The conservative prime minister who dominated post-communist politics in Albania has conceded election defeat, taking personal responsibility for the heavy loss to the rival Socialists after losing the support of fed-up voters.
Sali Berisha, who had been seeking a third straight term as prime minister in Sunday's general election, also announced to party supporters late on Wednesday he would step down as leader of his center-right Democratic Party.
The 68-year-old's party was beaten handily. With nearly all of the votes counted, Socialist Edi Rama was ahead with 53 percent, compared to just 36 percent for the Democrats.
"We have lost these elections. Believe me, the responsibility for this falls on one person - on me, Sali Berisha," he said.
Albania, once one of the world's most reclusive countries during its communist years, became a NATO member in 2009 and has applied for European Union candidate status.
But so far that has been denied over criticism it has not done enough to fight corruption and push through democratic reforms.
Berisha was hurt by Rama's anti-corruption focus as the country struggles to weather the effects of recessions in nearby Greece and Italy, where many Albanian migrants work to provide remittances back to their impoverished country.
International election monitors said the Balkan country had made significant improvements in the June 23 vote, despite a fatal shooting that occurred on voting day outside a polling station in north of the country.
Improving the election process was a central condition set by the EU to advance negotiations aimed at the country's eventual membership.
Berisha's remarks eased tension over the country's Central Election Commission which has yet to officially certify the results.
The parties were at odds over the commission's membership ahead of the vote. Three opposition members had pulled out of the body in April in a dispute over Berisha's replacement of a commission member.
But with Berisha conceding, officials among the Socialist Party have said they will almost certainly return to the commission to certify the vote.