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ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL: Electoral systems and gender quota in Albania

Sashenka LLESHAJ

Different electoral systems present various challenges to women representation in elections, i.e. their ability to compete in elections and be elected. With the most recent attempt in Albania to start an electoral reform and potentially change the electoral system, a thorough understanding of electoral rules and the way they affect women representation is needed. While the current gender quotas enforcement took two election cycles to consolidate, a potential change in the electoral system will present new challenges. Moreover, previous reforms often neglected gender quotas: It took organizations dealing with gender issues much effort to have them adopted in Parliament. Furthermore, even if the electoral system is not changed, the current gender quota provisions should be improved and consolidated. This reform is an opportunity to make elections in Albania more gender-fair.

Since 2008, Albania has applied a Regional Proportional with closed Lists (RPcL, or "closed lists" in the following) electoral system for the parliamentary elections and the municipal council elections. Only mayors are currently elected through a Majority Vote in Albania. Many parties' representatives and other stakeholders currently advocate for changes in the electoral system: some propose a Regional Proportional with open Lists (RPoL, or "open lists" in the following) system, others propose an electoral system that mixes regional and national election rules. So far, the real choice seems to be between a new open lists system and the status quo of closed lists.

This policy brief proposes and analyses the adequate gender quota mechanisms for both of these scenarios: (1) preserving the status quo of closed lists, or (2) moving to open lists. For the first scenario, the paper proposes the equalizing of candidate quota provisions and penalties for parliamentary and municipal elections, thus the stipulation in the Electoral Code of a 50% candidate quota and the enforcement of list refusal for non-compliance. For the second scenario, the paper proposes that in addition to the existing quota – which is not enough to guarantee women representation if open lists are applied – Albania should implement a reserved seats quota of 30%. Beyond these scenarios, a model that would be more effective in the long-term, regardless of the electoral system, is the application of voluntary quotas in parties' internal statutes. This, however, is not yet a practice in Albanian political parties' internal policies.

i) This is a consistent pattern of neglect of issues regarding gender provisions from political parties and the Parliament. Intensive advocacy was needed both in 2012 and in April 2015 for the existing quota provisions to be adopted.

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