Violations in the May 26, 1996 Albanian Elections

June 1996, Vol. 8, No. 10 (D)



On May 26, 1996, Albanians voted in parliamentary elections the third multi-party elections since the fall of the communist government in 1991. Unfortunately, numerous human rights violations before, during and after the vote undermined the democratic process and threatened the legitimacy of the elections. Physical attacks, ballot stuffing and voter list manipulation violated the right of the Albanian people to elect their government in a free and fair manner. Extreme cases of police violence after the elections have created a tense atmosphere throughout the country.

Despite this, the international community has not condemned these elections as a blatant violation of Albanian and international law. The U.S. government, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union have expressed concern about voting “irregularities,” and called for a partial revote. However, new elections in selected districts does not go far enough to address the widespread abuses that took place.

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki calls on the Albanian government and the international community, specifically the OSCE, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the United Nations and the United States government, to declare these elections invalid. Those responsible for abuses of the electoral law should be held accountable, and conditions should be established for new elections to take place in an atmosphere that is free and fair. The Albanian uniformed and secret police should allow citizens to peacefully express their political views.

Even before the elections, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki warned that the ruling party might try to manipulate the vote. In a 156-page report, Human Rights in Post-Communist Albania, released on March 14, 1996, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki concluded:

The closing months of 1995 saw renewed efforts by the state to silence independent voices in the judiciary and media, as well as those of opposition politicians. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki fears that these actions are an attempt by the government to eliminate its political rivals, thereby jeopardizing the fairness of the forthcoming elections.
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki takes no position on the political contest in Albania, and recognizes that some of the accusations made by the opposition parties may be exaggerated. However, it is the responsibility of the Albanian government to abide by the rule of law and ensure that the voting process, the basis of any democracy, proceeds in conformity with Albanian and international law.

At the same time, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki condemns the international community’s unwillingness to criticize human rights violations committed by the Democratic Party of Sali Berisha since it came to power in 1992. The United States and European governments have repeatedly turned a blind eye to human rights abuses that undermine the rule of law and democratic reform because Albania is an “ally” in the region.



Human Rights Watch/Helsinki calls on the Albanian government to:

Establish an independent commission with representatives from all the major political parties to investigate the electoral violations and make recommendations on how to create conditions for a new election that is free and fair.

Prosecute those individuals responsible for violating the electoral law.

Investigate the cases of police violence and abuse in detention committed on May 28 and hold accountable those found responsible.

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki calls on the United Nations, OSCE, the Council of Europe, European Union and the United States government to:

Declare the Albanian parliamentary elections invalid due to the numerous electoral violations.

Assist the government and the political parties in Albania to create democratic conditions under which free and fair elections can occur. This might include sending an international delegation to assess the violations in electoral law and make recommendations on how to avoid them in the future. In addition, the international community might offer to hold new parliamentary elections under international auspices.





    “Decommunization” Laws
      Restrictions on Free Expression
      Harassment of the Political Opposition
      The Electoral Law
      Election Monitors




Human Rights Watch      June 1996      Vol. 8, No. 10 (D)

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