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By Benet Koleka
TIRANA (Reuters) - Albania's opposition Socialist Party took to the streets on Saturday to demand a recount of votes from June's general election which they say was stolen.
The Socialists have been boycotting parliament since the June 28 election which gave the ruling Democratic Party a second mandate by the smallest margin in any election since the end of communism in Albania.
In the first of what organisers said would be an ongoing series of protests, thousands of opposition supporters gathered outside Prime Minister Sali Berisha's office chanting: "Where is my vote?" and "Open the ballot boxes."
"If Sali Berisha will lock up with force the sovereign decision of the majority of Albanians inside the ballot boxes, we shall start the unending wave of protest of our people all over Albania, " Socialist leader Edi Rama told the crowd.
Rama said his Socialists were boycotting parliament as they did not want "share the blame in the theft of the votes."
"We want parliament to investigate the June 28 parliamentary elections and every illegal element during the elections so they will never be repeated," Rama said.
Western observers said the vote was an improvement on previous elections but had fallen short of the highest international standards. The vote count was delayed because of quarrels over breaches of procedure.
Both the Central Election Commission and the electoral courts found the Democratic Party had won 70 seats, the Socialists 66 and the SIM 4 seats.
Ballot boxes considered to be "irregular" have not been reopened, to the anger of the Socialists who say a recount of those votes would prove they had won.
Berisha told the Socialists shortly before the rally to take their complaints to the prosecutor's office and added that reopening the ballot boxes ran contrary to the law.
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Reuters