The propaganda for the Referendum is in full swing throughout the entire country. CIVIL – Center for Freedom is observing the process and is noting numerous cases of pressures, threats, hate speech and fake news in the entire country. At the very beginning of the process related to the referendum, CIVIL allocated 30 long-term observers who are regularly submitting information from the ground, and are following the campaigns both for supporting and for boycotting the referendum.
The politicians and activists of all political parties are on the ground and are holding meetings with citizens, concerts and are handing out information and/or propaganda material such as flyers, brochures, pens and lighters. Door-to-door campaigns are noted in all the cities, and are conducted both by the structures FOR and AGAINST. Overall, SDSM is leading the coalition FOR European Macedonia, together with many other political parties, civil society organizations, unions and other social, business and political structures.
In the village of Presil in Krusevo, several citizens have expressed concern to the observers and unwillingness to vote, because they think that with the Agreement between Macedonia and Greece their nationality will change from Albanians and Turks to Macedonians.
According to reports, VMRO-DPMNE local officials are threatening residents in Gostivar not to go to vote. The observers noted the same situation also in Struga and the Struga region. Also, observers of the Struga municipality report that SDSM local officials are demanding to have lists submitted to them of 30 persons who will certainly go out to vote. The names, last names and the polling station where they will be voting are demanded.
The newly employed in the administration in Gostivar claim they are under pressure to go and vote at the referendum, report CIVIL’s observers from that region. Party memberships are required to submit lists with persons who will go out to vote.
CIVIL’s observers note spreading of fake news in direct communication among activists of I Boycott and voters in a large part of the municipalities throughout Macedonia, with special reports for Stip, Kocani, Zrnovci, Probistip, Prilep and many municipalities in Skopje. These are just some of the messages in this category: “The deleting of Macedonia from the world map is being prepared”, “Prices of products and services will rise”, “Social assistance will be taken away from socially endangered persons”, “There won’t be pensions”, and so on.
In Prilep vandalizing of two SDSM party headquarters was noted. Furthermore, insulting and threatening messages on the wall of the old municipal building are noted, in which the regional office of the State Election Commission is also located in.
The propaganda on the social networks is in full swing, with a lot of hate speech and offensive speech, obscene and insulting comments and calls for violence that are creating fear and insecurity among citizens. Examples for such speech are: “Freshly baked Greek man, decorated, garnished with salad and white Chardonnay. Good appetite”, “Uprising people, State of war”, Death for all judges judging Macedonians”, “You are so pitiful, sorry, I didn’t know…go sit on Shqiptar brooms”, “Cohabitation with the tribe”, “this is a true traitor, grooooosss”, “Zaev on the gallows”, “Look at how Orban and Nigel yesterday stood against the devils of EU and Soros!”, “People of Macedonia, don’t let them lie to you about a better life, the truth is they need to accommodate the refugees and change the name, NOTHING ELSE”, etc. The writings of the aggressive boycotters on the social networks also have abundant hate speech towards the LGBT community.
Fake news are being published on the portals. Some of the titles are: “Around 10,000 have been brought by force FOR Northern Macedonia: 4000 Macedonians, 6-7000 Albanians”, “European
Union will not be accepting new members: Slovenian President Borut Pahor called for the EU not to spread false hope for Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania”, “Is the Macedonian government granting citizenship to Kosovo citizens so they can vote at the upcoming referendum?”.
CIVIL’s observers have noted increase in salaries in two privately owned clothing factories in Probistip, for which there are indications that it is in context of motivating the employees to vote at the referendum. Abuse of minors in secondary schools in Prilep and in Stip have been noted. CIVIL came out with a strong condemnation against the abuse of minors for political purposes. Minor students are a target of pressures in the campaign, with the purpose of sending out a message to their parents.
In the reports of the long-term observers, there are also reports about a certain number of citizens who in their families have disabled and sick persons. The observers report that in a conversation with them, they conclude that these families are not informed on what they need to do in order to exercise their right to vote. Because of this, they will remain at home and will not be able to go to the polling station in order to use their right to vote.
CIVIL’s Team for analyses and coordination received reports on cases of three families in Stip, in which there is one person who is not in a condition to use their right to vote due to lack of information and complex procedure. Two of those people had not been able to vote at the local elections as well, who due to lack of information had not voted. Thus, the person S.Z from the settlement Makedonka in Stip, due to neuromuscular diseases, has the need to vote at her home. The person V.A, from the same settlement, also has the need to vote from her home.
Another person who cannot move and cannot vote is also noted in Kocani. CIVIL sees the need for timely informing and simplifying the voting procedures for this category of citizens. Based on direct communication with elderly citizens, it also notes the need for better informing on the right to vote and other issues related to the election processes, including the very dates of elections as well.
CIVIL’s observers will intensify the monitoring in the remaining days until the end of the referendum process. On the day of the voting, September 30, CIVIL will have 307 accredited observers, whereas the monitoring will continue also in the period after the referendum.
Citizens can report irregularities, threats and pressures on the website Free Elections or on the following telephone numbers: 02/5209 176 or 070/461 480.
This post is also available in: Macedonian