Communists claimed victory Monday in Albania's first free election in more than 60 years, saying they would win about two-thirds of the seats in a new parliament.
The main opposition group conceded it would fall short of forcing the Communists from power but predicted the party would fall within months in Albania, which was Europe's last hard-line Communist stronghold.No official results from Sunday's voting were yet released. Transportation and communications are primitive in the impoverished Balkan nation, which is struggling to emerge from nearly a half-century of Stalinist rule and international isolation.
The Communists suffered some embarrassing defeats. The Albanian president and party leader, Ramiz Alia, lost his parliamentary race in the capital to a little-known engineer, and the foreign minister lost as well.
Xhelil Ghoni, a Central Committee secretary of the Party of Labor - the Communists - predicted official results would give the party about two-thirds of the 250 seats in a new People's Assembly parliament.
Ghoni said the results were an "important victory" for the party that showed it "enjoys the full trust of the people."
He said the Communists are willing to cooperate with the opposition in parliament, which is to name a new president and adopt a new constitution.
But Sali Berisha, a co-leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, told about 3,000 supporters at a rally "there will be no coalition" with the Communists.
The Democrats had an early lead in at least 20 of the 29 voting districts in the capital of Tirana, according to preliminary unofficial results based on partial returns and opposition sources.
Asked about Alia's future, Ghoni said Alia would continue to lead the party. Sources said Alia won only about one-third of the vote in his parliamentary contest.
Democratic Party supporters predicted they would ultimately prevail despite the election results.
"Yesterday, we marked not a Democratic victory, but a victory for democracy," said party co-leader Gramoz Pashko. "The Communists who sucked our blood for 46 years are finished. Within two months they will be in pieces."