Albania’s prime minister, the artist turned politician Edi Rama, is poised to be returned to power following parliamentary elections seen as key to the country’s future prospects of EU membership. As ballots continued to be counted on Monday, an exit poll showed Rama and his Socialist party on course to win between 45% and 49% of the vote. If correct, the result would secure the Socialists control of more than half the 140-seat house. The opposition centre-right Democratic party, led by Lulzim Basha, was trailing with 34%. The poll, conducted by Italy’s IPR Marketing, had a margin of error of two percentage points.
With 40% of the vote counted, preliminary results released by the nation’s central election commission showed the ruling party winning 51.6% of the ballots cast.
Rama, who campaigned on a ticket of further integration with the west, has vowed to push ahead with reforms including a root-and-branch overhaul of the justice system. Along with free and fair elections, both are a condition for the small Balkan state launching accession talks with Brussels later this year.
Before the vote, Rama had shared power since 2013 for lack of a parliamentary majority, and had pledged to lay off corrupt judges and improve property rights – an explosive issue in the nation of 2.9 million people.