Tirana, 24 June 2013 - The Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (CFFE) is pleased to report that the voting process in the Tirana election district proceeded peacefully and was free from any incidents that could significantly impact the voting process. The report incorporates the data regarding the setting-up, opening, and closing of the polls, as well as the overall voting process on the Election Day. CFFE's main findings, which are based on a statistical sample of 350 voting centers for a 95% confidence interval with a margin of error of 4.8% for the Tirana election district, include:
- With the exception of a few isolated incidents, voters were largely able to cast their ballots in an atmosphere free from intimidation and violence in voting centers.
- The participation of voters in the Tirana election district was greater than in the 2009 parliamentary election. The participation of voters in the June 23rd, Parliamentary Elections was fifty eight percent (58 %) in the Tirana election district.
- Election administration officials largely followed electoral rules and guidelines, although some procedural shortcomings were identified, most importantly, in 25% of the voting centers, the campaign propaganda were not removed within a 150 m radius of the voting center.
- Political party observers from the three largest parties - Democratic Party (DP), Socialist Party (SP) and the Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI) - were present in 93.7% of voting centers in the Tirana election district and filed few official complaints.
- The ability of voters with disabilities to access voting centers and vote independently and in secret proved to be a widespread shortcoming. Sixty percent of the voting centers in Tirana election district were not accessible to physically disabled voters.
- The underrepresentation of women continues to be an area of concern for CFFE as political parties failed to fully honor their commitment to increasing women's participation in the electoral process. Among other things, no women were present in 22% of the membership of Voting Center Commissions in the Tirana electoral district.
- Family voting was reported in in at least 25 voting centers in Tirana region. However, these incidents did not involve large numbers of voters.
- Ballot counting has begun in some of Tirana's ballot counting centers and CFFE observers are present at all respective Ballot Counting Centers (BCCs). CFFE notes that ballots should be counted expediently, accurately, and in a peaceful, properly regulated environment that upholds full transparency and procedural order.
CFFE would like to thank all of its observers for their spirit of volunteerism and commitment to observe the 2013 Parliamentary Elections. It is this spirit of volunteerism which enables citizens observation groups to provide the public with independent, non-partisan information on the conduct of the election. Ultimately, the further advancement of democracy in Albania will be determined by citizens remaining actively engaged in political processes.
In the district of Tirana, CFFE deployed 350 nonpartisan observers to a random, representative sample of voting centers, such that observations at those voting centers could be extrapolated to present an overall picture of election-day activity throughout the district. Tirana was selected as the biggest district in the country and also as a district which had a history of contested results.
CFFE's sample was stratified by the 18 Election Administration Zones (EAZs) in the Tirana election district as shown in the deployment map below. Within each of the 18 EAZs, the voting centers were chosen at random. This sampling technique ensured that the sample was both representative and random, allowing CFFE to make an accurate and systematic assessment of the voting process in the district of Tirana. Based on the data received, CFFE's conclusions about the Tirana election district for a 95% confidence interval with a margin of error of 4.8% for the qualitative analysis of the electoral process. The margin of error for CFFE's data on quantitative aspects of the voting process, such as voter turnout, is 0.81%.
All of CFFE's observers went through a full day of training, where they received instruction on their rights and responsibilities as citizen observers and training on how to use the CFFE's specialized reporting and communications systems.
CFFE observers observed the entire voting process, including opening and closing procedures. All information from observers was entered into a specially designed database that allowed CFFE to quickly analyze the data received from their observers and distinguish between what are isolated incidents and what might indicate a larger trend.
CFFE collected and analyzed reports, relating to VCC compliance with voting procedures and administrative protocols, as well as qualitative assessments regarding voter access and voting rights, to create an unprecedented picture of the voting process in the Tirana election district.
CFFE has also deployed observers to all 18 Ballot Counting Centers (BCC) in Tirana. CFFE observers will be present throughout the counting process, allowing CFFE to provide the public with a full assessment of the counting process in Tirana. CFFE has evaluated this information per international standards of democratic election conduct.
I. Election Administration
In the district of Tirana, few administrative problems were observed that could have significantly impacted the voting process. The opening of the voting centers in the Tirana election district was mostly orderly and largely followed the rules and instructions set out by the Central Election Commission (CEC) with only a few procedural problems reported. Ninety-nine percent (99%)of voting centers were equipped with the necessary materials to begin the voting process, such as voter lists, ballot papers, and official stamps.
