The government increased the fund of the Central Election Commission for the electoral process of May 14, 2023, with an amount that allows electronic voting only in three municipalities, i.e. Vorë, Elbasan and Kamëz. Even in these elections, the obligation that comes from the Electoral Code, for the piloting of this technology in at least 10% of the voters, remains unfulfilled. The State Commissioner for Elections, Ilirjan Celibashi, explains to Faktoje how the political will during the discussions does not translate into financing the project, which was approved by the parliament three years ago.
More than two months after the approval of the budget for 2023, the government of Albania changed it by Decision of the Council of Ministers , to give more money to the Central Election Commission for the electoral process of May 14, 2023.
State budget for elections
In the first allocation that the government made to the state budget, it gave about 214 million ALL to the CEC, as well as a reserve fund for local elections, in the amount of 1.8 billion ALL.
*part of the 2023 draft budget, the funds allocated to the CEC
*part of the 2023 state budget, the election reserve fund
On January 27, the Council of Ministers decided to increase the fund for the CEC by 800 million ALL.
*funds given to CEC before and after the DCM
What did the CEC decide?
After the decision of the Council of Ministers that increased the funds for the CEC, the State Commissioner of Elections, Ilirjan Celibashi, announced the implementation of electronic voting and counting in two other municipalities, Elbasan and Kamëz, in addition to the municipality of Vorë, which had already decided to use this technology.
*the decision of the CEC on the expansion of electronic voting after the addition of the fund
From the verification that Faktoje made of the Electoral Code and the list of voters, it results that even after the inclusion of the municipalities of Elbasan and Kamëz in the pilot project of electronic voting and counting for the 2023 elections, the obligation arising from Article 22 of the electoral law has not been fulfilled.
This is because the voters of Vorë municipality (30,053), those in Elbasan (168,679) and Kamëz (103,429) make up 8.42% of all voters in Albania.
*the percentage of voters of the three municipalities in relation to the total number of voters in Albania
Meanwhile, Article 22 of the Electoral Code requires that the technology implemented in pilot projects be extended to no less than 10 percent of the number of voters for each phase of implementation.
* part of the Electoral Code, article 22
The State Commissioner for Elections, Ilirjan Celibashi, explains to Faktoje that the reason why the minimum limit of 10% was set is to obtain a more measurable result and reliable conclusions about the electronic voting-counting process.
“ This was our goal when we requested the implementation of the project in 6 municipalities. The government agreed to provide a monetary value of 800 million lek, which corresponds to the development of the electronic voting project in about 340-360 polling stations.” – Commissioner Celibashi explains for Faktoje.
Why were these municipalities chosen?
After the government’s rejection of the CEC’s initial suggestion to implement electronic voting and counting technology in 6 municipalities other than Vora, as well as the additional funding provided through the DCM approved on January 17, the CEC continued negotiations.
“ We made another attempt for the government to provide funding for another municipality, but we could not achieve this. Now there is no time to commit to another municipality.” – explains Celibashi.
Asked about the selection method of these municipalities, Celibashi clarified that the additional fund provided by the government was calculated on the number of voting centres that this technology can cover with that amount of money.
“In order to diversify and see how voters behave in different regions, as well as to have the data for the case when this technology will be applied at the national level, we thought it was suitable for Elbasan and Kamza, because these are two cities with different typologies.” – argues the State Commissioner for Elections.
Strategy for the future
Since 2020, when all political parties voted for the introduction of technology in the elections, starting with the parliamentary ones of 2021, it seems that politics has no longer done much for the most efficient implementation of this technology, leaving it completely in the hands of the CEC.
But while the CEC is working with the aim of creating public trust in this technology and its implementation, the government seems to have no strategy to help the CEC in this process.
For the State Commissioner of Elections, Ilirjan Celibashi, the expression of will from the side of politics is not lacking. Things, however, are not so good when it comes to financing.
“We have tried to have this discussion with the government and the political parties, whether we will continue in this direction or not. This was also the goal of our proposal for 6 municipalities. In the meetings we have had with representatives of the parties and the government, they are willing to expand the project, but when it comes to funds and financing, there are arguments that there is no money.” – said Celibashi for Faktoje.
2025 parliamentary elections
Despite the successive violation of the Electoral Code, due to non-funding by the government, the CEC remains confident that until the next elections, this technology will be widely spread.
“Certainly in 2025, perhaps in half of the electoral units, we will develop the electronic voting project.” – said Celibashi for Faktoje, emphasizing that at the end of a wider pilot project, even more data on the process will be collected.
One thing is certain, Celibashi points out, that even though this process costs, shortening the counting time, a process which takes days today, engaging many human resources, means a reduction in costs and an increase in the reliability of the electoral process.