The last act of the political experiment

May 8th has the chance to be the last act of the political experiment with the elections and being such it is a significant test for the political parties, for the candidates, for the elections’ administrators and for the institutions or other public and civil groups involved in this process

By Bamir Topi

The recent days and weeks political schedule of the Albanian institutions, but also that of the public and civil actors is dominated by the complex topic of the May 8th electoral process. For a country with a developed and consolidated democracy local elections serve as normal political tests and present occasions in which the ballot casters have the opportunity and the power to bestow the mandate upon a part of the governing political teams and at the concrete case at hand, upon the heads and councils of local units. May 8th elections must be such an occasion. They must mark the consolidation of a new stage of sustainable stability and democracy. May 8th has the chance to be the last act of the political experiment with the elections and being such it is a significant test for the political parties, for the candidates, for the elections’ administrators and for the institutions or other public and civil groups involved in this process. Each part carries its weight, responsibility and role and May 8th must serve to test the capability of each one to uphold and respect the law and the constitutional principal of exercising the sovereignty of the people through free, fair and democratic elections.

Today there is a ripe occasion to re-iterate the powerful significance of these elections, because they are a test of the level of the functional democracy and political culture in Albania. They serve as a proof of the seriousness of our integrating commitments; they are a test of us applying the best electoral practices and also the capability of the local institutions and actors to self-administrate a process which should have been peripheral in the reforms’ agenda required by our country. These elections serve as a moment when the balance sheet of a governing mandate is being held accountable for and when the governance of the next four years is being projected. The citizens hold the power of the ballot casting exactly to choose among various alternatives and projects, to asses the political side or the candidate that offers more projects, security and warranty for their realization. Hence, May 8th is the day that belongs to the citizen, the day when politics must face the verdict regarding the result of its work and future well-governance. Differently from this assessment, it seems that a part of the candidates and political parties view May 8th as a strength test for their militants, structures and controlling capacity over the process. The rhetoric filled with high and conflicted tones, the lack of professional debates about projects and alternatives, the still great problems suffered in identifying the borderline between propaganda and public informing, the shortcoming regarding the transparency of promises made and the electoral financing and a series of unnecessary incidents and violent acts – all these indicate that the political sides hold a different viewpoint from that of the wide public regarding the role and the significance of these elections.

In the quality of the President, also as a politician and a citizen I recognize and appreciate the irreplaceable role that the political parties play in a democratic society. They embody pluralism. They represent the citizens’ political visions and through our ballots, they exercise the political governance of the country. But at the mean time, through the same qualities, I recognize and greatly asses the need to have the political parties and their members alienate as much as possible from any form of pressure and illicit electoral gain, to urge and encourage alternative debates instead of the personal and conflicted rhetoric and on a wider level, to behave and act as democratic model institutions, as spokespersons of the citizens, as advocates of the public rights and interests. May 8th is not a race of symbols, slogans, militants or their bosses. The political parties and their candidates are racing first of all to embody the competing democratic system and to offer development alternatives and service models to the citizens. Based upon this public interest, I would like to invite the political parties to not take advantage of bipolar monopoly over the electoral administration in order to block or impose over the legal and technical process. I call upon them to not use the number of the majority in the commissions of various levels to threaten and harm even a little bit the electoral climate, the elections’ parity or integrity and lastly, but not the least, to demonstrate political maturity and willingness in resolving any kind of disagreement through consensus and to search and find meeting points in order to overcome any kind of electoral loophole of debatable provision by standing this way firm above the petty interests and really serving the citizens.

Distinguished participants,

My address was dedicated to the political climate at the eve of the elections and to the competing actors involved in the campaign because, as we all know, our electoral system and the political model and mentality bestows upon these actors and recognizes them the monopoly of preparing, approving, passing, implementing and administering the electoral process. However throughout all this process, especially when it comes to defend its integrity, the civil actors play a fundamental role: the groups, organizations and coalitions monitoring and observing the elections. Today I have the pleasure to have invited here some of the most experienced organizations regarding the process of elections’ observing in Albania such as the Helsinki Committee and the Association for Democratic Culture and other less experienced groups, but who nourish a great deal of preparation and ambition to monitor and observe the elections which will held on May 8th.

During these days, at the elections’ day and also during the period when the results will be administered, the eyes of the public will be directed towards impartial and credible sources, which act in the name of the law and would uphold and defend the legal principles, citizens’ and public interests. The transparency and the rigorous implementation of the law are important elements of the electoral process, because they uphold exactly those principles that we are committed to and which cannot be expressed solely by formal numbers on the ballots.

We have many electoral subjects in these elections. Some of them are new political parties, but compared to the previous elections of 2007 due to the new electoral system, we are marking a drastic decrease of independent candidates or local political alternatives. We have observed with concern the minimal number of the women and young ladies represented in the lists of nominal and political parties’ candidacies and in the electoral administration commissions as well. On the other hand, we have noticed with concern as well a number of nominal candidates who have problems regarding their political identity and the quality of representation. The information received regarding promises made in exchange of ballots cast and ballots’ trading, administrative pressure being exercised to gain votes or other forms of voting abuse, although sporadic, if all these would become reality then we would have to face unworthy and unaccepted acts. It is high time to end once and for all the practices of the past regarding the change of commissioners at the last minute while trusting the administering to militants who have not been previously trained abut legal procedures, the practices of political candidates or political parties controlling and misusing the commissioners and any other blocking or abusive practice with the exit polls.

These and other concrete and detailed aspects that are familiar to you and sensitive to the public will be under your focus and attention during the upcoming days and weeks. They make up the motive why we are here today in front of the Albanian citizens in order to urge and encourage them to massively participate in the elections so they can weight and judge the political candidates and programs through their ballots and to guarantee them as well about a fair electoral process as possible, about the free, secret and assured vote. *The Address At The Meeting With The Organizations Of Local Observers For The May 8th Elections