Removing party members from election administrative organs and biometric voter identification are the main issues on which the Albanian Electoral Reform currently hinges. However, the government and the opposition have yet to reach an agreement.
Both parties agreed to both these conditions on paper, however, the opposition insists that, in practice, either both of them must be carried out or neither of them.
The problem rests with the issue of biometric voter ID. This condition has been accepted, in theory, by both parties, but it will likely be very difficult to implement it in the remaining 11 months before the next election due to technical complications.
In fact, it is possible that biometric identification will not be able to be implemented at all in the next election.
If that ends up being the case, the opposition insists that the condition proposed by the government, the depolitisation of the electoral administration, mustn’t be implemented either. The opposition argues that biometric identification, alone, can ensure that ‘depoliticized’ electoral committees, who will have no political party monitors, will not manipulate election results or be influenced by political parties.
Meanwhile, the government demands depolitisation be implemented even if biometric identification cannot be.
Currently, elections are administered by political parties. Electoral committees, including election centers commissioners, are made up of representatives from the main political parties. They oversee the voting process and may allow or prevent the manipulation of votes within the ballot boxes in election centers.
For a number of years, OSCE/ODIHR has recommended these committees be depoliticized, seeing as party commissioners have often interrupted the voting and vote-counting processes with no discernible reason, thus leading to a delay in announcing results.
The Socialist Party considers the depolitisation of electoral committees one of the Electoral Reform’s fundamental issues. A few days ago, Prime Minister Edi Rama deemed it one of the Socialist Party’s two non negotiable issues.
The Democratic Party has not opposed depolitisation, but is instead asking that the process, which entails the removal of the opposition’s ability to monitor the voting and counting processes, be accompanied by an additional monitoring instrument, that of technology.
The opposition believes that biometric voter ID will eliminate ‘double voting’ or voting in the stead of Albanian immigrants outside of Albania, as has happened before. For this reason, the opposition has asked that the depolitisation of the electoral administration be implemented in parallel with biometric identification.
Additionally, it asked that parties have equal representation in the depoliticized electoral committees with no right of vote. The Socialist Party has not agreed to this proposal, as it believes that biometric identification is impossible to implement in the entirety of Albania.
In order to avoid another boycott of the elections, the opposition has proposed that, if the government is unable to ensure biometric voter identification, then elections must take place under the existing party-administered committee system.
The Socialist Party has not agreed to this option either. So far, it is determined to continue with its first, and only, proposal, depoliticized commissioners, even if biometric identification is not ensured.
The opposition, too, is determined to oppose this solution until the end, as the depolitisation of electoral committees and the lack of biometric voter identification leaves it with no ways of monitoring the electoral process.