The largest opposition force suggests the idea to apply the Greek electoral system, which offers a “bonus” to the party that comes first in the elections. The Socialist Party seems to be in favor and starts talks with the DP. The Socialist Movement for Integration is against. A parliamentary select committee is expected to be appointed for amendments in the Electoral Code
Tirana, 2 November/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Edison Kurani
In Albania, the largest opposition force has launched the incentive for new changes in the Electoral Code, where the most important one is the application of a “bonus”, which offers to the party that comes first in the polls, an extra number of seats in Parliament. The idea has been launched by the opposition leader, Lulzim Basha.
The model in question is the Greek model, whereby the party that comes first in the parliamentary elections, secures an extra number of seats, alongside the ones secured in the voting.
Basha’s proposal which is being negotiated with the socialists in power, suggests that the party which comes first in the elections must obtain an extra 20 seats.
Thus, if the party that comes first manages to secure 65 seats in the 140 seat parliament, in order to form a government, it needs 71 seats and so, it’s obliged to enter a coalition. With this bonus, it secures up to 20 extra seats and this makes it easier for the party in power to pass laws which need 2/3 of the votes.
Such system, which is applied in Greece, but in Spain too, weakens small parties a lot and leaves them out of parliament. In Albania, there are more than 65 political parties, but only 10 of them manage to get in Parliament, mainly because they enter coalitions with the SP and DP.
DP will ask parliament to appoint a special committee in order to channel amendments in the Electoral Code.
What is the “bonus” system?
Based on this system, the party that obtains more votes and is ranked first, even with a difference by one vote with the second party, has the right to automatically benefit a certain number of seats.
The other part of the remaining seats is allocated to all parties, including the first one, based on the percentage obtained.
States that apply this system, do it with the argument that it offers the most voted party the possibility to form a government, avoiding all institutional weaknesses. According to the Greek electoral code, the most voted party is entitled to receive 50 extra seats in the 300 seat parliament. 5/6 of the other seats are allocated based on the votes.
The 50 seat bonus is also allocated to the Coalition, but this is only done if the average votes received by the coalition parties is higher than the percentage that is won by the first party with the number of parties that make up the coalition.
In Albania’s case, the race for power would be between the SP and DP, while parties such as SMI, PJIU, etc, would be out or receive an insignificant role.
Talks between the big ones
If the Socialist Party and the Democratic Party agree on amending the Electoral Code and on choosing the “bonus” system, and the two models that they may refer to are the Greek and Spanish electoral systems.
Asked on this issue, Minister of Local Government, Bledi Cuci says that these may well be the models, but the number of seats that automatically go to the party with most votes, will adapt to the Albanian reality.
“You may refer to the Greek and Spanish model. At minimum, 20 seats go as a bonus to the first party and the rest is allocated to all other parties”, minister Cuci says, stressing that these are only models.
Meanwhile, the secretary for Electoral Issues at the DP, Ivi Kaso, says that currently in Albania, the biggest problem doesn’t relate to the electoral system, but “to the approach of this government and majority to secure a victory in the elections through illegitimate mechanisms, by exerting pressure on votes and by buying votes or running people with criminal records”.
Basha: A senate with fewer seats. Berisha: The bonus serves the interests of the country
Publicly, the opposition leader, Lulzim Basha is more in favor to the idea of a Senate and with less than 140 seats, which is the number of seats today. Meanwhile, the former head of the democrats and former PM Sali Berisha says that the bonus serves the interests of the country.
“The bonus would be in the best interest of the country, if it’s done without bad intentions, because if the bonus is offered with the aim of punishing someone else, then it doesn’t serve to anything. The way things are going now, the bonus would be in the best interest of the country”.
As far the negotiations which are out of the media attention on the bonus, PM Rama has not issued any official declarations, but Berisha says that “Rama has sent one emissary after the other to tell me about the bonus and on the other hand, he pledges that he’s against the bonus”.
SMI against: This is a step backwards
The Socialist Movement for Integration considers this as a step backward to the so called “Dushk system”. The vice chairman of SMI, Ylli Manjani says that every change must be discussed in a roundtable with the participation of many parties.
Manjani compares the new incentive with the “Dushk” phenomenon in the 2001 elections. At that time, through an electoral calculation and orientation of votes in the proportional system toward the small allies of the SP, the left wing managed to win 10 seats in a very small area of Lushnja called Dushk.
“The bonus will be a step backward, a return to the system of Dushk, as parties receive votes not given by the people, but by the system”, Manjani said.
If the bonus electoral system would be applied in Albania, it estimated that it will offer another 20 extra seats to the largest party. This would penalize parties such as the Socialist Movement for Integration, therefore Ylli Manjani too has declared that any change in the Electoral Code must be discussed in a round table.
If we go back in time, when SMI left the SP in 2004, in all elections until 2013, it didn’t receive more than 4 seats, as it ran on its own. But two years ago, it quadrupled the result. If it remained out of coalitions or the bonus system would enter in force, than SMI would be the first one to be damaged.
Manjani says that there must be improvements in the electoral system, but improvements which are observed by international monitors.
“We must change the code and not the electoral system, because the system is enshrined in the Constitution and requires 2/3 of votes. We agree that all OSCE/ODIHR recommendations in the last two reports of the parliamentary and local government elections, must be applied. Discussions over the electoral code exceeds ODIHR report and technically, it’s a step backwards in electoral standards”, Manjani says.
Zaloshnja: A political equation
Analyst Eduard Zaloshnja says that away from public attention, DP and SP are discussing in distance about a new electoral system. According to him, if materialized, this system will be a mixture between the Greek and Italian system.
“Thus, 80 MPs who will be elected in a proportional way based on name lists, which political parties will submit, 20 seats will be automatically allocated to the party which comes first in the proportional system,. while 12 senators will be elected out of the individual race in each district. And to form a government, there must be at least 57 votes out of a total of 112 (one more than half).
But will Meta agree to this system, which seems to be prepared by Rama and Basha in distance? Zaloshnja is convinced that this isn’t the case. “Of course not. This, because in the majority battle for the senate, SMI candidates are not likely to win against SP and DP-except the district of Berat where SMI may leave the SP and DP behind.
Meanwhile, in the proportional system, SMI, as a subject on its own, may receive 10% of 80 seats. This is a small number to be able to condition the next government, if we bear in mind the fact that the subject that comes first, will receive 20 extra seats”.
How can Meta stop such scenario? Zaloshnja suggests: “By playing the last card-overthrowing Prime Minister’s Rama government in parliament in cooperation with the opposition”. According to the analyst, Berisha may have received such signal, when he declared in the past couple of days, that in principle, he agrees with the bonus system, but not when it’s used as an instrument to damage a particular party-where he refers to SMI”.
All this said, the question is, are we going to have a true change of the electoral system? The answer to this question will come with the solution of the political equation between Rama-Basha-Meta-Berisha… /ibna/