Albanians vote in local polls as Europe closely watches
May 8, 2011, 13:09 GMT
Tirana/Belgrade - Voting began Sunday in Albanian local elections which will gauge the country's ability to finally unfreeze its European Union membership bid.
The parliamentary poll in 2009, marred by violence and allegations of massive fraud, were a prelude to a political crisis that exploded into opposition riots that left several people dead in January.
Despite warnings from the EU that fair and free elections are a crucial condition for Albania to move toward membership, the election campaign was marred by incidents involving political rivals.
Scuffles broke out between activists, but bombs also went off, injuring candidates.
As polling stations opened to the 3.1 million registered voters, hundreds of foreign observers spread out around the country to monitor the entire election process.
The race is on for local legislatures and mayoral posts ongoing in hundreds of municipalities, but the key battle is taking place in capital Tirana.
There the opposition Socialist Party leader Edi Rama seeks another term, fighting a challenge from teh ruling Democratic Party's candidate and former interior minister, Lulzim Basha.
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