This is an analysis of the results of the research conducted by CIVIL through focus groups. Through the focus groups we have come to qualitative data on the knowledge on the voting rights, electoral irregularities and the situation on human rights and freedoms.
The research through the focus groups was performed in Skopje, Veles, Gostivar and Strumica. The total number of participants in the focus groups was 35.
According to their structure, the focus groups included 17 men and 18 women, reflecting the ethnic composition of the municipality or the region, aged 19 to 54 years.
Minor differences are noticed in the views of the participants from the different regions. The opinions, views and conclusions of the participants largely coincide, regardless of place of residence, ethnicity, gender or any other affiliation.
- Situation of human rights and freedoms in the Republic of Macedonia
Participants are partially informed with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but even those who are not familiar with the Declaration have a keen sense for what is right and fair. With the exception of one participant, all other participants believe that the human rights in Republic of Macedonia are not respected. Most believe that all human rights are threatened in the country.
According to the focus groups, the freedom of expression, freedom of speech and media freedoms as well as the right to protest are rights that are mostly threatened.
Discrimination based on political affiliation is stated equally strong. In this regard, participants spoke of numerous cases of party dictatorship in employment, in obtaining subsidies, pressures on workers, farmers and students.
Social rights, including the right to health care, according to the focus groups, are threatened every day and at all levels. Often, social rights are brought in relation to political or party discrimination.
According to the number of statements, gender discrimination, namely, the violation of human rights of women, comes in fourth place, as many of the participants testify to discrimination against women in the workplace, during employment or in the institutions.
Ethnic discrimination is in fifth place. According to the focus groups, ethnic discrimination is conducted by the institutions, but also by employers in the private sector.
Fifth place is shared with workers' rights, whereby participants give several examples of bad working conditions, pitiful salaries, harassment, deprivation of the right to unionize, etc.
Furthermore, following are numerous other rights and freedoms such as the right to education, freedom of movement, discrimination and abuse of persons with disabilities, discrimination against migrants, discrimination against LGBT communities, the right to housing, etc.
- Knowing the right to vote
In general, participants in the focus groups show that they are familiar with the basics of the voting rights. Young people are mainly informed through the older members of family or by their parents. In some cases, parents try to influence by saying which name should be circled during the voting.
Nearly half of the participants claim that people are informed about the voting rights from non-governmental organizations, especially mentioning CIVIL and MOST.
The information also comes from traditional and new media.
In very few cases they are informed from information material provided by the SEC. They also mentioned textbooks as a source of information on voting rights.
The general assessment is that the citizens are not sufficiently informed of their voting rights.
The knowledge on the electoral system in the country is superficial. Half of the participants in the focus groups are familiar with the basics of the electoral system in the country. Two cases show thorough knowledge of the electoral system and those cases state their views in that the parliament is not functioning and the vote in the diaspora is illegitimate.
III. The prevalence of the belief that the voting is not secret
Up to 27 of the 35 participants in all focus groups (77%) believe that the voting is not secret.
According to the focus groups, the principle of secrecy of voting is violated as a result of a series of irregularities on Election Day.
As a means of control, i.e., violation of the secrecy of voting is performed through strict control over who comes out to vote and at what time, by having voters photographing their ballot papers, reading aloud, with pressure or suggestions from polling boards, the quality and layout of the curtains behind which voting takes place, political party persons walking behind the curtains, family voting and proxy voting, group voting, circling with a triangle or other symbols.
Furthermore, there is also a belief that the voting is monitored by hidden cameras.
- Recognizing election irregularities
Without exception, all participants in the focus groups claim to know what voting irregularities are and have examples from personal experience, and this they prove.
Regarding the question with which irregularities voters in Republic of Macedonia are faced, respondents stated an abundance of different electoral irregularities that they have personally experienced or witnessed.
Most of the participants testify to problems with the Voter Lists. One of the participants said: "Unrevised voter lists where the dead can be found on the list but not the living."
Participants testified to party pressures, threats and bribery. People talk everywhere about voting with more IDs.
They also stated a series of irregularities in the voting of the ill and in regards to the manipulations and pressures on disabled persons.
Proxy voting, "Bulgarian train" voters from Pustec, phantom voters, pressures from the electoral boards, unbearable pressures on the phone, breaking the electoral silence, abuse of children and youth, turning off elevators and other types of disruptions in the elections are only part of the election irregularities which the CIVIL focus groups mentioned.
Participants recognize continuous political or party campaign in the period between elections. They say that the campaign is continuously flowing through the TV screens and that they clearly recognized that the information content of many of the TV channels has been replaced by propaganda.
One of the participants in the focus group said: "We are watching political campaigns on successes and failures 24/7. These days as well we are witnessing a political campaign. Our Prime Minister is touring cities to explain to the people how stupid they are and that they do not know what is happening."
According to the focus groups, the ruling parties are occupying the media with accusations and labels at the expense of anyone thinks or says something different from them.
According to them, it is obvious that the largest contractor of advertisements is the government, which "constantly reminds us what they have done for us and for the country."
Absolutely yes! "- States another participant in the focus groups -" The political campaign of the government is lasting eight years. They were not so loud during the first year. But from the second year and onwards, we are having a permanent political campaign, 365 days a year. "
According to focus group participants, the government keeps its subjects fit. They are constantly putting foundations, sometimes several times on the same playground. One participant testified that a foundation has been laid several times in the same place.