Albania: pre-electoral delegation welcomes that voters will have a variety of choices, remains concerned with strains on electoral process

A PACE pre-electoral delegation, headed by Paolo Corsini (Italy, SOC) was in Albania on 1 and 2 June to assess the election campaign and the political climate prior to the parliamentary elections on 25 June 2017.

The delegation* welcomed that, following a political agreement reached between the two leaders of Albania’s two main political parties on 18 May, parliamentary elections will be held with the participation of the main opposition parties, providing voters with a meaningful variety of choices.

At the same time, the delegation noted with concern the strain put on independent institutions and on the electoral process as a whole with regard to the implementation of the agreement. Interlocutors had shared with the delegation critical observations on the procedures followed by the Parliament and the Central Election Committee (CEC) respectively for the installation of the new CEC Chair, the Ombudsperson and the late registration of some political parties.

The extremely limited time frame for the implementation of the new regulations on campaign financing and its monitoring, as well as the requirements for public and private media to carry electoral advertisement of political parties free of charge, were other issues brought to the attention of the delegation.

The delegation also noticed that concerns about the potential abuse of state resources, organised vote-buying and pressure on voters persist. Moreover, many interlocutors underlined the need for a full and verified implementation of the legislation on decriminalisation with regard to candidates competing in the elections. It also noted that media is widely regarded in the country as a propaganda tool.

It regrets that measures have not been taken in order to allow Albanians living abroad to participate in the electoral process without being obliged to return in the country.

The delegation urges all stakeholders in the electoral process to work in good faith to ensure that the independence of electoral and independent oversight and watchdog bodies is preserved and strengthened, that legal procedures are followed and that a level playing field for all electoral subjects is ensured throughout the process.

In its report following the 2013 parliamentary elections, PACE has called on Albanian authorities to take a number of measures in order to restore and strengthening citizen’s full trust in the electoral process. The delegations recalls, in this respect, in particular the need to make a clear distinction between the political parties’ activities and State institutions, the need to guarantee the impartial and neutral functioning of the election administration at all levels, by ensuring genuine institutional independence, and the recommendation to assess and improve the electoral framework. It strongly encourages the new Albanian Parliament to continue the electoral reform process after the elections in a constructive and goal oriented manner, with the aim to bring it to a successful end well before the 2019 local elections.

The delegation hopes that the reform of electoral and political party legislation will continue and contribute to bridging the gap between politics and ordinary citizens as well as to strengthening of inner party democracy, accountability and due processes, compatible with a genuine democratical society.

The PACE pre-electoral delegation was in Tirana at the invitation of the President of the National Assembly of Albania. It met with the President of the National Assembly, the Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, leaders and representatives of the main parliamentary and non-parliamentary political parties, the Head of the Audio-visual Media Authority, NGO and media representatives, the Deputy Head of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission, representatives of international organisations and members of the diplomatic corps in Tirana.

A full-fledged team of PACE observers will arrive in Tirana to observe the vote on 25 June.

*Delegation:
Paolo Corsini (Italy, SOC), Head of Delegation
Ingebjørg Godskesen (Norway, EC)
Marco Nicolini (San Marino, UEL)