The OSCE / ODIHR has released its final report on the April 25 parliamentary elections.
According to the report, the elections were well administered by the Central Election Commission and the parties were free to conduct their own election campaigns. On election day the situation was relatively calm and the process proceeded according to the rules except in some cases where observers observed voter surveillance and rallies contrary to anti-COVID measures.
The report draws attention to the reform of the Electoral Code and the changes in the law made before the elections, which they observed have made the rules unclear for both the voters and the CEC. This meant that the public and relevant institutions weren’t consulted and there were issues with implementation.
The OSCE / ODIHR says some of its previous recommendations have been addressed but others continue to require attention, such as rules for financing political parties, media freedom, and depoliticizing the election administration.
With these recommendations, the ODIHR paves the way for a new electoral reform, as it said various issues should be considered by the new parliament in September, and before the next election.
According to the report, the publication voters’ personal data was a matter of concern. Weeks before the election, the personal data of over 900,000 voters was leaked and published. The database was allegedly created and used by the Socialist Party using data from the Civil Registry.
The report also noted that the incumbent party used their administrative power to their advantage during the electoral period. It also noted widespread allegations of vote buying.
It also states that independent candidates should not be subject to a 1% national threshold to enter the Assembly.
Some of the key recommendations of the OSCE / ODIHR report are as follows:
• The election law needs further revision to address the recommendations of the ODIHR and the Venice Commission and a number of ambiguities and inconsistencies. Amendments to the law should be preceded by an open and comprehensive consultation process, and approved before the next elections.
• The state must guarantee the right to a free and secret election. Any form of pressure to find out if and how people voted should be prevented.
• Law enforcement agencies need to step up their efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute vote-buying cases. Citizens should be encouraged to report vote-buying or pressure.
• Albania must guarantee the security of citizens’ personal data. Relevant institutions should investigate and sanction any violations that affect public confidence in the electoral process.
• The law needs to be amended to ensure that the media are able to independently cover election activities in order to restrict the use of party-produced content in the news.
• Revise the 1% national threshold for independent candidates to respect the principle of equal opportunities.
• To avoid deliberate devaluation of ballots and increase confidence in the electoral process, authorities should invest in voter education programs tailored to different categories of voters.
• To ensure universal suffrage and equal treatment before the law, restrictions based on mental disabilities must be lifted and voters over the age of 100 must be registered.
• The right of political party leaders to run in certain constituencies needs to be revised to preserve the principle of equality.
• Review the provision of the law regarding the maximum number of candidates in the lists and the ranking of candidates of different genders.
• Law enforcement agencies should investigate all allegations of electoral irregularities, including the misuse of state resources, in a comprehensive, timely and transparent manner.
• Authorities need to tighten rules and limit third-party funding.
• Parties must make public campaign revenues and expenditures before election day
• The Electoral Code should be amended to guarantee equal opportunities for all competing parties for media coverage, including advertising space.
The CEC should continue personal voter education programs tailored to the needs of the Roma and Egyptian national minorities. Additional efforts may be made by the authorities to facilitate the application or renewal of ID cards of voters with special needs