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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 6,124 4,695 4,100 109
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,740 1,380 1,340 120
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Albania

Update No: 150 - (16/12/09)

The contested result
The Albanians are still smarting at the outcome of summer elections. Albania's opposition Socialist Party has been launching protests to demand either a recount of the vote in a controversial June election or that another is held.

Socialist Party leader Edi Rama, who came to public prominence as a reforming mayor of Tirana, accused Prime Minister Sali Berisha of the Democratic Party of rigging the parliamentary elections, which by the narrowest of margins gave the incumbent party the palm. Berisha's Democrats now hold 70 seats in the 140-seat parliament, and the Socialists 66. The Democrats rule with support from four Socialist Movement seats.

The Socialists lost to PM Sali Berisha's Democrats in this tight race, but have not accepted the result and refuse to enter parliament unless a number of ballot boxes, ruled irregular by election authorities, are opened. The Socialists claim the votes inside would give them victory overall.

The Socialists earlier gave the prime minister a 10-day deadline to recount the ballots cast in June elections or face snap polls. The Socialists, backed by other centre-left and centre-right opposition parties, proceeded with protests after PM Berisha refused to comply with their demands.

Nevertheless, the protests have died down for the moment, perhaps for good. Berisha has a loyal police force behind him, and a loyal army too. In a fledgling democracy that is what counts.

The makeover manque
For those of us who want to see a reformed Albania emerge the result is deeply disappointing. Rama is a very gifted man, an architect, who only entered public life out of conviction that it needed a new broom.

There are plenty of things that need to be swept away. The country is rife with corruption and banditry. Since the country opened up to abroad nearly twenty years ago Albanian gangsters have been engaging in extensive smuggling and a traffic in sex slaves.

In a recent scandal Albanian hoods were caught outside Selfridges in Oxford Street, London, selling a girl into sexual slavery at the going rate of £3,000 per head. A high percentage of prostitutes in Soho are of Albanian origin.

Rama would know how to begin to tackle the problems, if his record as mayor of the capital is any guide. Alas, he has simply chased the metropolitan crooks into the provinces, where they are outside his control. He needs to be at the helm of the nation.

That does not now look likely for at least another four years, until new elections. He is considering retirement from public life. His friends are urging him to carry on the fight for a better Albania. They include Ismael Kadare, the novelist, and Lida Franzinetti, the World Bank economist, who realise how vital it is that there is a new broom and in the right hands!

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