Analysis: With low turnout, local elections give insights into grim demographic forecasts

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 16, 2023 10:47

Analysis: With low turnout, local elections give insights into grim demographic forecasts

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  • Migration and demographics playing increasing role in Albanian elections.

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Migration and demographics playing increasing role in Albanian elections

TIRANA, May 16, 2023 - Albania’s latest administrative elections marked the lowest turnout ever for a competitive voting process in post-communism, with only about one in three eligible voters casting votes. 

The number of people who had the right to vote has grown to 3.65 million, the highest historical level, but at least a third no longer live in Albania and do not have a right to vote abroad. 

The number of people moving abroad is also steadily increasing, as the country is in the midst of a renewed emigration wave.

-Turnout and demographics-

Historically, Albanians have had a high voter turnout of the resident population, so elections help provide some demographic insights, although they are not a perfect indicator as many residents could simply be turned off by politics and decide not to go and vote. 

With a turnout of about 37 percent, only about 1.3 million voters cast their ballots, down from 1.61 million in the 2015 local elections and 1.66 million in the 2021 general elections. 

-Number of voters expected to decline-

The demographics of the voting population are being influenced by lower birth rates that started in the 1990s and precipitated in the 2000s and, more importantly, by massive out-migration. 

Fertility rates are now at 1.3 in Albania, down from more than 3 in the early 1990s, which means that the number of voters has reached a peak and then will continue to decline. 

The aging of the population should theoretically increase the number of voters for a few more years, but emigration clearly has had an impact in the other direction. In 1990, only 62 percent of the population was of voting age, today it has reached 80 percent, according to an analysis by Monitor magazine. 

UN data shows that of the 3.3 million people who were registered in the country in 1990, about 38 percent of them, or 1.26 million people, were under the age of 18, so they were not eligible.

But due to high emigration and declining births, reflecting both emigration and changing lifestyles, the share of the under-18 population has been steadily declining. For example, in 2000, about 35 percent of the resident population was under 18 years of age, while in 2021 it dropped drastically to 20 percent.

This means that of the 2.85 million people who are declared to be in the country, only 574,000 were under 18 in 2021, or half of those in 1990. On the other hand, the gradual aging of the population, the weight of people who are over 18 years of voting age has increased.

In 1990, 62 percent of the country's resident population, or 2 million people, had the right to vote. In 2021 (the latest available data), the resident population over 18 was 2.2 million inhabitants, or 80 percent of the total.

Meanwhile, the increase in the difference between the population that has the right to vote and those that actually vote is an indirect indicator of the increase in emigration. The population difference has been significantly highlighted in 2023, when a growing emigration rate appears to have had a direct impact in turns of lowering the voter turnout. 

-Political impact likely-

Anecdotally speaking, the typical emigrant is young and unhappy with how things are in Albania, which likely makes the toll harder on the opposition, as the latest results show.

The typical pro-government voter is less likely to emigrate as, theoretically, they are likely winners in Albania’s increasingly dominant-party system. 

Albania is now receiving the last demographic positive bump with people born in the 1990s coming into full adulthood, and it is all downhill demographically from here. 


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 16, 2023 10:47