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Albania's Leftist Majority Ahead In Local Elections

Preliminary results in Albania's local elections show the country's leftist majority is ahead in most municipalities, including the capital, Tirana.

Albanians voted on June 21 to elect mayors and councilors in 61 municipalities.

More than half the ballots have been counted so far.

Turnout was about 48 percent.

In the capital, Tirana, the candidate of the Socialist-led ruling coalition, Erion Veliaj won 53.5 percent of votes while his right-wing rival, Halim Kosova, won 39 percent, the results showed after ballots were counted at two thirds of polling stations.

International observers assessed the polling day "positively" but pointed out "many cases of group voting and some procedural irregularities."

The elections were seen as a test of the Balkan country's fragile democracy as it pushes to join the European Union.

Albania obtained EU candidate status nearly a year ago, and is now expecting to get approval for the launch of full membership negotiations.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP