By Eduard Zaloshnja
Democrat MP, Oerd Bylykbashi, who is also joint chairman of the parliamentary committee for the electoral reform, declared a few days ago that electronic voting and biometric identification of voters will be tested next year in several municipalities of the country, to then be introduced all over the country in the general elections. According to Bylykbashi, this would address the problem with vote buying.
In fact, immediately after the deep defeat conceded by the Democratic Party in last year’s elections, this party claimed that the main cause for its loss was vote buying. And one of its main demands for the next elections would be the introduction of electronic voting and biometric identification of voters.
But, to what extent would this modernization of the electoral process address the issues that the Democratic Party raises?
In last year’s elections, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party obtained 200 thousand fewer votes than the coalition that they represented had obtained four years ago. 150 thousand votes could be justified by the decline in the turnout of right wing voters, while 50 thousand votes could be explained with the transfer of votes from the Democratic Party to the Socialist Party and/or SMI and/or PDIU and/or PDIU.
The transfer of votes from the Democratic Party to other parties mainly occurred in rural areas and not in urban areas. This fact also acts as a clue (not as proof) that in those areas there could have been vote buying. In exchange of the vote, electoral “hunters” from rival parties could have offered right wing voters in rural areas cash or other favors.
What was the effect of the transfer of 50 thousand votes on parliamentary mandates? By analyzing the polling stations where the transfer of votes has taken place, we would notice that a mandate in the constituency of Elbasan has been transferred from DP to PDIU; in the constituency of Dibra, one mandate has been transferred from DP to PDIU; in the constituency of Durres, one mandate has been transferred from the DP to SMI; in the constituency of Tirana, one mandate has been transferred from DP to SMI; in the constituency of Vlora, one mandate has moved from DP to SP and in the constituency of Elbasan, one mandate has moved from DP to SP (Note: in the constituency of Shkodra, only one mandate has moved from SP to PSD).
To sum up, we can say that as a result of the transfer of votes in rural areas, DP has lost 6 mandates (to PDIU, SMI and SP), while the SP has won 2 and lost 1.
This analysis shows that electronic voting and biometric identification wouldn’t have solved DP’s electoral problem. Even if this technology has been introduced throughout the country and had completely prevented the transfer of votes, the DP would have only won 46 seats (from 43 seats which it actually managed to win). This figure is far from the 71 seats needed to govern the country. On the other hand, the Socialist Party would have received 73 seats and other parties would have received 18 seats.
In fact, the biggest electoral problem that the DP had was the dramatic decline in the turnout of right wing voters. And this is not a problem that can be solved with electronic voting and biometric identification. If many right wing voters (in urban areas) decide not to head to the polls, it doesn’t really matter how the voting is done, by pen or through a computer.
It’s true that biometric identification does not allow family voting (where the father votes on behalf of his sons, daughters or grandchildren who may not even be in Albania). It’s also true that electronic voting reduces the possibility of photographing the ballot paper through a mobile phone (to show it as proof to the party’s middle man who pays for the vote). On the other hand, this technology would not prevent an electoral “hunter” to pay a right wing voter not to go to the polling station. Also, this technology does not inspire a right wing voter to go to the polling station; his inspiration would come from a leadership truly representing him and a leader who is sincere in the promises that he makes.
Let us recall that the Socialist Party insisted on introducing technology in the voting process when it was in opposition. Millions of euros were also spent (in vain) for the introduction of this technology in Tirana and Fier. SP’s victory did not come thanks to the voting technology. Its victory was made possible by the 1 million “slaps” of its coalition.
Can the DP build a coalition of “1 million slaps”? This is the biggest electoral problem of the Democratic Party.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy