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Prime Minister Edi Rama is heading toward a third term in power, according to the first preliminary results released following Sunday's election.
Albania's ruling Socialist Party (PS) is on course to win almost half of the votes cast in Sunday's election according to the first preliminary results released by the state election commission on Monday.
With around 30% of the votes counted, results showed that PS had secured 49.4% while the main opposition Democratic Party (PD) was set to win 38.8% of the votes. The Socialist Integration Movement had the backing of 7.1% of voters, so far.
The election commission said it would announce the final results on Tuesday.
Sunday's election took place after a bitter campaign and violence between rival supporters, due to frustration with the politics and economy of the country, which is hoping to launch full membership talks with the EU later this year.
The Balkan country with a population of 2.8 million has some 3.6 million voters due to its large diaspora
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama is seeking a third term for his Socialist Party.
His campaign centered around promises of turning Albania into a "champion'' in tourism, energy, agriculture and digital projects.
Rama's main contender was Lulzim Basha of the PD, who is seeking a return to power eight years after losing an election.
Twelve other parties have united in a coalition behind Basha, who has accused the government of corruption and links to organized crime.
The PD pledged lower taxes, higher salaries and more social financial support.
The election was closely watched by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Western embassies.
Despite their division, all parties have vowed to deliver the needed reforms for Albania to fulfill its goal of joining the EU.
The bloc agreed to open membership talks last year, but is yet to set a date for the first meeting.
In 2014, Tirana was granted EU candidate status. Still, there has been little progress due to the coronavirus pandemic and lack of reforms within the country.
The new government will also face the challenge of dealing with the pandemic and rebuilding homes after a 2019 earthquake that killed 51 people and damaged more than 11,400 properties.
The Balkan country is deeply divided, with rival political parties exchanging fiery remarks during a bitter election campaign.
On Wednesday, a shooting that was linked to party activists left one person dead and four injured.
The incident drew criticism from the US Embassy, which urged the country's main political leaders to "exercise restraint" and "to clearly reject violence" before the election.
ab, mvb, fb/mm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)