Albania`s 140-member parliament was dissolved Friday ahead of general elections scheduled for July 3.
Tirana- Prime Minister Fatos Nano`s governing Socialists are vying for a third consecutive term, while former President Sali Berisha has argued that his opposition Democratic Party will bring Albania closer to the European Union.
Albania is under international pressure to hold fair and trouble-free elections in order to further its ambitions to join NATO next year and the EU by 2015. Past elections have been marred by serious irregularities.
Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have already sent a team of 34 long-term observers, while 400 additional monitors will be sent before the vote.
Albania, one of Europe`s poorest countries, emerged from decades of Communist isolation in the early 1990s, but is still struggling with rampant corruption, unemployment and poor infrastructure.
“After 15 years in transition from totalitarianism to democracy, Albanian society and its political leaders are aware Albania will be the one to benefit from holding free and fair elections,” Parliament Speaker Servet Pellumbi said.
“Our important challenge remains to hold elections for the new parliament, a challenge that deserves from all of us,” Pellumbi said.
Voters will elect 100 legislators directly in a one-round ballot, while the remaining 40 parliamentary seats will be divided between parties based on their share of the poll. Parties must win at least 2.5 percent to get into parliament.
THE HINDU, News Update Service, 21.05.2005