Albania's Socialists win election, gain 3rd straight mandate

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Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama waves to his supporters during a rally in Tirana, Albania, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Albania's left-wing Socialist Party has secured a third consecutive mandate in a parliamentary election, winning a majority of seats in parliament, Prime Minister Edi Rama said on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

TIRANA – Albania’s left-wing Socialist Party has secured its third consecutive mandate in a parliamentary election, winning nearly one in two votes and enough seats in parliament to govern alone, electoral authorities said on Tuesday.

The Central Election Commission said that with 98% of the ballots from Sunday's voting counted, Prime Minister Edi Rama’s Socialists had won 49% of the vote and 74 of parliament's 140 seats. That's as many seats as they won in the previous election.

The main opposition center-right Democratic Party got 39% of the ballots and 59 seats.

Thousands of Socialist supporters gathered in Tirana’s main Skanderbeg Square to celebrate the victory, defying pandemic restrictions.

Rama addressed the flag-waving crowd.

“My dream ... is to make Albania in this decade ... the Balkan champion, in tourism and agro-tourism, in energy and agriculture and in fast, qualitative, incorruptible digital services,” he said.

Much of the speech was directed at the opposition Democrats, whom he urged to join the “national mega project.”

Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha conceded defeat in a speech at his party headquarters, but also pledged to continue the fight “for democracy,” accusing the Socialists of manipulating the election process.