remains dominated by Prime Minister Berisha’s allies.
His failure to resolve the dispute was condemned by the United States and EU and has raised concerns that the final election results will never be known.
And with both rivals claiming victory, Albania was expected to enter a period of political uncertainty.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has sent a team of election monitors to the troubled Balkan nation, which has 3.3 million registered voters, many of them living and working abroad.
(BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments from especially, but not limited to, (former) Communist countries and other autocratic states impacting the Church and/or other compassionate professionals).
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