Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama is facing a crisis from the 12 parties that have joined forces behind the opposition Democrats.
Albanians are voting for a parliamentary election on Sunday following a series of violent protests by gunmen fighting for peace in the United States and the European Union.
Prime Minister Edi Rama, who advocated for a “free and honest” vote, wants a third term and has vowed to resign if Socialists fail to win the majority.
He faces a dilemma from the 12 allied parties behind the main opposition Democrats, whose leader Lulzim Basha has told his supporters that Rama has failed for eight years and should not be given another chance.
A dispute between the two parties erupted in the last week of the campaign when the alleged vote-buying scandal erupted in a town near the capital, killing one militant and injuring four others.
All parties are committed to making the necessary changes to make the Balkans realize their dream of joining the EU.
Tirana was offered the opportunity to join the EU in 2014, but there has been little progress due to increased fatigue around the bloc and a lack of change in Albania. Last year the bloc agreed to open a discussion for members.
But despite the buzz of pop music and flag-raising ceremonies at the last rallies in Tirana, young and old voters have expressed frustration with the country’s politics and economy.
Research shows that Rama’s electorate has a leader in opposition, but commentators say many people who did not vote in the election have said it is difficult.
President Ilir Meta – Rama’s main enemy – was one of the first to vote a few minutes after voting at 05:00 GMT, promising a “patriotic vote” to rebuild the foundations of the Republic.
The world’s 2.8 million people are among the poorest in Europe and the coronavirus has been devastated by a significant drop in the tourism industry.
The 2019 earthquake that killed 51 people and destroyed more than 11,400 lands has also affected the economy.
Rama, an artist and former basketball player, is launching a massive COVID-19 vaccine to boost popularity, promising that 500,000 Albanians will be admitted by the end of May.
“We are fighting for Albania to get out of the epidemic,” he told supporters in the northern city of Vlora on Friday, promising economic reforms based on tourism, agriculture, energy and digital economy.
Rama’s opponents will speed up the crackdown on EU members in the country and revive the economy with the help of small businesses.
“You can’t give another chance to someone who has failed for eight years, we are the future,” Basha told his supporters at his last meeting in Tirana on Friday.
Opposition groups called for a boycott of the by-elections in which Basha accused his colleague of vote-rigging and corruption, and Rama mocked his opponents as a puppet of a party activist and president.
Meta, whose wife is holding a small Democrat-led party party, said the “ballot papers” would be ready on Sunday if Socialists tried to disrupt the vote – sparking US interest.
“It is unacceptable for anyone to threaten that citizens will engage in ‘shells’ … These threats should be brought to justice,” U.S. envoy Yuri Kim wrote on Twitter.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, an international body that sends observers to vote, said the election was an important step in “maturing national politics”.
Voting started at 7am (5:00 GMT) is expected to continue until 7pm (17:00 GMT) with officials promising results in two days.