Greece keeps eye on Albania

Greece was watching with interest yesterday as Albanians flocked to polling stations to elect their next government. Aides to Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis even had to deny rumors that the premier had prematurely congratulated one of the candidates. Yesterday’s contest between Prime Minister Fatos Nano’s Socialist Party and the main opposition right-of-center Democratic Party, led by Sali Berisha, was followed closely in Greece for several reasons. At least half a million Albanians live in Greece. There is also a sizeable Greek minority living in the neighboring Balkan country, and Greece is one of the biggest investors there. Throngs of Albanian voters were at polls yesterday morning, and officials were forced to keep the polling stations open past 7 p.m. due to the large turnout and high number of last-minute voters. By late last night, no official results had been made public. The two leading parties found themselves in hot water after both declared victory several hours before polls had closed. Meanwhile, Karamanlis was forced to extricate himself from a potentially uncomfortable situation yesterday after a member of the Democratic Party claimed the Greek premier had expressed his satisfaction at the opposition’s victory – long before voters had finished casting their ballots and the release of any official results. Representatives from the Socialist Party responded by labeling the claims as ‘terrible lies’ and saying Karamanlis would not become involved in the internal affairs of Albania at such a sensitive stage. Shortly afterward, Karamanlis’s press office in Athens also denied the claims that the premier had made any such statement.

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