From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
Comment: Internationals Celebrate Failure to Implement Electoral Reforms Recommended by OSCE

With a single, well coordinated social media campaign the internationals hailed the Albanian Parliament’s decision to adopt the June 5 Agreement on Electoral Reform, in the form of a series of amendments to the Electoral Code.

All of them claimed that this reform brings Albania “closer” to the European Union, despite the fact that it was entirely negotiated outside Parliament by an ad-hoc group of politicians (the “Political Council”) without any democratic or constitutional mandate to do so. Yet again, the rule of law needs to take a step back when it is time to bask in the glory of tremendous diplomatic achievements.

US Ambassador Yuri Kim tweeted that the agreement “moves Albania another step toward the European Union.” The EU Delegation went even further. According to EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca:

“The EU welcomes the adoption by the [Albanian] Parliament of the amendments to the Electoral Code, in line with the political agreement reached on 5 June. This fulfils one of the key conditions to start EU accession negotiations, as stated in the Council conclusions of 25.3.2020. The new legislative provisions will give Albania an electoral framework with higher integrity and transparency standards, based on OSCE/ODHIR recommendations. […]”

This was echoed by EU Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi, who wrote:

“Albania: I welcome the adoption of amendments to Electoral Code, in line w 5 June agreement. This fulfils a key condition of [European] Council conclusions. […]”

These claims are untrue, purely made to give the EU Commission and the Rama government an excuse to start the first intergovernmental meeting before the upcoming elections, conveniently ignoring the other 14 conditions. The European Council would do well to realize that the legal amendments approved in no way fulfill the conditions set in the EU Council Conclusions. These state the following:

“Albania should adopt the electoral reform fully in accordance with OSCE/ODIHR recommendations, ensuring transparent financing of political parties and electoral campaigns.”

The approved amendment address only few of the concerns voiced by OSCE/ODIHR during the last 4 election cycles:

  • No solution for the widespread practice of vote-buying or an independent investigation of such practices during the 2017 and 2019 elections;
  • No depoliticization of electoral bodies (except Central Election Commission, perhaps);
  • No solution for the age restrictions on voting lists, no extension of suffrage rights to people with mental disabilities;
  • No further enhancement of transparency by providing independent observers with results protocols;
  • No repeal of the defamation legislation;
  • No gender-balanced representation in electoral bodies.

Each time the internationals prematurely celebrate the fulfilment of yet another “key condition,” the only thing they do is handing free propaganda material to the Rama government, rather than actually checking the implementation of the European Council conditions and the safeguarding of the rule of law. I wish I didn’t have to repeat myself, but the weakness on display today from Soreca, Kim, Várhelyi and a slew of others was again painful to watch.

Somehow they fail to learn that passing legislation is always the easy part of the game, the implementation, as only the OSCE was careful enough to mention, is key.

Now the elections for the “non-political” Central Election Commission (KQZ) start, leading no doubt to incriminations back and forth between government, parliamentary opposition, and extraparliamentary opposition. This KQZ then, severely damaged and discredited by its election process, well then need to implement a host of new measures and procedures, including 100% digital voter identification across Albania. The elections will be in less than a year from now – it’s already too late.