Albanian Socialists pledge reforms, jobs after election win confirmed

TIRANA (Reuters) - Albania’s ruling Socialist Party pledged on Tuesday to flush out corrupt judges, create more jobs and tackle the cannabis trade on the path toward European Union membership, after final results confirmed their win in a parliamentary election.

Slideshow ( 3 images )

Chief election officer Klement Zguri said the final official preliminary tally from Sunday’s vote showed the Socialists won 48 percent, or 74 seats in the 140-seat parliament, and the main opposition Democratic Party 29 percent, or 43 seats.

The Democratic Party and a smaller third party, the Socialist Integration Movement (SIM), which won 14 percent, or 19 seats, both accused the Socialists of buying votes in an election marred by low turnout of 46.72 percent.

The Socialists deny the accusation.

“After our first term, much remains to be done, and we plan to get back to work immediately, to continue reforms, and to expand the economy and create jobs,” Prime Minister Edi Rama said in a statement.

NATO member Albania’s new government must implement sweeping judicial reforms to root out widespread graft in order to make progress in its bid to join the EU.

Albania has also become the leading supplier of herbal cannabis smuggled into the EU, according to Europol, but tackling the trade is likely to prove challenging.

Rama’s new government needs to maintain momentum on job creation, after creating some 180,000 jobs in the previous four-year parliament - somewhat more than half of the number it promised in 2013.

A recent Gallup poll suggested 56 percent of all Albanians wanted to emigrate in search of better opportunities abroad.

On Tuesday Rama reaffirmed his commitment to a pre-election deal with Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha to push constitutional and election reforms jointly after the poll and to speak to the EU with one united voice.

Basha sounded a less conciliatory note on Tuesday, telling a televised news conference: “Criminality and dirty money flowed freely, this election was bought on a massive scale.”

Basha said he would run again for his party’s leadership in July.

EU leaders said the election was held in a “calm and orderly manner” but urged international observers to provide a fuller report on the allegations of vote-buying and pressure on voters.

Brussels also reminded Tirana that “the continuation of justice reform and the fight against drug trafficking and cultivation will be of particular importance” in its pursuit of closer EU ties.

Reporting By Benet Koleka; Editing by Gareth Jones