Albanian electoral flaws part of the power structure

This text is part of my analysis of the Albanian parliamentary elections in June 2017, published in Baltic Worlds 8 Nov 2017. For more data and insights follow the link.

For those following Albania and Albanian elections over the years the picture is becoming increasingly clearer: electoral flaws are part of a political pattern as social structures which cannot be eradicated by training alone.

The electoral administration has been under scrutiny for years, with training sessions and efforts to improve their conduct, but it is far too obvious that the problem is not of knowledge, but structural and political. Albania is a typically patronal society, organized in power pyramids very similar to patrimonial and clientelistic logics of patrons and clients. Elections are a key aspect of the distribution of power and patronage in a patronal society, and Albania is no exception. This has strong effects on elections, electoral conduct and electoral dynamics.

The electoral administration has through some key changes in the electoral law come under direct political control, and the political parties can withdraw their representatives as they see fit when they do not work strictly for the party or when they are suspected of having been bought by the other side. The mistrust is so deep between the parties that they go against all international advice to retain this right, and use it quite frequently. The political parties simply do not trust even its own members, and take to extreme measures to try to win and not being cheated upon.

This behavior obviously also spills into the political arena, partly explaining why boycotts of parliament and the electoral preparations are so common. Rather than going into a process where the opposition feels excluded, they walk out and effectively stall it instead. This is how the boycott during the spring 2017 should be understood: as a measure to be able to exercise control of the political and electoral preparations for the upcoming elections.

Albanian elections will not follow international democratic standards until the political parties trust the electoral administration, including the standing Central Election Commission, to be working autonomously and independently. But since the parties do not allow these structures to be independent, elections will continue to be flawed, disturbed and only partly democratic.

Interested in more electoral analyses from the region? Baltic Worlds has a standing special section

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