As I was walking down the street to get a piece of byrek from my favorite neighborhood baking tray, Lali Eri’s police had started again with its thuggish razzias, chasing poor villagers down the street, abusing them verbally and physically, and making their life in the onset of the sweltering midday heat even more miserable than it already was. Now that the campaign period was over, the Mayor of Tirana could once again show his true face.
How curious, I thought, that all the internationals have claimed, one after the other, that the elections were “generally” “adequate” and “efficient.” Adequate for what? Efficient how? With an election victory that is hailed by both Angela Merkel and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan something must be fundamentally wrong.
So let’s zoom out a bit from all the feigned humbleness of the winning party and the desperate infighting of the losing one, and have a real good look at the conditions under which these elections were actually held.
In 2015, the OSCE-ODIHR election mission released a report which contained a number of “priority recommendations” to improve the voting process in Albania. Following up on these recommendations became at some point an important element of the EU’s “five priorities” for opening of the accession negotiations, but both US and the EU failed to mention in their congratulatory messages to “the people of Albania” that none of these recommendations had actually been met.
One the recommendations was to depoliticize the Central Election Commission (KQZ), as well the regional and local election bodies. This didn’t happen. Another recommendation stated that the “secrecy of the vote” should be ensured by making “any association between a vote and a specific voter” impossible. None of this happened either.
Apart from the fact that nearly all OSCE recommendations were flatly ignored by the government and the opposition, the McAllister+ agreement between Edi Rama and Lulzim Basha, as I argued before, completely undermined the Electoral Code as the basis for decent elections. Smaller parties were put at an enormous disadvantage by the ban on pre-electoral coalitions, and the results are for all to see. Despite the fact that the PDIU nearly doubled its number of votes nationally, it lost a seat. New parties LIBRA and SFIDA, only a few weeks ago the hope of Vlahutin and Lu for a “real” opposition, didn’t manage to win a single mandate.
All of the last-minute “negotiations” between Rama and Basha also caused a severe deficiency in the preparation of the thousands of the commissioners necessary to guide the process of casting and counting the votes. Up to 24 hours before the elections, dozens of commissions were without capable or trained personnel. I witnessed this myself as an observer in an unbearably hot high school building in Yzberisht.
So when the internationals praise Albania on “successfully” holding the elections, and when they congratulate the man who now holds an absolute majority in Parliament, they do not refer to the legality of the vote. They do not refer to the constitutionality of the vote. They ignore even that the election results were announced 22 hours after the legal deadline. And that less than 50% of the voters bothered to show up, out of total disillusionment with the political system, doesn’t bother them in the least. It is irrelevant for their plans, and certainly irrelevant for their careers.
MEP Eduard Kukan summed up this international mass delusion nicely:
A calm political climate should be a consistent standard in electoral processes. This time the situation has been more calm, also thanks to the agreement between the government and the opposition that was made a few weeks before the elections. I repeat, Albania needs a calm climate during the confrontation of the elections. This creates trust and security with the people.
Rather than Albania, the EU and US have actually congratulated themselves for creating and safeguarding “calmness” and “stability.” Not democracy, not the rule of law, but stability. The next four years we will find out what this “stability” will cost us – and, most probably in the long run, what it will cost them.