From: Alice Taylor
Calls to Investigate Prime Minister Edi Rama and Other Senior Officials Following 22 Albanian Electiongate Arrests

Following the issuance of 22 arrest warrants yesterday for individuals accused of involvement in the Albanian electiongate vote-rigging scandal, the Democratic Party has called for SPAK to investigate Prime Minister Edi Rama and other officials.

General Secretary of the PD, Gazment Bardhi said the matter was a state crime and that the 2017 elections had been bought through collaboration with organised crime. He called on SPAK to act fully and to conduct a thorough investigation.

“Manipulating the 2017 elections requires justice and punishment starting from the head, not the tail.”

22 electoral commissioners from three polling stations were arrested on a variety of charges. These include allowing people to vote for them and voting on behalf of others. They included members of the Socialist Party and the Opposition.

The investigation, Dossier 339 also included taped conversations between members of criminal gangs and Socialist Party officials. Some conversations took place between the at-the-time Mayor of Durres Vangjush Dako and Astrit Avdylaj who is the head of an international drug trafficking organisation.

On the tapes, discussions regarding voter intimidation and threatening state employees with losing their jobs if they did not vote was mentioned. It was also clear that the Socialist Party officials including the Mayor were collaborating with the criminal gang on matters relating to the election.

The recordings were leaked from someone within the prosecution and then published by German newspaper BILD last year. The publication of these wiretaps and others including the voice of Prime Minister Edi Rama and Head of the Electoral Reform Committee Damian Gjiknuri sparked widespread opposition-led anti-government protests last year.

Electiongate also resulted in the Opposition resigning en masse from parliament and facilitated the start of the current political crisis.

Arresting those involved with vote rigging is one of the 15 conditions set for Albania by the EC before accession negotiations can fully start. There are concerns that these arrests of seemingly low-level collaborators will be used to fulfil this condition while the arrests of high-profile politicians will not happen.

President Meta also reacted to the news by stating that all of those involved in the theft of votes should be punished.

“There will be maximum punishment for all state employees who abuse their office for pressure, blackmail and electoral crimes,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, US ambassador Yuri Kim praised the arrests and said that it was an example of the justice reform moving forward.