From: Exit Staff
Small Opposition Parties Propose Changes to Electoral Code in Attempt to Ensure Seats

Leaders of small opposition parties have increased their demands regarding their coalition with the Democratic Party (PD). They have put forth a proposal that would legally ensure their MPs a place in the PD shortlists and will maximize the value of the votes they receive, that would go to electing their MPs, as opposed to those of PD or the Socialist Movement of Integration (LSI).

Today, the Republican Party, the Environmental Agrarian Party, the Demochristian Party, the Union for Human Rights Party, and the Movement for National Development presented a draft containing changes to the Electoral Code to the Electoral Reform Committee, claiming they have also received prior approval from PD leader Lulzim Basha.

The changes they propose include:

  • Allowing the formation of political groupings within large electoral coalitions, that would operate as sub-coalitions.
  • Prior agreement with PD that will guarantee the inclusion and unchangeable position of small party leaders in PD shortlists. The Central Election Commission (KQZ) will be responsible for enforcing the terms of the agreement.
  • Each party shortlist must be approved by all of the coalition’s party leaders.

Under the existing system, small parties stand at a disadvantage in relation to the coalition’s second-largest party, in this case, LSI.

If the votes received by a small party are insufficient to elect an MP from its shortlist, they are automatically counted as votes received by the coalition’s largest and second-largest parties, in this case, PD and LSI.

The request comes as small parties are now inclined to retain the votes they receive, pooling them together with the hopes of reaching the amount needed to elect MPs from their shortlists. Hence, the proposal for the creation of ‘sub-coalitions’ within the larger opposition one.

Such a sub-coalition made up of the opposition’s smaller parties would operate within the larger one much like the large parties, PD and LSI, do. Within the sub-coalition, the elected MP will be one from the sub-coalition’s largest party’s shortlist, and then the second largest, if more than one MP can be elected.

If the proposed changes are approved, in the case that the sub-coalition receives more combined votes than LSI, the remaining votes, that are insufficient to elect an MP, will automatically be counted as votes received by the sub-coalition.

The second proposed change could be related to the career advancement prospects of small party leaders who want to become MPs by being included in the PD shortlists, in exchange for having entered a coalition with PD.

Taking advantage of PD’s need for as large an opposition coalition as possible (seeing as the coalition that receives the most votes has the right to build the government), they have decided not to ‘sell’ themselves cheap, naming their inclusion in the PD shortlist as the price for their cooperation.

Finally, they want to ensure that this prior agreement is legally binding for PD, seeing as coalitions are registered at KQZ weeks before shortlists are submitted. To lure them into a coalition, Basha will have to promise smaller parties guaranteed spots on the PD shortlist.

Basha’s promise, however, does not constitute a guarantee, as several small party candidates learned in 2017, when they were placed in less than secure or liminal shortlist spots, that failed to secure any seats after the votes received did not meet the expectations of the coalition.

This time around, it seems that small party leaders want to avoid taking any risks. To that purpose, they have proposed that PD be held accountable by KQZ should it fail to meet the terms delineated by their prior agreement with the ‘sub-coalition’, an agreement that will guarantee unchangeable spots in PD shortlists. If these spots aren’t guaranteed, KQZ must refuse to approve the PD shortlist.

Furthermore, small parties have also demanded an additional guarantee, the right to have a final say on the PD (and any other party in the coalition) shortlist. If any shortlist has not been signed by every party leader, the KQZ must, again, refuse to approve them.

This proposal would also afford small parties stronger negotiation positions, from which they could pressure PD for better spots on the shortlist by refusing to sign it. This would lead to small parties taking at least 5-6 MP seats, thus decreasing the number of sure spots for PD candidates.

In this strategic move, then, small parties, once at risk of getting nothing out of a coalition, are now attempting to guarantee MP seats for at least their leaders, and perhaps even more.