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The Latest: Albania polls close without feared clashes

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The Latest on disputed municipal elections in Albania (all times local): 5:45 p.m. Election Day clashes that were expected in Albania haven't materialized so far as opposition supporters held only small, brief rallies.

Independent analyst Lutfi Dervishi said of the municipal elections that opposition parties boycotted as part of a months-long protest of the government: "It was a day with no tears, no joy." Dervishi says Sunday's elections were "a test to see whether the political class is mature enough not to solve its political disagreements through violence."

Opposition leaders appeared to be counting voters but not threatening them on Sunday. Opposition lawmakers relinquished their seats and have been organizing protests since mid-February, in part over vote-rigging allegations the government denies the allegation.

Polls have closed and until now, Dervishi said, "It is the quietest day for the 2019 year, at least in Tirana."

8:30 a.m.

Albanians have started to cast ballots to elect mayors and city councils, or parliaments, amid a tense political conflict with the opposition boycotting the municipal elections.

Votes will be cast Sunday to pick authorities that will run 61 districts across the country for the next four years.

While the Socialist-run government is insisting on holding the election, the opposition says it will stop it taking place. Albania's President Ilir Meta is sympathetic to the opposition and declared that the vote is canceled, but the government under Prime Minister Edi Rama has refused to abide by that decision.

Voting starts at 0500 GMT and ends 1700 GMT. Preliminary election results are not expected until Monday.

The opposition blames a corrupt government linked to organized crime and asks for fresh national elections.

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