The polls had been closed for two hours on April 25, when Democratic Party (PD) leader Lulzim Basha declared victory for the opposition. However, as initial numbers began to show a clear lead for the Socialist Party, Basha started to change his tune.
In a matter of days, the PD flipped their narrative from proclaiming certain victory to accusing the ruling party of rigging elections in “an electoral massacre”. Yet, in almost two months spent spinning this narrative, the PD has not made public any significant evidence to support their claim.
“This is a clear victory for the Albanian people, it’s a clear victory for the Alliance for Change,” declared Basha on the evening of April 25, referring to the electoral coalition led by his own party. “The people’s will is inside the ballot boxes,” he assured.
As counting got underway, a leading trend for the Socialist Party became evident in most of the country.
The next day, Basha maintained that the opposition had won, and claimed that the early socialist lead was due to the fact that the first ballots counted were from heavily socialist constituencies.
“We are all aware that the first [voting] centers to be counted have always been decided by the ruling party to benefit them,” Basha stated before the media, in the afternoon of April 26. “Let the counting continue because the people’s will is in the boxes,” he added.
On April 27, when counting had finished in most electoral zones, it was all but assured that socialists had won an outright majority in the next parliament.
In the evening of that day, Basha made a U-turn and claimed an “electoral massacre” had happened.
Appearing on live TV, he accused the socialists of using “millions of euros for the vote-buying industry,” as well as “millions of euros of corrupt concession contracts.” He claimed that invalid votes were “at times several times higher than the difference [of ballots] between parties.”
Basha further accused the ruling party of “using criminals and gangs” to rig the election, and of “stealing the personal data of Albanians.” In a final major accusation, the opposition leader alleged that the socialists had “threatened and blackmailed the voters, public administration, journalists and media.”
In the days following Basha’s statement, the opposition filed requests with the Central Election Commission (CEC) to repeat voting in 9 of the country’s 12 districts. Each request was backed mainly by political evaluations and mostly circumstantial information.
There is a strong public perception that vote-buying occurred in the April elections.
However, beyond general allegations, the PD has not been able to make public any clear evidence of specific vote-buying cases.
They talk of millions of euros used for buying votes but give no explanation where did the money come from and who used it to buy votes.
Although they have named many people allegedly involved in criminal activities throughout Albania, no evidence has been provided of their actual engagement in vote-buying actions.
In addition, PD has not identified any specific “corrupt concession contract” and companies holding such concessions, which they claim have colluded with the ruling party to buy votes.
Regarding invalid votes, there is no evidence that they have harmed more a specific party, rather than being distributed evenly between all parties. In fact, the relatively high number of invalid votes most likely was due to the sudden change in the electoral system and the more complicated ballot paper. For the first time, Albanians were asked to vote not only for parties but also for specific candidates within party lists.
While the authorship of the theft of some 900 thousand voters’ personal data remains unclear, Basha didn’t point to evidence on how the socialists may have used the data to buy votes, intimidate voters or prevent them from voting.
Finally, the PD has presented no evidence that any Albanian journalist, media, voter, or civil servant was threatened or blackmailed into voting for the Socialist Party.
One would think that an “electoral massacre” would leave clear evidence, but PD has not yet shown any. In fact, now it seems that this is just a narrative adopted once their much-proclaimed victory failed to manifest, in order to hide the true reasons for its defeat and avoid taking responsibility.