As the first municipalities are reporting their final vote counts, a pattern is emerging in which the Socialist Party has won with more votes than voters reported yesterday to the Central Election Commission (KQZ). This suggests possible vote rigging under the watch of the KQZ and the rest of the election administration, which is under full control of the Socialist Party.
In Ura Vajgurore, a municipality in south Albania, the KQZ reported yesterday evening 5,900 voters after the ballot boxes had closed. This morning, it appeared that Socialist candidate Juliana Memaj, the only candidate on the ballot, had won with 7,776 votes, or 130% of the reported voters – a remarkable achievement.
Similar surreal numbers were reported for other municipalities, including Vau i Dejës in the north, where last week the deputy mayor was arrested after election materials were damaged in a fire. Subsequently Socialist Party ally Tom Doshi assured voters that new election materials would “to arrive by plane from Spain.” Socialist candidate Mark Babani, again the only name on the ballot, eventually won with 6,223 votes cast by 5,166 reported voters (120%).
In Malësia e Madhe, Socialist candidate Tonin Marinaj won with 102%, despite the presence of another candidate. Less exaggerated but equally impressive results were achieved by Socialist candidates in Divjaka (104%), Lushnja (103%), and Himara, Memaliaj, and Vora (all 101%).
In other municipalities, more votes were cast than voters registered as having voted at the voting centers by Sunday 19:00. In Selenica, 93 more votes were cast than voters, whereas in Gramsh 129 extra votes managed to find their way into the ballot box.
The KQZ has attempted to explain these discrepancies with the claim that all of these numbers are “preliminary.” However, these types of large inconsistencies did not occur to this extent during previous, democratic elections in Albania.
Ballot box stuffing may also have been used to offset large numbers of invalid votes, which are not represented in the official results released by the KQZ. They can, however, be partially inferred from voting results in which the number of votes cast is lower than the number of voters who voted by 19:00.
For example, in Librazhd, the KQZ reported that 12,388 people had cast their votes, whereas Socialist candidate Kastriot Gurra, again the only candidate on the list, won with only 11,383 votes. This implies that at least 1,005 invalid votes were cast. Also the results in Prrenjas, Delvina, and Kolonja suggest hundreds of invalid ballots cast in protest against the one-party elections organized by the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama, in violation of a Presidential decree.
The Socialist Party is in full control of the election administration, including overseeing the counting of the votes. Throughout the night, independent election monitors of the Albanian Helsinki Committee (KShH) have been reporting on long delays in both the delivery of ballot boxes to the counting centers managed by the Comissions of the Election Administration Zones.
Ballot boxes are transported from the voting centers to the counting centers in the company of the State Police. Wiretaps published by Voice of America, BIRN, and Bild, show that in 2016 and 2017, the State Police was involved in vote buying and voter intimidation practices led by the Socialist Party. Yesterday, several Whatsapp messages surfaced suggesting that Tirana police chief Ermal Kapllanaj pressured public servants to vote.
The KShH further reports that vote counters were often trained on the spot, often in the middle of the night before starting to count the votes. This training is supposed to happen in the weeks preceding the election to assure the quality of the counting process.