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Things that matters in Albanian Election

27 May 2013

Albanians will vote on 23 June 2013 to renew the 140 seats parliament.

Elections are deemed to be important for democracy, rule of law and EU integration process.

In the last few months, several events related to the next general elections took place. This is a recollection of these events that can serve as background information.

Electoral System: Albania changed its electoral system with an overnight agreement in 2008 between Sali Berisha, (Prime Minister and chairman of the ruling Democratic Party) and Edi Rama (then, mayor of Tirana and chairman of the Opposition Socialist Party). The new system of regional proportionality divides Albania in 12 electoral zones; each assigned a number of MPs according to their population. The number of population is drawn from the civic register. In face of massive international and internal emigration, the accuracy of the civic register is very low. There are ongoing accusations for civic register manipulations that would give an advantage to the ruling party. An arithmetical formula is used to calculate wining MP’s based on principle of proportionality between percentage of votes collected by parties and percentage of parliamentary seats obtained. Electoral threshold of 2 per cent for parties and 4 per cent for coalitions is deliberately put in place to discriminate parties that want to compete without a prior agreement with two major parties. Small parties can compete in joint list with major parties and in this case they need proportionally less votes to get an MP.

MP candidate nominations: The new system increases the power of the party leaders who practically are able to draw lists of their candidates as they wish. All parties are obliged by law to enlist candidates for all the number of MPs that will be elected in a certain region. This rule creates frustration for small parties that aim to get one MP but have to find candidates for 140 positions and simply could not find adequate figures to put as formal candidates. Such parties often have to pay taxi drivers or the likes to put their names in a senseless competition.

Election administration: Ministry of Interior (MoI)is responsible for voters’ list preparation and had provided to the Central Election Commission (CEC) statistics for number of votes available in each region. CEC should calculate the number of MP’s for each region based on statistics supplied by MoI. (Ongoing dispute)

Central Election Commission is a bipartisan commission in Albania with a majority from the ruling PD. Polling stations and vote counting centers are also politically nominated by the parties as representatives of their interests.

Fraud possibilities: In the past, major frauds happened mostly in the counting process. Albania concentrated vote counting procedures in few dozen centers that are separate from voting stations after 2001 elections. Previously, counting was carried in the voting stations and was reasonably suspected that were simply miscounted. This concentration, although made the process more easily monitored, didn’t resolve the problem. In 2005, when counting procedure was first organized in concentrated centers, was reasonably suspected that the two major parties PD and PS cut a deal to divide among themselves votes that were for two minor parties. Based on such speculation, a part of the votes of the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) were counted as PS votes and those of the Movement for National Development (LZHK) were counted as PD votes.

In 2009, major irregularities were registered in rural areas in the region of Tirana, where small parties managed to get unusually high percentages of votes in isolated villages. With such votes, small parties managed to get one MP.

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