De-politicization and empowerment of the entire election administration is needed

De-politicization and empowerment of the entire election administration is needed

Op-Ed/ The atmosphere of distrust between political forces that has tainted the electoral environment and challenged the administration of elections in Albania needs to end. De-politicization and empowerment of the entire election administration is needed. Election administration bodies must be fully independent and professional

By Ambassador Florian Raunig

It is almost exactly one year after the 2013 parliamentary elections. It is a good time to take stock and to ask what has been done and what else can be done to further improve electoral processes in Albania.

The OSCE/ODIHR pointed out in its 2013 report that the legal framework generally provides a sound basis for the conduct of democratic elections, although some key aspects of the law need further improvement. Proper implementation of existing laws by all stakeholders remains of paramount importance to improve the electoral process.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) has produced a concrete package of proposals based on its experiences in the 2013 election and discussions organized with key election-related actors. The CEC will forward these proposals to the Assembly, so that it can take them into consideration for the next electoral reform, alongside to the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations. The OSCE Presence commends the CEC for this proactive approach.

With the next local elections in coming up mid-2015, now is the time for the Albanian authorities to develop a roadmap for implementation of the outstanding OSCE/ODIHR recommendations. In this regard, I welcome once more the declaration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of last year expressing Albania’s readiness to fully implement the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations. I hope today’s conference will mark the beginning of this very important process.

Ultimate responsibility for the successful conduct of elections rests largely with the main political parties. It is paramount that they use the powers vested in them by the electoral legislation in a responsible manner.

The atmosphere of distrust between political forces that has tainted the electoral environment and challenged the administration of elections in Albania needs to end. De-politicization and empowerment of the entire election administration is needed. Election administration bodies must be fully independent and professional.

The Albanian Assembly should take immediate action to fill in the vacancies at the CEC. The partial composition of the CEC has significantly hindered its proper functioning, including the administration of elections.

As a concrete step towards de-politicization of the election administration, the Presence and the Council of Europe are assisting the CEC to establish a permanent training platform which will deliver specialized training to election commissioners and other election-related stakeholders throughout the electoral cycle.

Compliance with the gender quota is another issue that should be carefully considered. The 2013 elections showed that the system of applying financial sanctions against non-compliant political parties did not ensure representation of women in Parliament. Non-registration of parties’ candidate lists that do not comply with gender quota requirements could be an option for resolving the issue.

Political parties need to ensure that there are clear rules in place and internal democratic processes for the nomination of candidates in their multi-name lists.

A recent national survey conducted with the support of UN Women shows that a considerable percentage of respondents are aware of cases in which votes were promised in return for favours. The political parties need to find the proper mechanisms to end any practices which infringe the freedom of vote and damage electoral processes in Albania.

The OSCE Presence will continue supporting Albania in its efforts to offer Albanian citizens elections that fully meet international standards and their European aspirations.

*Adress of Head of OSCE Presence in Albania, at the Conference “Electoral Code: Proposals for Improvement”, Tirana