OSCE Ramps Up Scrutiny of Albanian Cannabis Economy

In contrast with the congratulatory statements made by the EU and US Embassy, the Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions of the OSCE-ODIHR elections observation mission in Albania has been much more critical of the electoral process. Its report highlights the legal problems and inconsistencies underlying the elections, most prominently “the primacy of political interests over respect for the rule of law,” an issue that Exit has also addressed multiple times:

The implementation of the political agreement created challenges for the election administration and resulted in a selective and inconsistent application of the law. The continued politicisation of election-related bodies and institutions as well as widespread allegations of vote buying and pressure on voters detracted from public trust in the electoral process. In an overall orderly election day, important procedures were not fully respected in a considerable number of voting centres observed. There were delays in counting in many areas. […]

The implementation demonstrated the primacy of political interests over respect for the rule of law. The late introduction of legal changes and lack of meaningful public consultation challenged legal certainty and negatively affected the administration of several electoral components, at odds with OSCE commitments and Council of Europe standards. […]

The CEC registered 15 political parties within the legal deadline and, following the political agreement, three additional opposition parties were registered after the deadline. At the same time, two other prospective contestants were denied registration due to late nomination. While largely inclusive, the candidate registration process suffered from selective and inconsistent application of the law and was, at times, based on the political agreement rather than the law.

The OSCE’s criticism of the elections fits into a pattern, in which the organization is profiling itself independently from the EU and US missions, which are largely following a soft line on the Albanian government.

Already leading up to the elections, OSCE Ambassador Bernd Borchardt had warned about the influx of money from cannabis cultivation into the elections, a worry that was also explicit in Needs Assessment Mission Report that was drafted in preparation of the OSCE-ODIHR observation mission.

A recent vacancy for experts in “cannabis related issues” announced by the OSCE Presence in Albania shows that the international organization now intends to more closely scrutinize the money streams and underlying (political) structures of cannabis cultivation and trafficking in Albania.

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