The awareness-raising caravan within the project: Forward! started from Veles on the 24th of February, and was cast on the Channel 21 news. Also on the local TV Zdravkin as well as the web portals “Ti rekov mi reche” (I told you, you told me) and “Duma” (A thought). The President of CIVIL, Xhabir Deralla informed the citizens of the possibility that CIVIL offered, the conditions for application, as well as the current political situation and the conditions that must be met for free and fair elections.
We arrived there a bit early just to be able to set everything up and our plan was to be at the city square, but once we got there we realized the square was empty. Not too many citizens on the streets. The rain that was pouring must have emptied them, we thought. We received some advice from our Veles supporters where would be the place to take cover from the rain, receive the most attention and to be able to communicate with as many citizens as possible. Without hesitation we headed to a nearby location in the center.
At the public presentation in the center of Veles, fellow citizens were informed about the project activities aimed at comprehensive election monitoring and contributing to the creation of conditions for their maintenance. CIVIL teams handed out informational materials for two hours to mobilize observers of this city and talked with fellow citizens about their voting rights. Local media showed great interest in the activities of CIVIL so we held a press conference where a representative of Civil answered numerous questions. CIVIL held a meeting with representatives of civil society in Veles, to discuss the following joint steps to facilitate the creation of conditions for free elections on June 5th.
We handed out over 600 triplets in Veles and continued Forward! towards the 28 municipalities.
After Veles the CIVIL mobile teams split into two groups. One visited Negotino and the other team went for Gradsko. We were surprised by how empty the village of Gradsko was. There were very few citizens on the streets, maybe 10 total. They did seem a bit suspicious about our activity. They asked us questions like: “Who is paying you” and “Is this SDSM political party?” We tried our best to stay in high spirit and educate them on how to become election observers and how important that role is for ensuring the freedom of the right to vote. We made sure to visit all the stores and left enough leaflets for any citizens that would be interested in monitoring the elections process.
We left Gradsko feeling sad for the ruined houses people and the empty village we were leaving behind hoping that at least some of the citizens will be able to rise above the politics, learn how to be objective and become observers.
On our way to Kavadarci, our team made a brief stop at Rosoman, where we had a great discussion with the hard working citizens selling honey, peppers and various products even on a rainy day. They were very interested to become observers and said their families have a lot of time to spare since they are mostly unemployed. They received leaflets, got informed about the Forward! project and wished us a lot of luck on our journey.
At the end of the day both of CIVIL’s teams met in Kavadarci and held a joint public event. The weather conditions were very bad, rain was pouring from the sky, but full of resolve and armed with umbrellas we went Forward! on the Kavadarci square. As one of the CIVIL team mates tweeted, “There is no bad weather conditions for activism!”
We met with many citizens, on the Kavadarci square, encountered many worried and confused faces that were asking us:
“Will we have elections at all?” and “What date are the elections now, are they still on the 5th of June or not?” and “Which side are you on?”
The best we could do is let them know we just wish for free elections and that we are watching the public institutions, the political parties and the judicial system closely for any wrongdoings.
The president of CIVIL, Xhabir Derala and his team held meetings with supporters, activists and political party representatives. They all shared their worries about possible expectancy of electoral theft, manipulation of the voters’ body and pressures towards the citizens.