Albanian parliament to elect new president

Parliament was to vote Wednesday to elect a new Albanian president - the second attempt this month to chose a leader amid wrangling that saw the opposition threatening a boycott that would lead the country to early elections.

Last week's vote was called off because neither the governing Democratic Party nor the main opposition Socialist Party - nor any other group - had officially nominated a candidate. Current President Alfred Moisiu's term expires July 24, and a new president must have been elected before then.

The president is chosen by at least a three-fifths majority in parliament, or 84 of the legislature's 140 seats. Failure to elect a president could force early general elections. The Democrats have 80 seats, too few to overcome an opposition boycott.

Weeklong talks between the two parties have failed to produce an agreement on whom to nominate.

The Socialists have threatened to boycott the presidential election unless they are allowed to present their own candidate. The party argues that, when it was in government in 2002, it allowed the Democrats to present Moisiu as a consensus candidate, and now demands it be allowed to present its own choice for the post.

The Socialists object to the Democrats' deputy leader Bamir Topi, who has been unofficially suggested as a candidate without consulting them.

In an effort to resolve the differences, two-member delegations from Prime Minister Sali Berisha's Democrats and Tirana Mayor Edi Rama's Socialists have met in five rounds of talks.

Rama said Tuesday they were entitled to offer the next presidential candidate as a balance of powers in the country, adding that the Democrats already had the posts of prime minister and parliament speaker.