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ODIHR Final Report: April 25 credible; illegal DP vote protection structures; The SP exercised power

  • 7/26/2021 10:35 PM
ODIHR Final Report: April 25 credible; illegal DP vote protection structures; The SP exercised power

The OSCE / ODIHR has published the final report on the April 25 elections, noting that the whole process took place in a legal framework favorable to political parties and candidates, with no obstacles to their campaign.

But, the ODIHR says that there were some credible reports on the phenomenon of vote buying and selling, which in the report is described as carried over from the last elections. The report describes as "potentially illegal" the structure set up by the Democratic Party for the protection of the vote, which in one case produced a victim in Elbasan.

The report states that the dividing line between the ruling party and the government was violated, referring to public activities. It states that the decision to ban some activities four months before the elections was not respected and government ministers and the Prime Minister himself appeared at the inauguration ceremony with party symbols and the party number on the ballot paper.

Amendments to the Electoral Code are welcome, although the report states that the time available to the CEC was insufficient for these changes to be properly implemented. The report recommends that the election administration be depoliticized as soon as possible.

'Parliamentary elections were generally well organized by the election administration. The newly formed institution the CEC with its three separate branches took on new broad responsibilities after the recent legal changes in the framework of the Electoral Reform. Despite delays, including the adoption of substantive regulations, the launch of a voter education campaign and staff training, the CEC managed to adequately meet most of its obligations, including those related to the electronic identification of voters. It has functioned in a transparent manner and holding public hearings broadcast live and open for participation by stakeholders. In general, the election administration at all levels enjoyed the trust of stakeholders, 'the report said.

The report also states that political parties were free to campaign peacefully and fundamental democratic freedoms were respected.

'Fundamental freedom of peaceful assembly was respected and electoral subjects could campaign freely, despite restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and inconsistent enforcement of fines for violating anti-pandemic regulations. The campaign lacked momentum, and the messages focused on key party leaders rather than on genuine discourse guided by current issues', the report said.

Among other things, the Report states that the ruling Socialist Party had advantages, while involving through its control the local administration, and by misusing administrative resources.

The report also mentions allegations of vote-buying by political parties and launched an investigation into several suspected cases.

'There were allegations of vote buying by political parties during the campaign and a high number of investigations were launched in this regard. In a limited number of polling stations and counting observed, the process was largely transparent and smooth. Widespread vote-buying practices allegedly remained a problem', the report said.

PRIORITY RECOMMENDATIONS
1. The legal framework needs further review to address outstanding ODIHR and Venice Commission
recommendations and a number of ambiguities and inconsistencies. The changes in the law should
be preceded by an open and inclusive consultation process, and be enacted well before the next
elections.
2. The state should guarantee the right to a free and secret choice. Any form of pressure to disclose
whether and how people voted should be prevented.
3. Law enforcement agencies should intensify efforts to identify, investigate and prosecute cases of
vote-buying. Citizens should be encouraged to report and provide evidence of any vote-buying or
pressure.
4. Albania should ensure the security of citizens’ personal data. Relevant institutions should
thoroughly investigate and sanction any breach which impacts public confidence in the electoral
process.

Electoral System
6. To respect the principle of equal opportunity, the nationwide 1 per cent threshold for independent
candidates should be reconsidered.
Legal Framework
7. In order to guarantee legal certainty and effective election administration, binding sub-regulations
should be in line with the primary legislation and be enacted in a timely manner.
Election Administration
8. In order to strengthen transparency and avoid any delaysin administering elections, the CEC should
publish a comprehensive electoral calendar with respective deadlines, including for adopting sublegal acts, for training and logistical tasks.
9. To enhance transparency and public confidence, adequate time and resources for effective
preparation and meaningful possibilities for public and independent scrutiny of election
technologies should be ensured. In case of use of electronic voting on a larger scale, applying
verification methods such as risk limiting audits should be considered.
10. To avoid unintentional invalidation of ballots and raise trust in the electoral process, the authorities
should invest in timely voter education programmes tailored for different categories of voters.
Voter Registration
11. To ensure universal suffrage and equal treatment before the law, restrictions based on mental
disabilities should be abolished and the obligation to register voters over 100 years old should be
placed on the state.
12. Local authorities should ensure that all voters are informed in a timely manner about the place and
time for voter list scrutiny and the location of their respective voting centres. Considerations could
be given to moving deadlines for notification of voters closer to election day.
Candidate Registration
13. The possibility for leaders of political parties to compete in several electoral districts should be
revised to maintain the principle of equality.
14. Restrictions on the right to stand of those deported and under a search warrant, whose guilt has not
been established by a court, should be lifted.
15. In order to ensure legal certainty, considerations could be given to revising provisions related to
the maximum number of candidates on the lists and the sequencing of candidates of different
genders.

Election Campaign
16. Law enforcement bodies should investigate all allegations of electoral violations, including misuse
of state resources, in a thorough, timely and transparent manner. Voters should be systematically
informed about applicable mechanisms for reporting any instances of pressure and be assured they
will not face negative consequences.
Campaign Finance
17. Authorities should consider legal changes to extend regulations and limits on donations and
expenditures, as designated for political parties, to third parties.
18. In order to enhance the accountability of political parties and the overall transparency of the
electoral process, consideration should be given to requiring contestants to disclose their campaign
incomes and expenditures before election day.
19. The CEC’s capacity to effectively enforce legal requirements concerning campaign finance
oversight should be developed.
Media
20. The Electoral Code should be amended to guarantee equal opportunities of all contesting parties to
access the media, including advertising space. Additional considerations could be given to
allocating a certain amount of free airtime equally to all contestants during the campaign.
Participation of National Minorities
21. The CEC and other stakeholders should continue in-person voter education programmes tailored to
the needs of the Roma and Egyptian national minorities. Additional efforts could be made by the
authorities to facilitate application for or renewal of ID cards by the voters in need.
Complaints and Appeals
22. Consideration could be given to reviewing the law in order to clarify responsibility for complaints
against the VCC decisions and those related to campaign violations, as well as to eliminate undue
restrictions on legal standing of complainants.
23. As prescribed by the Electoral Code, all relevant election-related decisions, including those
concerning sanctions, should be reviewed by the Complaints and Sanctions Commission and
Electoral College.

/Klara Ruci/