Exit polls: Tight race in Albania's parliamentary vote

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An Albanian woman casts her vote ballot during parliamentary elections in capital Tirana, Albania on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Albanian voters have started casting ballots in parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

TIRANA – An exit poll for Albania's parliamentary election on Sunday suggests that the ruling Socialist Party is in a tight race with the opposition Democratic Party.

The exit poll run for Euronews Albania from the MRB, part of the London-based Kantar Group, projects that the left-wing Socialists will win about 46% of the vote while the Democrats are expected to capture about 42%. It is still unclear whether Socialists will get 71 seats in the 140-seat parliament to govern alone.

Some 3.6 million eligible voters in Albania and abroad voted to elect 140 lawmakers for a four-year mandate in the Balkan nation.

“The process was characterized by a calm situation, security and integrity,” said Ilirjan Celibashi, head of the Central Election Commission. He said the winner would be known in 48 hours.

Albania, a NATO member since 2009, is looking forward to launching full membership negotiations with the 27-member European Union later this year and Sunday’s vote is considered a key milestone on that path.

The hope is that post-communist Albania’s 10th parliamentary election will be free and fair. To date, voting always has been marred by irregularities.

Preliminary turnout Sunday was almost 48%, slightly higher than four years ago.

There were some glitches. The electronic identification machines did not operate in 167 out of 5,199 polling stations after no operators to work them were found in those remote areas, according to Celibashi.