2017 is an important year for the Albanian Democracy, Rule of Law, and European Integration. Parliamentary elections are going to take place this year. On June 18th, Albanian citizens will vote to elect their representatives in the Legislative and Executive. The challenge for voters in these elections is to make sure that they vote for a non-criminalized political class.
In the two latest elections, the Albanian Institute of Science (AIS), with donor support, conducted Za’Lart (Raised Voice) Project for Fair Elections, a project enabling citizens to monitor elections in real time. Citizens were invited to report problems, difficulties, and cases of abuse with their right to free vote on a web and mobile app. In response to the invitation to Raise Their Voice, and Report Violations, hundreds of citizens reported through photos, videos, and facts problems like: people with criminal records being members of candidates electoral staff, vote buying, misuse of assets and human resource in the public sector, tendencies of manipulating first-time voters through massive sponsorship of student’s end of school parties in public schools, discriminatory electoral speeches, etc. a considerable part of such reports were verified by the project ad hoc verification teams, and were marked as verified. The reporting database served to collect clear information about the types of election-related problems, and to exercise public pressure with the aim to stop or minimize such abuses.
This is the first year when the so-called ‘Law on Integrity’ might already deliver some pre-election results for the new lawmakers. The country is going to hold elections after a long period of debate on the electoral system and institutions, an environment that brings some distrust and controversy about the process. In this context, in the elections of June 18th, the Za’Lart team deems the citizens monitoring of the elections as necessary. The citizens are everywhere violations take place. Through a smart phone they can report on the process in real time. Real time monitoring of elections through citizens’ reports would also help the professional teams of election observers.
While the first month of the year is now over and it is a little more than 90 days left from the official starting date of the 2017 Electoral Campaign, the Za’Lart team notices that none of the international organizations and institutions that support the civil society in programs for democratic culture and free elections in the country has allocated any funds or made any call for financially supporting election-related programs. Further to our communication with them, it seems that their budgets for financing NGOs have either been changed in terms of priorities or simply shrunk. Facing such difficulty, Za’Lart team invites donors, embassies, and organizations supporting the civil society in its efforts to establish a democratic culture and standards, to consider the importance of election monitoring by the citizens.
The core budget for implementing such project consists of costs to design a platform and mobile apps; travel costs for our (ad hoc) volunteers’ field verification teams; assistance for the platform by an election expert; two-days rent for meeting room; a moderator for checking posts of an offensive and discriminatory nature. The Za’Lart team will offer volunteer work for the implementation of the project, while the organization will contribute by allocating its annual membership fees to its implementation.