Tue Jun 27, 2017 9:48AM
Opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha flashes a victory sign as he casts his ballot at a polling station in Tirana, during a parliamentary election on June 25, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha flashes a victory sign as he casts his ballot at a polling station in Tirana, during a parliamentary election on June 25, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Albania’s left-wing Socialist Party has secured a second mandate in a general election, winning a majority of seats in parliament, nearly complete results showed Tuesday.

The election is seen as a key benchmark to the country’s bid to launch membership negotiations with the European Union.

The Central Election Commission said that with more than 95 percent of the ballots counted, the governing Socialists of Prime Minister Edi Rama had won about 48 percent of the votes, or 74 places in the 140-seat parliament.

The previous government was a coalition of the Socialists and the Socialist Movement for Integration, or LSI, often creating problems for Rama.

The opposition Democratic Party of Lulzim Basha won 29 percent, or 43 seats. The LSI is third with 19 seats. Turnout in Sunday’s election fell to 46.6 percent, 7 points lower than in 2013.

International observers who monitored the polling hailed the generally calm campaign and voting, but also noted the continued political fight that has negative impacts on the country’s democracy.

The US embassy in Tirana said that the incidents “were not so widespread as to change the overall outcome of the elections.”

Federica Mogherini, EU’s foreign policy chief, and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn urged the new Cabinet to continue the reform process.

“The continuation of the justice reform and the fight against drug trafficking and cultivation will be of particular importance in this respect,” their statement said.

The governing Socialists had agreed in May to give the opposition Democrats a greater role in oversight on election transparency.

The two parties also pledged to work together toward eventually joining the European Union.

Rama had pledged that his new cabinet would work hard on a reform agenda to root out corruption and fight drug trafficking, achieve faster economic growth, improve pay and lower unemployment.

The nation of 2.9 million, a NATO member since 2009, received EU candidate status in 2014.

(Source: AP)