The OSCE head in Albania, Eugen Wolfarth, on Tuesday criticised a proposal by Prime Minister Sali Berisha to rush through an extension of voting rights to 16-year-olds ahead of the June 23 elections.“Ahead of this election there is no time [for such a change],” Wolfarth said. “Such thing cannot be changed ahead of the elections, but remains an option for the future,” he added.
The OSCE chief was speaking after Prime Minister Berisha on Monday told his Democratic Party MPs that he proposed to lower the voting age from 18 to 16.
Berisha said that he had received hundreds of requests on social networks from young people who wanted to vote – and the change would be easy to oversee.
“This is a different generation, the internet generation… that cannot be compared with any other in the history of our nation,” Berisha said. “If there is political will we can generate voting lists to include all 16-year-olds in a matter of hours,” he added.
Berisha’s proposal comes after several watchdogs have complained that Albania’s institutions have failed to notify voters of their presence on preliminary electoral rolls ahead of the June parliamentary elections.
The notification of voters is a legal obligation for the government and is prescribed in the electoral code.
Albania’s has long history of contested polls that do not meet international standards. The last general elections in 2009 sparked a political crisis that reverberates to this day.
The elections on June 23 are seen by the EU as litmus test for Tirana’s political elite and for its hopes of advancing the country’s battered integration process.