The OSCE-ODIHR has released its interim report on the Albanian local elections confirming that the Socialist Party currently stands unopposed in 31 municipalities. This means that inhabitants of these municipalities are deprived from their right to a democratic vote. The report notes that “The Electoral Code does not provide for any specific regulations for unopposed elections.”
The conclusions of the OSCE-ODIHR paint a bleak picture of the state of the legal framework in which the elections will supposedly be held:
“Many previous ODIHR recommendations remain unaddressed, including those concerning the impartiality of election commissions, the transparency of campaign finance, decriminalisation of defamation and election dispute resolution mechanism.”
Furthermore, the report mentions the politicization of the Central Election Commission (KQZ), which currently only has 5 out of 7 members, 3 of which have been nominated by the Socialist Party.
Also the Commissions of the Electoral Administration Zones (KZAZ) are dominated by the Socialist Party, with opposition commissioners denied by the Electoral College. The OSCE points out that this decision of the KQZ, confirmed by the Electoral College, appears to have no basis in the Electoral Code:
“While provisions of the Electoral Code on composition of election administration refer to political parties representing the parliamentary majority and parliamentary opposition, in its decision No. 657 from 23 May 2019 the [KQZ] linked the right to nominate commissioners to registration as electoral subjects.”
Furthermore, the report mentions the questionable exemption of the new opposition party Democratic Conviction, led by former Democratic Party member Astrit Patozi, from the duty to collect signatures in order to register as an electoral subject.
The OSCE also notes that the media landscape is more consolidated than ever: “The recently completed process of digitalization resulted in one family controlling three of the five privately-owned nationwide television frequencies.” This family is the Hoxha family of the late Top Channel owner Dritan Hoxha. The Hoxha family was closely linked to Edi Rama since his time as mayor of Tirana, and the architects of Rama’s villa in Surrel also designed the grave monument for Hoxha.
There is little oversight over the use of the media by political parties, while the KQZ failed to establish the Media Monitoring Board within the legal deadline.