Albania's first parliament since World War II not controlled by communists opened Saturday with jubilation but somber assessments of the future by the governing Democrats.
The Democratic Party won control of parliament with an overwhelming victory in March elections, then gained full control of the government with the resignation Friday of President Ramiz Alia, a former communist leader.It faces the challenge of governing Europe's poorest country. The economy is floundering after decades of communist mismanagement, crime is rampant and food riots broke out this winter.
"I feel a lot calmer and happier about the country's future now that we have the Democrats in the majority," said Aleksander Meksi, deputy leader of the ruling party. But he added, "We are conscious of the immense burden now on our shoulders."
"We have a lot of responsibilities," said Natasha Lako, a Democrat deputy and one of only a handful of women in parliament. "I am happy but this will be no celebration."
During the one-hour, largely symbolic session, longtime political prisoner Pjeter Arbenori celebrated the downfall of communism.
"I wish to thank everyone who has contributed to the victory of democracy," said Arbenori, who was imprisoned from 1962 to 1990 for trying to organize an opposition party to the communists.
Arbenori, who looks much older than his 58 years, is expected to be elected parliament speaker, where the Democrats now control 92 of 140 sets. The Socialist Party, successors to the Communist Party, won 38.