In its Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions, the OSCE-ODIHR election observation mission has been merciless and particularly harsh in its assessment of the local elections held by the Socialist Party yesterday without participation of the opposition. ODIHR mission director Audrey Glover held a press conference today giving a preliminary assessment of the elections.
The 30 June local elections were held with little regard for the interests of the electorate. The opposition decided not to participate, and the government determined to hold the elections without it. In the climate of a political standoff and polarisation, voters did not have a meaningful choice between political options. In 31 of the 61 municipalities mayoral candidates ran unopposed. There were credible allegations of citizens being pressured by both sides. Political confrontation led to legal uncertainty, and many decisions of the election administration were taken with the political objective of ensuring the conduct of elections.
Once again the ODIHR had to point out that its recommendations filed after previous elections were not implemented, as Electoral Reform has once again failed to intransigence of the government and a boycott of Parliament by the opposition: “Many previous ODIHR recommendations remain unaddressed, including concerning the de-politicisation of election commissions, transparency of campaign finance and efficiency of election dispute resolution.”
The ODIHR also describes the “highly polarized” pre-electoral environment, in which the opposition parties, in those municipalities governed by them, supported President Ilir Meta’s decree to cancel the elections, and obstructed the elections.
During election day, ODIHR observers found in multiple infractions during the voting process, which was fully under control of the Socialist Party:
Voters were not always checked for traces of ink in a fifth of the observed voting centres, and in some 10 per cent of the cases they were not always marked with ink before being handed a ballot, thus bypassing key safeguards against multiple voting. In 16 per cent of the voting centres observed, the same person tended to assist multiple voters who required assistance. Group voting, including family voting, was noted in 10 per cent of observations and proxy voting was observed in 2 per cent of observations.
Some voters feared that participation itself would reveal their political preference, especially where the SP candidates ran unopposed. In some 10 per cent of observed voting centres, voters did not always mark their ballots in secrecy.