A two-day workshop for members of the parliamentary Ad hoc Committee on Electoral Reform to discuss international practices and effective mechanisms to prevent and combat vote buying and abuse of state resources took place on 12-13 June 2018 in Tirana. The event was attended by members of the Central Election Commission, the Technical Group of Experts of the Ad Hoc Committee, representatives from civil society organisations, media, Albanian State Police, the Commissioner on Oversight of Civil Service, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and other international partners. Participants exchanged views on crosscutting mechanisms to prevent and combat vote-buying. Two Council of Europe experts presented forms of vote-buying, root causes and comparative approach of cases of vote-buying and solutions to deter and prosecute vote-buying offences.
Members of the Ad hoc Committee noted with appreciation the opportunity to exchange on the Italian Cassation Court case law and the criminalization and sanctioning of vote buying through anticorruption and anti-mafia legislation. They expressed that this approach could be adopted in Albania and they will consider it during the revision of legislation with reference not only to the Electoral Code and law on political parties, but if needed they will consider revising the Criminal Code as well as the Criminal Procedures Code.
Representatives from civil society organisations presented their work in monitoring vote buying and recommendations for consideration in the reform process. The OSCE Presence in Albania contributed to the workshop with two experts, sharing with the participants the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations and the Lithuanian experience in combating vote-buying practices.
On misuse of state resources, participants discussed lessons learned from the last decade of electoral processes, regulatory and coercive measures to combat the abuse of state resources. The Council of Europe experts presented and discussed with participants on topics pertaining to types and forms of resources and their misuse, international experience and possible solutions and recommendations. Participants discussed the abuse of state resources in Albania, including the misuse of human resources for campaign purposes and effective mechanism to prevent this issue through improved enforcement and by holding those in violation accountable. The Representative from ODIHR supported by the OSCE Presence in Albania highlighted that the revision of the Electoral Code should address existing shortcomings noted in OSCE/ODIHR reports on abuse of state resources, including provisions to ensure equal rights for independent candidates.
Another OSCE expert presented examples of strategies available for monitoring the misuse of state resources from Georgia as well as from other Balkan counties and stressed the importance of adequate oversight structures. The co-chairs of the Ad hoc Committee declared that combating vote-buying and abuse of state resources will require an inclusive process, combining the launching of an awareness raising campaign, the involvement of civil society organisations and an increased co-operation with the law enforcement agencies. Following the workshop, the Council of Europe experts will provide Guidelines for the use of state resources in and out of electoral periods for political parties, relevant ministries and other central and local public institutions.
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