EC Calls on Member States to Ensure Free and Fair Elections

European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová has called on national political parties to join efforts to ensure free and fair elections.

“I expect all political actors to take their responsibility; at the same time the new sanctions introduced will also ensure the rules are respected,” she said in a statement.

Back in September, as a part of the State of the Union, President Jean-Claude Junker suggested a number of measures that would bolster democracy whilst promoting free and fair elections ahead of the European Elections.

In addition to this Jourová has written to all national parties to call on them to be transparent, fair, and to respect European data protection regulations during their campaigns.

The package of measures that were adopted union-wide in September are there to bolster European democracy and include a series of actions that were addressed to all European political parties and foundations.

Amongst these are calls for more openness around paid political adverts and communications and transparency about who is behind them. Information should also be made public regarding spending designated for websites, online adverts, what targeting criteria has been used, whilst ensuring that the data privacy of citizens is retained and upheld.

The rules were rolled out after threats were observed in recent elections and referenda as well as instances of the illegal use of personal data to influence the outcome of the European elections.

Jourová added that any parties that flout these rules or try to deliberately influence the outcome of the European Elections will be subject to sanctions amounting to 5% of the political party or foundations budget, In addition to this, those found to be in breach would not be able to apply for any funding from the EU in the 12 months during which the sanction is imposed.

“Our elections and ultimately our democracies are challenged by new threats.  Today, I call on all political parties to play their part in securing free and fair elections. Voters deserve transparency to make an informed choice. Online political advertising should be as transparent as the advertising you receive in your mailbox or on the market. Political parties also need to secure their networks to prevent cyberattacks and fully respect data protection rules. I expect all political actors to take their responsibility; at the same time the new sanctions introduced will also ensure the rules are respected,” said Commissioner Věra Jourová.

Whilst Albania is not a member of the EU, it is a candidate country that hopes to start negotiations in June of this year. Despite published wiretaps that provide evidence of collusion between Socialist MPs and criminal gangs for the purpose of vote buying, the EU Delegation in Tirana has failed to comment. Following the publication of wiretaps, the prosecution launched an investigation into the leaking of documents including the media and journalists that published the evidence. No investigation was launched into Socialist Party high officials and MPs involved. The EU Delegation in Tirana have referred to the current government and parliament as “legitimate” despite this serious concern hanging over the situation.

Albania was also harshly criticised by the US State Department in their annual report on human rights. Issues of election fraud were raised and reference was made to the OSCE report on the 2017 elections which were marred by widespread allegations of vote buying. In addition to this, it was observed that the politicisation of election-related bodies and national institutions continues.

– Alice Elizabeth Taylor