Citizens vote for municipal budgets in Swiss-funded initiative

Press release, 22.02.2019

Over 23,000 Albanian citizens in 23 municipalities have used a new online tool to show where budgets should be allocated

Activists and municipal councillors during the presentation of the online application for municipal budget participation, Vlora, Albania
Activists and municipal councillors during the presentation of the online application for municipal budget participation, Vlora, Albania. © Rezar Balla

An initiative by the Agenda Institute and funded by the Swiss government through its LëvizAlbania project enables citizens to influence the budgets of their municipalities for the first time through an online application. The results were presented at an event in Vlora’s Palace of Culture with participation by the Deputy Mayor Shaban Mehmeti and the Swiss Ambassador Adrian Maître.

“For the first time 23,000 citizens were able to indicate to their municipalities and mayors what their priorities are through an online application. In some cases the municipalities adjusted their budgets in accordance with the preferences voted by citizens. This is a great step for local democracy. Urime!”, said the Swiss Ambassador in Albania, Adrian Maître.

The event was greeted by the Deputy Mayor of Vlora, Shaban Mehmeti, who expressed his satisfaction of working with this initiative and stated that the Municipality of Vlora keeps its doors open to efforts like this.

In presenting the results from this new initiative, Gentian Elezi from the Agenda Institute, said that the most preferred category for higher budgets was road infrastructure, voted by 26% of the citizens. “The experience was very positive especially in some of the municipalities where we were able to present the findings during the municipal council meetings. We are convinced that this instrument will be consolidated more and more in the coming years by becoming an added value in the development of local democracy”, said Mr. Elezi.

"The LëvizAlbania project has succeeded in turning into a point of reference for civil society organizations and every citizen who demands accountability, transparency from local government representatives” said Valbona Kuko, Executive Director of LëvizAlbania.

The initiative titled “Active participation of citizens in shaping budgets” introduced the online application www.buxhetim.al, created a network of NGO’s and partners, trained them in its use, and asked citizens to choose their preferred budget items in their respective municipalities. The voting took place during September-October 2018, just before budgets for 2019 were decided for each municipality in the country.

Through this mechanism citizens can influence the decisions made by municipalities and mayors about priority areas where investments are needed. Several municipalities invited the project’s staff to present their findings at their council’s meetings prior to deciding the 2019 budget. More than 1/3 of municipalities adjusted their budgets in accordance with the findings.

Almost half of the citizens who used the online tool were 18 to 25 year old. The highest number of citizens who voted was recorded in Shkodër: 2066.

The initiative was funded by LëvizAlbania, a project of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC,that seeks to activate citizens’ participation for a more democratic local governance.