OP-ED/Fear of elections

OP-ED/Fear of elections

This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al

By Plator Nesturi

While there’s an ongoing battle targeting interior ministers, there are many dilemmas surrounding the opposition’s general aim. If the opposition manages to force one of the most important ministers of the governing cabinet to resign, this would be considered a big success for it, even more so when the battle also relates to the traffic of drugs, a topic which also concerns the international community. But what comes next? The minister resigns and everything goes on as before, awaiting the next general elections, or is the opposition aiming to take advantage of this situation and head to early elections with the aim of seizing power? At first glance, the DP is proving to be aggressive, but this is it. It doesn’t dare to go any further, even less, to ask for snap polls. At least, it knows its problems and weaknesses. On the other hand, it hasn’t even made the smallest effort to prepare the new legal electoral framework.

Today’s political war is being focused on cannabis, crime and its ties with politics. It looks like a very good cause for the opposition to put pressure on the government, which seemed it was immune in the next four years. But, let us recall that in September, the opposition had built another strategy concerning its action: the electoral reform and a new law on avoiding and discouraging the theft of votes or the deformation of results. In fact, the common denominator of the normality of each election in the past is that none of them has been certified as democratic by the international community. But, besides this, another common denominator of electoral processes relates to another unprecedented fact: we have never seen convictions for people who have participated in electoral rigging. This way, problems and the thefts have been carried forward from one election to another and this make the solution to this even more difficult.

It looks like this battle of the opposition has been totally forgotten now. Although OSCE-ODIHR reports on elections in Albania listed a number of factors and negative elements, where the most serious one was vote theft, the opposition abandoned this course. This is happening at a time when scandals are coming out thanks to foreign secret services; scandals on the traffic and the involvement of people with power. Opposition officials have often requested the resignation of Prime Minister Rama and this could lead to snap polls.

Instead of creating the necessary conditions for a sustainable solution which would give way to free elections, which would at least be acceptable for everyone, the opposition continues with its methods of tension. The worst thing in all of this is that tension is turning into an unchanging electoral scheme, where manipulation has remained the final scope and where nothing changes now and in the future. It seems that the opposition fears the term elections and voting.

Besides electronic voting, the vote of migrant workers has also been introduced as part of the debates on the elections. In these debates, the political class says that it aims free and honest elections, but, behind the scenes, its exponents take special care in creating the necessary structures which enable deviations from the actual result. So, they are aiming at offering standards, but also to include fraud and illegal structures inside of it with the ultimate goal of denying people the right of vote. The permanent repetition of this scheme, while no administrative and legal measures against these violations are taken, seems like an attempt which has been accepted in silence by the political class to rig the voting process. However, this cohabitation between the legitimate and illegitimate which is accompanying electoral process in Albania, is making us a hopeless case in the eyes of the international community. How is it possible that in neighboring countries, with a shorter democracy such as Montenegro, Serbia or Macedonia, elections are not only deemed as acceptable, but also within the standards demanded by the international community, while here, after 18 elections and 27 years of pluralism, elections continue to be given a negative score? Is this a lack of democratic maturity among Albanians who don’t know how to hold elections, a thesis which is also being amplified by circles abroad, or should the country’s political class be blamed for it?

While stories of electoral thieves and manipulators have become normal throughout the years in this Albanian reality, these repeated cases are becoming more and more annoying for the ears of the international community. Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising if the country pays for all of this by lagging behind in the process of EU integration. In the past 27 years, this has become too much. This is why it must come to an end, in order for the country not to stumble in the steep paths of political conflicts. The international community may well get tired one day of believing that we can be a trusted partner in the joint path of democratic societies, the same way Albanians are getting tired with their vote being manipulated.

Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy