(Skopje, 21 September 2021) CIVIL held an online press conference where it presented part of its reports, analyses and recommendations on the course of the election process.
“Some more skilfully, and some less skilfully, some with more, and some with less resources, but almost all parties, and also independent candidates and lists, have consensually “side-stepped” the provisions of the Electoral Code for promotional activities in the pre-election period. Participants in the election campaign mainly have respected the legal ban on promoting the programs of candidates, but on the other hand, have conducted intensive promotional and communication activities” – stated Xhabir Deralla, President of CIVIL, citing one of the reports of CIVIL’s election monitoring.
According to CIVIL’s analyses, a campaign is observed in which many of the participants in the race for power at the local level, deal with general topics, with national issues, instead of talking about the local needs, challenges and plans.
“A campaign is observed once again, which is as if it refers to parliamentary, and not local elections” – is CIVIL’s conclusion.
A fierce black campaign is being led, political opponents are treated as mortal enemies, close to 1,000 cases of hate speech
According to the results from the monitoring of the preparations for the local elections that CIVIL is implementing through several specialized teams, much disinformation, hate speech, insults and slander is noted in the election campaign.
“Once again we see a political campaign where political opponents are treated as mortal enemies” – said Deralla at CIVIL’s press conference (September 21).
From August 15 to September 20, CIVIL’s Monitoring Team has noted close to 1,000 cases of hate speech in the election context, on the social networks Facebook and Twitter. Hate speech is also observed among the so-called influencers and public figures.
According to the analyses, the main topics dealt by the black propaganda, of course, are not the offers of the political opponents, but rather personal discrediting of candidates, as well as the usual polarized debates with which society has been preoccupied for years. Current events are also abused in the black campaign, which political actors and their supporters use for mutual attacks.
CIVIL’s Monitoring Team is also noting several cases of ultranationalist, xenophobic and discriminatory messages almost every day, whose sources or instigators are clearly recognizable, and among them are also some political parties in the country, along with their supporters and members.
Some Internet media outlets download this content and hence further encourage the spread of hatred and calls for political violence.
Abuse of children in a political campaign
In the reports of CIVIL’s Monitoring Team there are also three cases of abuse of children in an election campaign, for which special reports are regularly prepared.
Abuse of children was noted by a candidate for mayor from the lines of SDSM in the Municipality of Ilinden.
Also, a case was noted in which a child participates in a propaganda video of DUI. The third case is with abuse of children in a political campaign by the Alliance of Albanians.
Several cases of abuse of children are noted in political messages of individuals, supporters of opposition parties, on the social networks. In some of those posts on the social networks there is also hate speech directed at representatives of the ruling political parties.
CIVIL’s election chronicle
CIVIL, in the section Politically OK Corral, publishes an election chronicle based on reports of the Monitoring Team and long-term observers. In the period from August 19 to September 19, in 16 editions of CIVIL’s election chronicle, there is report on 57 activities of political parties and independent candidates for the local elections.
The Organization’s election chronicle includes 18 activities of VMRO-DPMNE, 16 of SDSM, 12 of the Alliance for Albanians and Alternativa, 7 of the independent coalitions and candidates, five of DUI, while the rest of the parties are represented three times. Reports on the election activities of participants in the election race are also published in the sections Elections, Monitoring and Information Chaos, according to the nature of events related to the election process.
The political parties and independent coalitions and candidates have been called on a total of nine times in a period of one month to send information on their pre-election activities. With the exception of three political parties, not one responded to this call, however, the monitoring teams are following the pre-election activities on the websites, social networks and on the ground, despite the ignoring of the calls.
“It is also an issue of transparency” – stated Deralla at the press conference on September 21.
Violation of COVID-19 protective measures
CIVIL notes a large number of cases of violation of the COVID-19 protective measures across the entire country. Certain political parties continue to violate the measures for protection of the public health at their events, as they have in the previous period.
Election Day will be monitored by about 300 short-term observers throughout the country. All of CIVIL’s observers are mobile. The call for short-term observers is ongoing, the deadline of which is September 30.
CIVIL’s long-term monitoring is divided in several phases. From August 15, the number of long-term observers from 5 mobile long-term observers has increased to 9, by including 4 regional observers.
Additionally, CIVIL’s Monitoring Team functions within the Organization, which mostly deals with monitoring of online media outlets and the social networks.
On Election Day, CIVIL’s press center will start to work at 6.00 am, and at least 6 press conferences are planned to be held live.
CALL TO CITIZENS TO REPORT ELECTION IRREGULARITIES
At the press conference, CIVIL called on the citizens to continue reporting election irregularities.
On behalf of the Organization, Xhabir Deralla expressed gratefulness for the trust shown by a large number of citizens who cooperate with CIVIL, and added that the reports, as always, will remain anonymous.
CHILDREN CIVIL, as until now, demands from the parties, but also from the parents, to respect the rights of children and to leave them out of politics! Children and minors must not be abused for political purposes and must not be involved in the campaigns of the political parties! For every abuse of children, we demand a legal reaction by the institutions and we urge the public to strongly condemn and reject abuse of children and minors.
GOOD ELECTION PRACTICES Ahead of the local elections, CIVIL calls on all participants in the election process to maximally respect good election practices, democratic standards and legal regulations and to contribute to free, fair and safe elections.
BLACK CAMPAIGN CIVIL has called on all political parties to stop the black campaign and to stop with the hate speech and black campaign. In that sense, CIVIL has also called for misfortunes and other events not to be abused in order to inflict harm on political opponents, such as the case with the tragedy in Tetovo and the rescue of civilians from Afghanistan. Politicians need to stop with mutual settling of scores, insults and slander, and instead address the voters with messages on real and local issues and projects.
LOCAL TOPICS A strong recommendation of CIVIL is also for the campaign to be led on local topics, and not on national topics that distract the attention and confuse voters.
IN PRINCIPLE While not forbidden by law, nevertheless, participation of senior state officials in the campaign, even outside of working hours, should be avoided or reduced.
COVID-19 CIVIL has also called for complying to the COVID-19 protective measures.
LEGISLATION CIVIL’S long-standing commitment is to respect the recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR, as well as of national organizations dealing with election monitoring and participating in the electoral reforms. In that sense, once again, the recommendation is stressed for changes in the Electoral Code not to be passed in an election period, that is, to be passed at least six months prior to elections.
This report is a collective work of CIVIL’s Coordination Team, the Editorial Office of CIVIL MEDIA, CIVIL’s Monitoring Team and the team of long-term election observers of the Organization. At the press conference on September 21, 2021, the report was presented by Xhabir Deralla in Macedonian and by Diana Tahiri in Albanian.
Translation: N. Cvetkovska