In spite of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s promises that he is willing to look at the Electoral Code and the opposition’s calls for electoral reform, the chances are very slim that any significant reform will be implemented before the elections of June 18.
Apart from the recommendations of the OSCE-ODIHR and the strong request of the European Commission and Parliament to implement them, several ideas have been floated in public about possible reforms of the Electoral Code: open candidate lists and proportional representation.
Albania’s current electoral system is based on closed candidate lists, which means that political parties decide on the order of the list of candidate deputies. An open list system would mean that voters would decide that order with their vote. The current system is furthermore based on a regional system, in which parties register coalitions ahead of the election.
This has led a skewed and non-proportional form of representation, where smaller parties are at a great disadvantage, especially if they are not part of coalition. For example, last elections Bamir Topi’s Fryma e Re Demokratike received 1.7% of the vote but no seat in Parliament, whereas the Christian Democrats won only 0.46% but did get a seat. The only difference was that the latter was part of coalition, whereas the former wasn’t.
Even though it seems unlikely that a proportional system will be implemented any time soon, let us have a look at its effect on the electoral landscape, based on the results of the 2013 national elections (even though a lot has changed in the meantime). We will assume the Dutch proportional system, in which there are no regions and no election thresholds.
In 2013, 1,724,779 Albanians voted for a Parliament of 140 seats. One seat is therefore equal to 12,319.85 votes.
Because many parties will not reach the number of votes required for a seat, and all parties that win one or more seats will probably have received additional votes that don’t make up for a whole seat, there will be so-called “remainder votes.” These are allocated according to a specific algorithm called the D’Hondt method, after the Belgian politician who first introduced it. It is currently already in use in Albania.
The table below compares the hypothetical results of a proportional system with the actual 2013 results in the last column.
As can be seen, the total effect is rather slim. Only 6 seats end up in different hands. What it does show is the skewing effect of the coalition system: in a proportional system FRD would be represented with two deputies, whereas the Christian-Democrats would end up with no seat at all. In the current counting system, the two votes of FRD are swallowed up by the large PD- and PS-led coalitions. Finally, one seat of the PD would end up with the PR. In the current Parliament, however, the PD already gave the PR two seats so that it could form its own parliamentary group.
In conclusion, the introduction of a proportional voting system would not make a large impact on the current balance of power. It would, however, give a more fair chance to smaller parties that refuse to align themselves beforehand with one of the two big power blocks. In other words, for new, “unaligned” parties such as Libra, Sfida, and Bleta Shqiptare, a proportional system is to be preferred.
Considering, however, the fact that both the PD and PS profit from the current situation, it seems unlikely proportional voting will be introduced anywhere soon.