According to CFFE data, 96.3% of Voting Centers in the Tirana election district opened within the first half hour with only 3.7% of voting centers opening late (after 7:30am) or very late (after 8:00am). The most significant problem reported during the opening procedures in the district of Tirana concerned the removal of campaign material as Voting Center Commissions (VCC) neglected to remove campaign material 150 meter radius prior to opening in 25% of the voting centers in the Tirana election district as required by the Electoral Code.
The under representation of women continues to be an area of concern for CFFE as political parties fail to fully honor their commitment to increasing women's participation in the electoral process. Among other things, in 22% of the voting centers in the Tirana election district there are no female members in the Voting Center Commission. Also, only 22% of the Voting Centers in the district of Tirana is the Chair of the voting center a woman.
The voting process was also largely free from serious incidents or procedural violations. In general, voters and election officials appeared to be familiar with voting procedures and implemented them accordingly. The vast majority of voting commissioners checked for inked fingers, ensured voters presented valid identification documents, and did not allow ineligible voters to vote.
Voting lists were largely accurate. In 91.1% of voting centers in the district of Tirana, zero or few voters (1 to 5 voters), could not find district could not find their name on the voters list.
The closing of the voting centers also proceeded smoothly and without any serious incidents.
During the voting day, CFFE did not receive any reports of CFFE observers being prevented from observing the process or being denied access to information. CFFE would like to thank all voting center officials for their cooperation with CFFE's observers.
II. Family Voting
There were repeated instances of family voting, where voters vote for family members who are not present or assist family members at the voting center who do not need assistance. CFFE received reports that family voting was permitted in at least 25 voting centers, but it did not involve large numbers of voters. Family voting was more pronounced in rural areas administered by Commissions of Electoral Administrative Zones 43, 29, and 30. This is a clear violation of voting procedures.
III. Voters with Disabilities
All voters have the right to vote freely, directly, and in secret. Although the Central Election Commission (CEC) attempted to take measures to guarantee these rights for voters with disabilities CFFE notes that poor planning left the CEC with little time to fully implement the intended activities.
Findings show that 49.5% of voting centers were not fully adapted to allow free access of persons with disabilities to the voting center. Meanwhile, it was reported that more than half of voting centers (67.3%) were not equipped to accommodate persons with physical disabilities, such as adjustable voting booths.
The CEC announced plans to develop and distribute braille ballots but was unable to produce them in time. As a result, none of the voting centers in the district of Tirana was equipped with means to allow blind voters to vote directly and in secret.
The number of persons with disabilities that exercised their right to vote at the centers observed was 1,187. Only half of them (587) were able to vote directly and in secret but the remaining voters had to be assisted to vote. The Coalition observers identified 20 cases where voters with disabilities were improperly assisted in breach of the Electoral Code and international standards.
The CFFE notes a number of factors that discourage people with disabilities from voting. These include: a)a lack of alternatives to enable voting for disabled voters who cannot move from their homes; b)a lack of accessible voting centers and lack of adjustable transport means; c) an inhibiting legal framework guaranteeing the right to vote of voters with mental disability; d)and a lack of support services. These factors should be addressed in future elections.
IV. Political Party Observers
Political party observers were present in 98.8% of the voting centers in the Tirana election district. Observers from the DP, SP, and SMI had observers at 96.3%, 97.9%, and 92% of voting centers in the Tirana election district respectively. The New Democratic Spirit Party placed observers at 53.4% of voting centers while the Red and Black Alliance had observers at 28.5% of voting centers in the Tirana election district. Of these observers, the vast majority (93.2%) did not submit any official written complaints during the opening, voting, or closing procedures.
V. Violence and Intimidation
Voters were largely able to cast their ballots in an atmosphere free from intimidation and violence in voting centers. CFFE received 10 incident reports from its observers of physical altercations between party militants often resulting in a short suspension of the voting process. However, these incidents did not have a significant impact on the overall voting process at the voting centers where they occurred.
VI. Voter Turnout
Based on CFFE's data, the voter turnout in the election district of Tirana was 58.3% for a 95% confidence level and a 81% margin of error. This is higher the participation of the 2009 Parliamentary elections which was 50.77%.
THE COALITION FOR FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS
The Coalition for Free and Fair Elections is an independent, non-partisan CFFE established by three civil society organizations to promote civic participation in and monitoring of the electoral process. CFFE focuses on issues that influence the upholding of human rights (in front of the law), gender equality and the rights of people with disability.
CFFE project on election observation is being assisted by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) through funding provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Austrian Development Agency, Civil Rights Defenders, the Open Society Foundation Albania, and most importantly, by the hundreds of Albanian citizens who volunteer their time to CFFE's efforts for the Parliamentary Elections of June 23rd, 2013.
CFFE's observation findings can be found on its website at www.klzn.org.