Local elections in Albania did not meet international standards

- The Norwegian Helsinki Committee deeply regrets that Albania has taken a step backward at a time when fair elections that could enjoy the confidence of all Albanians were needed,- said Ole B Lilleås, advisor with the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, who observed the 8 May 2011 local elections in cooperation with the Albanian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.

The AHC recently concluded that the elections did not meet international standards in a thorough report based on extensive observation throughout the country.

The report describes shortcomings in the counting of votes for the election for Tirana Mayor and the work of the Central Election Commission. At the time when the summary of results showed that opposition leader Edi Rama had won by 10 votes, the Central Election Commission did not declare that result official, but instead several controversial decisions in contravention with electoral law and established practice were made. The decisions were made along partisan lines, utilizing the small majority of Commissioners appointed by the governing parties. Subsequently, the same majority of the Commission announced that Lulzim Basha, the contender preferred by the government, had won by 81 votes, a number finally changed to 93 votes. We are of course not favoring the election of any candidate over the other. – Our concern is about the legality and fairness of electoral conduct, and from that point of view, these developments are disturbing, Lilleås continued.

See the full report published by the Albanian Helsinki Committee here.

The local elections took place at a time when the main political parties in the country were still in conflict over the conduct of parliamentary elections held two years prior. The election reports of AHC and OSCE ODIHR lists a number of problematic areas, including the politicized nature of electoral administration in Albania, which raises principled concerns about the independence of electoral bodies in the country.

See also OSCE/ODIHR election observation Final report which has recently been released.