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Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin, Chairman
Hon. Alcee L. Hastings, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
June 29, 2009


WASHINGTON--Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), and Deputy Head of the OSCE Election Observation Mission in Albania, issued the following statement today on Sunday’s Albanian elections.

"My preliminary assessment is that many aspects of the June 28 parliamentary elections in Albania were a clear improvement over previous years. Of course, the process is still ongoing, but the transparency and reliability of the count will determine the success of this election.

“The election proceeded in a calm and orderly manner. New procedures in the electoral code aimed at correcting several main shortcomings from previous elections have advanced the process considerably – in particular new ID requirements, a voter list based on a new national civil registry and displayed well in advance, and a more transparent counting process. Concerns that the government would not be able to issue new identity cards in time for the election did not seem to be substantiated.

"On election day, I did see some technical problems, including inconsistent inking of fingers, family voting, and missing or insufficient materials; in addition, a paucity of women on the polling stations commissions was disappointing. In at least two prisons, there were not enough ballots distributed to accommodate all those who wanted to vote.

"During the campaign, the polarized political climate which overshadowed earlier elections continued. The serious lack of trust between the major parties resulted in accusations of political manipulation and voter coercion. Concerns over possible intimidation also resulted in late appointments of party representatives to polling station committees. This resulted in under-trained officials struggling with new procedures. Nevertheless, on Election Day, there was little evidence of widespread problems due to harassment or political pressure.

"These elections were a positive indicator that Albania, as a new NATO member, is serious in its efforts to make its election system more transparent and accountable. At this stage, the count not withstanding, Albania had a real election and that is a positive sign.”

Congressman Hastings, a former President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, has observed more than a dozen international elections and has led six Observation Missions on behalf of the international community.
Media Contact: Neil Simon
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