Albania’s Central Election Commission (CEC) has fined the top three parties running for the June 23 general elections a total of 14 million lek (around €100,000) for failing to respect the gender quota for women MP candidates in the country’s 12 constituencies. In a decision taken on May 11, CEC said it had imposed a 6 million lek (€41,850) fine on the opposition Socialist Party for failing to respect the 30 percent quota on the MP candidate lists of six regions, namely the Tirana, Durrës, Elbasan, Kukës, Gjirokastër and Dibër counties.
The Socialist Movement for Integration, which has left the ruling coalition to join the opposition Socialists in a pre-electoral coalition, has been fined 4 million lek for failing to give enough space to women in its lists of candidate MP.
The ruling Democratic Party was also fined lek 4 million (€27,904) on the same grounds. Party representatives said they agreed with the fines when asked to make the necessary reviews by CEC, a seven member body overseeing elections. CEC is currently operating only on four members proposed by the ruling coalition after the controversial replacement of the SMI proposed member with a coalition member last month, putting the body in a deadlock.
The Electoral Code, approved with the consensus by the two key political forces foresees 1 million lek fines for each region in cases parties fail to respect the 30 percent gender quota for women, a measure which NGOs and women activists describe as insufficient to increase the presence of women in the male-dominated Albanian Parliament.
Women won 16.4 percent of seats, or 23 mandates, in the June 2009 parliamentary election, making their biggest representation in Parliament since the collapse of the communist regime in the early 1990s.
Local NGOs have suggested changes to the Electoral Code in order to achieve the 30 percent quota for women.
Since the June 2009 general elections, MPs are elected with closed candidate lists in 12 constituencies that correspond to the administrative regions of Albania, known locally as “qarqe” or counties. The constituencies are of different sizes, with the number of mandates ranging from four in Kukës County to 32 in Tirana, based on the number of citizens registered in each constituency.
“If women’s representation in Albania is to reach a level of 30 percent in the assembly in the next election, it will require a review of the existing Electoral Code to strengthen the quota. The 2009 Albanian election provides a cautionary example about the implementation of quota laws. It demonstrates that having a quota can effect great change, as happened in these national elections. However, it also demonstrates that if the quota allows for merely “30 percent of the list” and does not include a formula of “rank order” (alternating names), it will not guarantee the election of women to 30 percent of seats in parliament,” says a United Nations-funded report on the implementation of gender quota in the 2009 elections.