On December 9, 2022, the Constitutional Court of Albania declared that it had made a decision regarding an application made by an organization called the Diaspora for a Free Albania, concerning the lack of legislation regulating the alleged right to vote for Albanian expats in central elections. The organization claimed that the elections of April 25, 2021, should be declared unconstitutional because of said problem. The Constitutional Court ruled (although its decision still hasn’t been published) that the Parliament had an obligation to deal with this matter so that it would ensure the right to vote for Albanian emigrants. Even though Law no. 9688 only vaguely emphasizes an abstract obligation of “all responsible authorities to take measures for making possible voting rights for Albanian emigrants,” no clear, legal regulation is in place. Based on 76th article of Law no. 8577, which deals with basic procedural aspects and competences of the Constitutional Court, this institution has the power to make the Albanian Parliament create legislation, the absence of which negatively effects the citizens’ rights and freedoms (as is the case here). Nevertheless, it is very likely that Albanian expats will have the right to vote in the next central elections.
From January to September 2022, the number of Albanians crossing the La Manche canal toward the UK, via the so-called “small boats,” reached 11,241, scoring significantly higher than that of other nationalities: 4,781 Afghans, 3,594 Iranians, 3,074 Iraqis. Despite their country being considered “safe” by France, Albanians formed the biggest group of asylum seekers in 2018. In 2021, almost 77,000 Albanians lived in Germany, three times higher than in 2015, in just a three-year period. More and more people are leaving the country, the majority of which never come back.
What no one is really understanding though, is the real reason why these people leave. Explaining it solely on economic grounds would be a great understatement to the real character of this phenomenon: a fairly complex cultural and social problem. “I want to live in a society that is well-structured, and well organized,” says Iva Memaj, an Albanian emigrant who arrived by lorry about a month ago. I do believe that this sentence is the epitome of Albanians’ main motivation to escape their country: a continuous 30-year governmental incapacity to create better economic opportunities and a better general life standard. The transitional period has been marked by public institutions that have been deeply corrupt, unprofessional, incompetent, and most importantly, unwilling to serve. In 2021, Albania’s Corruption Perception Index, according to Transparency International, scored a staggering 35/100 (the higher a country scores, the less corrupt it is).
All this has caused an overall absence of hope, which makes people not want to be part of this society anymore, leaving us short of what some may call “a Platonian sense of a political community.” In simple terms, people are just not willing to play their individual parts anymore—a certain social mechanism seems to be broken.
It is the only explanation that can be given to the above-mentioned BBC statistics: if not, how can it possibly be that there are four times more Albanians fleeing their country than the people of a state that currently suffers from armed conflicts between terrorist, insurgent groups?
To ask of these people to vote, after they have decided to withdraw from a potential contribution they can make to their country (justifiably) would be a complete paradox. It is the main reason Albanians leave in the first place: their wishes, desires, rights, votes, needs, freedoms mean nothing to the political class.
Albanian emigrants don’t go to Albanian hospitals, schools, universities, courts, etc. Their voting would be orientated toward false, empty, naïve PowerPoint slides, speeches, motivational videos published by future MPs and insults made by political opponents (theatrical performances made rather poorly).
The number of Albanian citizens living abroad has increased so much that I think it is time for the Albanian government to create a new institution that can facilitate the relationship between expats and their country of origin. In Portugal, for example, the Conselho des Comunidades Portugesas represents the interests of Portuguese citizens living abroad, by issuing at any time, on its own initiative, opinions regarding several aspects of Portuguese residents abroad. In France, too, the Assemblée des Français de l’étranger works as a consultant institution to the government, concerning important cultural, economic, social and fiscal matters for the French diaspora. The Assembly works closely with the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
The truth is that there are several legal institutions of this nature even in Albania, but I am skeptical of their practical results. Considering the massive wave of people leaving this country, their importance remains rather insignificant. Here I can mention several cultural centers for the diaspora, a publications center, a sub-committee to the Albanian Parliament. Online, I even found a website for the Ministry on Diaspora, which hasn’t been updated since 2021. After a bit of a research, I discovered that its field of competence was set under the Ministry on Europe and Foreign Affairs. This, I believe, says it all.
In order for them to vote, Albanian residents living abroad need to have an institutional, legal and even political relationship with their home country. With regard to our current conditions, such interconnection hasn’t been made possible. In this aspect, it would be utter nonsense for this legal change to take place.
Emanuel Xhindi is a second-year law student at the University of Tirana Faculty of Law.
Suggested citation: Emanuel Xhindi, Albanian Emigrants Might Have the Right to Vote in the Next Central Elections—and it is Completely Unjustified, JURIST – Student, Professional Commentary, January 27, 2023, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2023/01/emanuel-xhindi-albanian-emigrants-voting-rights/.
This article was prepared for publication by Hayley Behal, JURIST Commentary Co-Managing Editor. Please direct any questions or comments to her at email@example.com