Strengthening Electoral Processes in Albania

What is the project about?

 Counting votes in Tirana

On 21 June 2015, Albania will hold  local elections which represent a critical test for Albania’s democracy. These elections come immediately following significant reform of Albania’s territorial-administrative structure. As a result of these reforms, Albania will have 61 new municipalities, replacing the 373 local government units that exist currently. In order to consolidate a comprehensive reform process which involved wide stakeholder consultation, public input and analytical and expert research, the citizens of these 61 municipalities must now elect new mayors and municipal councils.

In Albania, the Central Election Commission (CEC) is the institution charged with administering elections. Some measures have been taken by CEC in recent years to improve their performance. Those include introduction of new Information Systems, new modalities in training and learning, and increasing the level of transparency in several election processes.

In order to further the CEC’s development and to strengthen the capacities of its staff, and that of other local electoral stakeholders, UNDP, drawing on its long-term democratization work in Albania, launched the "Strengthening Electoral Assistance in Albania" programme.

The programme is designed to improve competencies of election officials and strengthen processes and systems employed to administer elections.

In doing so, UNDP will contribute to further transparency of and trust in the 2015 local elections, bringing the recent process of territorial administrative reform in the country closer to completion and integration into Albania’s system of governance.

Main Interventions:

Focus groups on key issues. UNDP will conduct a series of focus group discussions to identify key issues in voter education prior to the 2015 local elections. Part of the focus group discussions will concentrate on the recent territorial-administrative reform, to see what impact this reform may have on the electorate’s understanding of local government bodies and the electoral process, and also any possible impact on the motivations of the electorate. Findings will be shared with local organizations which are planning election and civic education activities.  

Voter information. The CEC frequently shares information through its website about its work and the election process in general. During the election period, there is a surge of visits to the site by users. Given the recent territorial-administrative reform and resulting, new electoral units (i.e., the municipalities), it is critical the electorate have basic information about these electoral units and the candidates competing to govern them. UNDP will assist the CEC in developing a web-based platform to provide easy-to-understand information on the local elections, including the new election boundaries and candidates.

Training program for voting center officials. The CEC Department of Election Commissions and UNDP will collaborate on the creation of an animated training video tutorial, designed to prepare election staff to carry out their Election Day duties. Direct beneficiaries will be 35,000 voting center officials nominated for each election.

Management systems for candidate and party registration
. The current procedure used to register and manage political subjects for local elections by election commissions involve multiple data entry transfers from paper copy documents on candidate information and eligibility. This process is time consuming and easily subject to human error. UNDP will work with the CEC to create a political subject management software program, creating efficiencies in the CEC’s work and lowering the staff resources required for this task. The program will have built in checks to determine candidate eligibility and gender threshold requirements in accordance with new provisions of electoral code. The system is also integrated within the overall CEC IT management system, making easier such tasks as ballot design, allocation of mandates and publishing of results.

Automation of campaign donation and expenditure declaration forms. Under current practice, the CEC approves a template for political subjects to register the funds they receive from donors.  Political party treasures and others handling campaign finances must also submit records of donors’ contributions, and campaign expenditures, to the CEC. UNDP  will assist the CEC in automating this process through a basic electronic filing system, creating a database and archive which can easily supply reports and other documentation to independent auditors as prescribed by law. A key feature of the system will also be the ability for the CEC to publish various reports on campaign financing and expenditure on its website, ushering in a new level of public information and transparency on this important issue.

Training for electoral stakeholders (BRIDGE).  In 2013, UNDP organized a week-long training program for judges who are appointed as members of the Electoral College on interpreting the Electoral Code and resolving electoral disputes. A similar event will be organized with members of the College and the CEC prior to the June elections. The training will again rely on the Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) methodology, combined with a series of case studies based on hypothetical Albanian examples. The training will also take into account new challenges potentially emerging from local elections and the recent territorial-administrative reform. In addition, UNDP, in partnership with UN Women, will provide a Gender and Elections BRIDGE workshop for staff of the CEC secretariat and civil society organizations. This workshop will examine gender-related issues currently present in the organization of the June 2015 election, and strategize how the electoral authorities, civil society and other stakeholders could address such issues in the post-electoral period.

Development of management systems for voting center operations. Updates on the opening of voting centers and voter turnout are an important feature of elections – they offer some of the only expected updates during the voting day. Such information, when delivered promptly and regularly, builds confidence in the electoral process and its administration. To provide the CEC greater access to information on Election Day, UNDP will provide assistance in developing a pilot program to relay this information directly from the voting center to the CEC. The pilot voting center program will allow for “live turnout” reporting, reporting on the status of voting centers and tracking sensitive election materials into and out of the voting center.


What have we accomplished so far?

•    A comprehensive analysis of voter education needs was undertaken through a serious of focus groups taking place in different regions of the country. These discussions centered on voters’ perception of the elections in the context of Albania’s new municipalities and how this affects voters’ need for information and motivations for participation. The results of this analysis have been provided to more than 2000 local NGOs and other organizations and institutions in Albania.


•    A new system for the registration of political parties and candidates has been developed and delivered to the CEC. A feature of this system is an interactive map of Albania that presents to voters a visualization of the new municipalities and the candidates standing for Mayor and Municipal Council.

•    A two-day BRIDGE module on Gender and Elections was provided to the CEC staff, civil society and international organizations. The workshop sought to explore issues facing women in elections in Albania, from the perspectives of voters, candidates and members of the election administration. The workshop identified priority areas for the CEC and other institutions to focus their collective efforts in the post-election period.


•    A sixty-minute animated training video was created in cooperation with the CEC Election Commission department for members of the Voting Center commissions. The video covered all major aspects of the preparation for voting and the Voting Center, and Election Day duties, in a series of chapters, each of which had a Q&A session to test viewer’s knowledge. The video also covered different scenarios that may occur on Election Day in the process of voting, and how to deal with them. The video was provided to each of the 280 CEC trainers and placed on the CEC website, and was also picked up by the national broadcaster and aired as civic education in the week and days before the Election.


•    An animated video for international election observers was produced by UNDP and the CEC and distributed to international observer groups to train their short term observers in the week before the 21 June election. The video went over the roles and responsibilities of observers, opening of voting, processing voters, closing, and transfer of materials to the counting centers. The video was also placed in the CEC website.


•    A software module for managing election logistics at the level of Voting Center was completed and delivered to the CEC in June. The module allowed for tracking of electoral materials into and out of Voting Centers, communicating the status (open, closed etc.) of Voting Centers, and reporting hourly voter turnout figures, directly to the CEC by using tablets and 3G/GPRS network communication. The system was piloted in Voting Centers in Puke and Sarande municipalities during the June 21 local elections. Data was available to the CEC almost instantly – turnout data was available in many cases hours before the CEC had the information through traditional collection methods. Turnout was also displayed on an interactive public website and updated approximately every 60 seconds. UNDP and the CEC will use the lessons learned from the successful pilot to evaluate the systems applicability countrywide in the 2017 parliamentary elections.


Who finances it?



UNDP   USD 60,000 (core)
UN Delivering Results Together
USD 100,000 (UN CF)
Sweden
USD 50,000 (UN CF)
Total budget USD 395,000
Allocated budget USD 210,000
Unfunded total USD 185,000

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