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Albanians vote in controversial local polls

Voting began on Sunday in Albania's local elections amid high tensions between the ruling and opposition parties which were further fanned by a tug-of-war between Prime Minister Edi Rama and President Ilir Meta.

Tirana, 30 June 2019 (dpa/MIA) – Voting began on Sunday in Albania’s local elections amid high tensions between the ruling and opposition parties which were further fanned by a tug-of-war between Prime Minister Edi Rama and President Ilir Meta.

Meta tried to stop Sunday’s vote with a decree earlier this month, saying that the heated atmosphere would prevent a truly democratic vote, but the country’s highest election authority, the Electoral College, overruled him last Monday.

Then Meta said he wanted to reschedule the election to October, but Rama immediately dismissed it, insisting the vote will take place on Sunday.

The opposition bloc, led by the conservative Democratic Party, has been demonstrating, often violently, against the Socialist Rama, accusing him of corruption and demanding his resignation and early parliamentary elections.

The opposition walked out of the institutions in February and is also boycotting the municipal elections.

The authorities have deployed 12,000 police to secure order on election day.

Formerly governed by a harsh communist regime, Albania joined NATO in 2009 and is in line to begin EU membership talks, but this remains elusive due to lagging reforms and rule of law issues.

The opposition accused Rama of rigging the 2017 parliamentary elections and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring mission reported shortcomings, but the European Union did not bring the result into doubt.

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