Tirana: Fears rose on Saturday of yet another disputed election in Albania after the commission tasked with certifying the vote remained defunct a day before the Balkan country goes to the polls.
Since the fall of communism two decades ago, elections in Albania, one of Europe`s poorest countries, have been disputed or marred by violence and allegations of irregularities.
Tirana desperately needs to prove to its Western partners that it is able to hold fair polls that meet international standards if it is to have a shot at joining the EU.
But on the eve of the polls, the Central Electoral Commission remained inoperational.
There had been no progress made in a bid to replace three of the commission`s seven members who had quit in April over a dispute between Prime Minister Sali Berisha`s ruling coalition and Edi Rama`s Socialist-led opposition.
"The situation is currently blocked," a Western diplomat who requested anonymity told AFP.
The diplomat also warned that there is now "a great risk the results (of Sunday`s polls) would be contested, either by the outgoing coalition or by the opposition".
Brussels, which has twice rejected Tirana`s EU membership application, said Sunday`s vote "represents a crucial test for the country`s democratic institutions and its progress towards the European Union".
More than 3.2 million eligible voters will elect 140 new MPs from a slate of 7,000 candidates.
Some 600 international observers will monitor the polls which open at 0500 GMT Sunday and close 12 hours later.
First preliminary results were expected on Monday.