Vote-buying, voter intimidation, and various other methods of securing votes are not a purely Albanian phenomenon, but they have punctuated the discourse and debate in the country for years. This has intensified in the run-up to the 2021 elections as many believe due to the lack of prosecutions over the Electiongate Scandal in 2017 and 2013, the same illegalities will take place this time around.
Exit brings you a run down of the most common ways votes are bought and voters are intimidated in Albania.
Paying in cash
Paying the voter a certain amount of money, usually €30-50, is probably the most direct way of buying votes. Although it has been a widespread method and a public secret in past elections in Albania, rarely has anyone been prosecuted. Police have arrested suspects in at least two cases ahead of Sunday elections, who were allegedly distributing money in exchange for votes.
“Disabling” people from voting
Paying the suspected opposition voters to get their IDs until poll centers are closed, in order to prevent them from voting. This method has been reported in past elections. While people are eligible to use their passports also when they vote, the method relies on the fact that not all voters have a passport or know that they can use them.
Distributing food to the poor in exchange for votes
Political parties have adopted this method in poor regions of the country. Food is distributed to poor families in exchange for their promise to vote for the party. It usually includes flour, rice, pasta, oil, etc.
Pressure on civil servants
Albania has about 180,000 civil servants who are usually considered to be under political pressure to vote for the party in power. They are also pressured to get family members to vote for them. This is done under the implication that their job security is tied to the party winning another mandate.
Handing the voter a filled-in ballot paper
Voters are handed a filled-in ballot paper before they enter the vote center, which they are required to cast in the ballot box while presenting their empty ballot paper to the party militant waiting outside the center.
Employers may find themselves under pressure during the elections. Often they will be targeted by political parties and asked to get their staff to vote for them. This can be done through a variety of ways including offering favors or the suggestion of problems obtaining permits, with taxes, or other business matters.
Favors from the state
The party will often promise certain favors or benefits to the voter, in return for their ballot. This could include jobs for them or family members, legalization permits, business permits, tenders or direct orders, a university degree, or even a pay rise.
Forgiveness of bills or debts
There have been reports that voters have been offered forgiveness of utility bills or debts of various kinds in return for their votes.
Direct threats or intimidation
There are reports that political ‘militants’ directly threaten and intimidate voters. This can take place before the elections, or even at voting centers. Groups of party members can congregate in the vicinity of the center, or even inside, and behave in a threatening manner in order to secure votes for their party. There are also cases where militants will accompany voters, or even families to the voting center, as another way of applying pressure. Parties typically call voters to remind them to vote as another way of exerting pressure.
How people prove how they voted
There are two main ways that people can prove to a political party, who they voted for. The first method is taking a photograph of the ballot after it has been filled in but before it’s cast. This is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison. The other option is to sign a document or promise that they have or will vote for a certain party or candidate. The voter typically believes it’s binding and is too intimidated to do otherwise.