Vast majority of reported Albanian electoral crimes escape conviction

The general elections on Monday (25 April) were accompanied by a total of 291 complaints about vote-buying, manipulation, pressuring, and other forms of electoral crimes. These issues were also picked up on by various international bodies, including the OSCE/ODHIR, who called for wide-ranging reforms to protect citizens from electoral crimes. [Shutterstock/Lightspring]

Following hundreds of reports to authorities, only one case – with two defendants – related to electoral crimes resulted in a conviction, a report from the Center for Public Information Issues in Albania has found.

The general elections on Monday (25 April) were accompanied by a total of 291 complaints about vote-buying, manipulation, pressuring, and other forms of electoral crimes. These issues were also picked up on by various international bodies, including the OSCE/ODHIR, who called for wide-ranging reforms to protect citizens from electoral crimes.

However, a report on the Incidence and Investigation of Electoral Crimes estimated that, so far, about 140 of these complaints were registered as criminal proceedings by the authorities. Out of these, just one resulted in a final decision.

During a presentation of the report on Friday, Gerti Shella, director of the centre, said, “Election manipulation has been and remains a serious concern for Albania. Despite the stricter legal provisions, criminal investigations in the field of elections have not been effective in Albania.”

The centre monitored the elections and the post-election period for any suspected electoral crimes. Until November 2021, 158 notifications were received, of which 82 resulted in criminal proceedings starting. The Special Prosecution against Crime and Corruption, a structured backed by the EU and US, registered 115 requests, but only 57 resulted in criminal proceedings being started.

And only one case, with two suspects, resulted in a conviction.

Journalist Klodiana Lala who is on the centre’s board, said, “I expect the prosecution [of these crimes] to be more serious. Our law enforcement institutions should create mechanisms for the prevention of electoral crimes, vote-buying and selling. It shouldn’t stop at some investigations or reports.”

Other board members noted that the public has long lost faith in the prosecution and does not believe such crimes will be punished.

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