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Opposition Takes Early Lead In Albanian Elections

Sali Berisha 4 July 2005 -- Albania's electoral commission said today that partial results of the 3 July parliamentary poll had former President Sali Berisha's opposition Democrats in the lead.

But the commission said that due to the "complicated" election law, the tallying of results was proceeding slowly and would not be completed before 5 July.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), in a joint statement with the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, said the election did not fully comply with international standards.

The election is seen as crucial for Albania's efforts to get closer to joining NATO and the European Union. The statement said the poll complied "only partially with international commitments and standards for democratic elections." It said voting was generally peaceful, but a few violent incidents, including the fatal shooting of an election official, cast a shadow over the process.

Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana called for an investigation into the reports of irregularities.

With some 5 percent of the vote counted, Berisha's Democrats were leading over Prime Minister Fatos Nano's Socialists by roughly 45 percent to 30 percent, respectively.

The turnout among the 2.9 million voters was 56 percent.

(international agencies)