Judges in Albania explore electoral dispute resolution

Old lady put her vote into a ballot box
Albania has made significant progress with electoral reforms

Albanians will go to the polls on 23 June to elect their 2013-2017 legislature. The elections, and the electoral reforms that preceded them, are of significant importance for the country’s democratization and prospects for European Union (EU) integration (pdf).

 

A new election law, adopted in 2012, included many recommendations from international observer missions, and has generally been applauded by political parties and international partners alike.

 

Nonetheless, political intransigence threatens to undo this progress. A volley of retaliatory actions was sparked when a member of the ruling coalition made a pre-election pact with opposition parties.

 

Opposition-nominated members resigned from the Central Election Committee (CEC), leaving it with only government-nominated members, and limiting its ability to carry out core functions - such as releasing the results of the polls.

 

Lacking a political agreement that results in a reconstitution of the CEC, this situation does not have a clear administrative or legal solution. Should it persist until the June polls, the issue may result in serious disputes regarding the validity of results and the credibility of electoral institutions.

 

Housed in the Tirana Court of Appeals, the newly formed Electoral College is the institution that will be most pressured by the political conflict over the electoral process. The College is the final appeal body for electoral complaints. It is formed of eight appeal court judges, chosen at random, and remains in force for the duration of the parliamentary cycle.

 

The current constitution of the body was formed in the months before the elections, and consists of seven new members as well as one who served on the previous College.

 

Electoral dispute resolution

UNDP and the Tirana Court of Appeals organized an internationally facilitated workshop on electoral dispute resolution using the BRIDGE curriculum.

 

Judges recently appointed to the Electoral College, legal representatives of political parties, and staff of the Tirana Court of Appeals familiarized themselves about the tasks they may face in the coming months, and topics were tailored to Albania’s electoral framework, code, and timeline.

 

Topics included:

  • -  Disputable matters
  • -  Dispute procedures and timelines
  • -  Electoral fraud and forensic investigation
  • -  Remedial actions such as recounting, invalidation, and re-voting
  • -  Seat allocation

 

A group of people around a table with a big ballot box on it
Judges in Albania respond to simulated cases of electoral fraud and malpractice

 

In one popular session, the group was presented with a series of hands-on simulations that covered investigation of potential electoral fraud and other forms of irregularities.

 

Each scenario covered a different type of potential fraud or malpractice, and tasked the participants with investigation, and adjudication.

 

Each scenario was designed to lead the participants to areas in the law where the Electoral College or the electoral managers would have some discretion in interpretation.

 

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