Polling stations for the parliamentary elections in Albania opened on Sunday at 7.00, the Central Election Commission of the country said.
46 parties and three coalitions are competing for seats in the 140-seat Albanian parliament. About 3.6 million citizens have the right to vote. About 20 thousand people infected with COVID-19, according to the decision of the election commission, will not be able to vote; masks and other protective equipment are mandatory at the polling stations.
Albanian President Ilir Meta was one of the first to vote in Tirana after the opening of the polling stations. He told reporters that “today the whole world is looking at Albania.”
The chairman of the Electoral Commission of Albania, Ilirjan Celibashi, noted that the counting of votes would begin closer to midnight. “I would like to take this opportunity to state and confirm what is stipulated in the electoral code – that, regardless of any circumstances, the start of the voting process is at 07.00, and there is no reason to hesitate or doubt,” the commission quotes him as saying.
The head of the CEC also stressed that electronic voter identification devices are installed at 5,2 thousand voting places.
The OSCE earlier reported that the joint observation mission of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and PACE has 122 observers from 20 countries who will work at sites in Tirana and throughout Albania.
The main battle for votes is between the Socialist Party, which has been ruling since 2013, and the Alliance for Change, a coalition of the Democratic Party. Both forces favor closer cooperation with the EU and NATO but have been bitter political opponents for years. The opinion polls also show the high chances of the Socialist Movement for Integration, which signed a coalition agreement with the PD
The embassy of Albania’s main foreign policy partner, the United States, has officially announced that it will send its own observers to the polling stations, “who will be there until the work is finished.” The American Ambassador, Ms. Yuri Kim, held a closed-door meeting with the head of the Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha, at the party’s headquarters on Saturday.