News 28 Dec 12

Commission Deadlock Threatens Albania Elections

A watchdog group of Albanian NGOs on Thursday warned that the failure of the Central Electoral Commission, CEC, to agree on the redistribution of MPs' mandates and electoral zones, is putting poll standards at risk.

Besar Likmeta

“It’s never happened for the CEC to be deadlocked so early [before the poll],” Premto Gogo, head of KRIIK Albania, one the NGOs that is part of the Coalition of Local Observers, told Balkan Insight.

“Deadlines have been missed because of the stalemate [in the CEC] on how to redistribute the MPs' mandates, which must be overcome,” he added.  

Albania has long history of elections that do not meet international standards and end in political disputes.

The 2013 elections, on June 23, are seen a key test for the country’s already battered aspirations for EU membership.

But for almost a month the CEC has failed to approve the re-distribution of new MPs' mandates in Albania’s 12 electoral zones.

Based on demographic data provided by the Interior Ministry, the ruling Democratic Party wants to add one mandate to the northern region of Kukes and remove one from the southern region of Berat.

The opposition Socialists have deemed the population data provided by the government fraudulent and have called for a parliamentary investigative commission. They claim that Kukes, a poor region which has seen heavy outward migration over the past two decades, and is a stronghold of the Democrats, could not have seen a growth in the number of residents.

Parliament has dismissed the request for an investigation, with the Democrats arguing that a probe would be unconstitutional.

The CEC is a collegial body configured by three members selected by the opposition, and four others, including the chairman, selected by the ruling majority. Because the re-distribution of the new mandates requires a qualified majority in the CEC, the commission remains deadlocked.

If the CEC does not reach a decision, the parties may appeal to the Electoral College, a specialized court for electoral disputes.

However, the coalition deems the failure of the CEC to agree on the redistribution of mandates as a dangerous precedent, considering that the commission needs to approve a number of normative acts that require more than a simple majority and concord among commissioners.

“Although the CEC commissioners have been nominated by the political parties they should abide by the law, independent of political influences,” the coalition said on Thursday. “An independent and well functioning CEC is one of the main poll standards sought by international observers,” it added.

The coalition also expressed concern about the administrative part of the CEC, especially in preparing for two pilot projects fior the introduction of new technologies in two electoral zones, Tirana and Fier.

“The deadlines prescribed in the electoral code for the introduction of new technologies in the 2013 parliamentary elections have been passed in a flagrant manner,” the coalition said. “Until now there hasn’t been a single decision on this very important process,” it concluded.

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