World

Albania votes for local authorities in a key test to its EU membership integration steps

  • Tirana Mayor and leader of the main opposition Democratic Party Lulzim Basha casts his ballot for the local municipal elections in Tirana, Albania Sunday, June 21, 2015. Albanians have started voting in local municipal elections, a key step in their efforts to launch membership negotiations with the European Union. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    Tirana Mayor and leader of the main opposition Democratic Party Lulzim Basha casts his ballot for the local municipal elections in Tirana, Albania Sunday, June 21, 2015. Albanians have started voting in local municipal elections, a key step in their efforts to launch membership negotiations with the European Union. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)  (The Associated Press)

  • An Albanian  woman casts his ballot for the local municipal elections, in Tirana, Albania, Sunday, June 21, 2015. Albanians have started voting in local municipal elections, a key step in their efforts to launch membership negotiations with the European Union. Last year, Albania was granted EU candidate status and now Tirana is expecting to get approval for the launch of full membership negotiations.  (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    An Albanian woman casts his ballot for the local municipal elections, in Tirana, Albania, Sunday, June 21, 2015. Albanians have started voting in local municipal elections, a key step in their efforts to launch membership negotiations with the European Union. Last year, Albania was granted EU candidate status and now Tirana is expecting to get approval for the launch of full membership negotiations. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)  (The Associated Press)

  • An Albanian soldier stands guard in Tirana, as the Albanian army are protecting embassies and other public institutions in the capital while some 6,000 police officers stay near the polling stations, as people cast their ballots for the local municipal elections, a key step in the country’s  efforts to launch membership negotiations with the European Union, Tirana, Sunday, June 21, 2015. Some 3.4 million eligible voters cast their ballots in the country's seventh local polls since the fall of communism in 1990 to elect 61 mayors and 1,595 municipal counsellors.  (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

    An Albanian soldier stands guard in Tirana, as the Albanian army are protecting embassies and other public institutions in the capital while some 6,000 police officers stay near the polling stations, as people cast their ballots for the local municipal elections, a key step in the country‚Äôs efforts to launch membership negotiations with the European Union, Tirana, Sunday, June 21, 2015. Some 3.4 million eligible voters cast their ballots in the country's seventh local polls since the fall of communism in 1990 to elect 61 mayors and 1,595 municipal counsellors. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)  (The Associated Press)

Albanians have started voting in local municipal elections, a key step in their efforts to launch membership negotiations with the European Union.

About 3.4 million eligible voters cast their ballots in the country's seventh local elections since the fall of communism in 1990 to elect 61 mayors and 1,595 municipal counsellors.

Voting started Sunday at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) and ends at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT).

The focus is in the capital where a 37-party coalition led by Prime Minister Edi Rama's Socialists have nominated former social affairs minister Erion Veliaj, while the 15-party opposition led by Tirana Mayor Lulzim Basha's Democrats tapped parliamentarian Halim Kosova.

Around 200 international observers are monitoring the polls.

The law says results must be revealed no later than three days after the vote.