The Durres Prosecutor’s Office have charged 21 people suspected to have rigged 53 votes in the 2017 general elections in Durres, Albania.
It marks the conclusion of investigations into one of the two most controversial cases of suspected vote rigging in Albania that have marked the political landscape in the last two years. Investigations into the other case in Diber were completed a few months ago, resulting in minor charges against four low ranking local officials.
The so-called Albanian Electiongate scandal came to public attention after prosecution wiretaps published by the German daily BILD in 2019 seemed to show prominent ministers and officials of the ruling Socialist Party engaged in suspicious phone conversations with local crime bosses and officials in Durres (2017) and Diber (2016), allegedly to rig elections in these cities.
Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako was the most prominent political figure engaged in conversations with crime bosses in Durres, while Prime Minister Edi Rama appeared in wiretaps discussing expected results with a local public administration official in Diber.
On Tuesday, the prosecution announced it has closed investigations into the Durres case, and filed charges against 21 people for voting or allowing 53 votes to be cast illegally. Two people face charges of illegal voting, while the rest comprise the whole administration of two voting centers where 53 votes are suspected to have been cast illegally, on behalf of people who were not in Albania at that time.
The closing of investigations comes about one month ahead of general elections in in the country.
The prosecution of allegations of vote rigging in 2016 and 2017 elections is one of the conditions for Albania to start EU accession talks, highlighted in a European Parliament report this month.