Albania News

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Albania’s local elections on Sunday are taking on more importance than usual as a test of democracy in the ex-communist state that hopes to start membership negotiations with the European Union. The opposition, supported by the country’s president, is boycotting the vote over its claims of government corruption and demands for a new parliamentary election, but the Albanian government is pressing ahead. Holding a free and fair election has been post-communist Albania’s Achilles’ heel, but it is considered key for the launch of EU membership talks for the nation of 2.9 million, which already belongs to NATO. Here is a look at what to expect: THE VOTE About 3.5 million Albanians are eligible to elect mayors and town hall councils, or parliaments to run 61 districts for the next four years. The number of eligible voters is notably higher than the entire population of Albania, due to the number of people from the Albanian diaspora in other countries. There is no provision for voting abroad, however. Voting starts at 0500 GMT (1 a.m. EDT) and ends 1700 GMT (1 p.m. EDT) on Sunday. Preliminary election results are not expected until Monday. POLITICAL CONFLICT President Ilir Meta has tried to cancel Sunday’s vote because of the opposition boycott, and on Thursday he announced that the election would now take place on Oct. 13 — a few days before the EU decision on membership negotiations is expected. Prime Minister Edi Rama, however, insists the elections will take place as scheduled on Sunday,…

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