Representatives of the municipal organizations and campaign headquarters of many key participants at the elections in Ohrid, Struga and Debar imparted information about a series of irregularities on the part of their opponents
Civil’s mobile team formed within the Free and Nonviolent Elections 2013 Project, in the past few days, together with the members of the regional working groups, visited several municipalities in two regions, where they spoke on-site with the direct participants in these local elections.
Last Saturday, on 9 March, working meetings were held in the municipalities of Ohrid, Struga and Debar from the Ohrid Region, whereby the team visited the Ohrid branches, i.e. the campaign headquarters of SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE, those of DPA and DUI in Struga, and of the same parties plus one independent candidate in Debar.
According to SDSM which is the ruling party on a local level and the opposition party on a central level, the Government in all past years was heavily pressuring the local authorities, and as a case in point they mentioned the frozen account of the municipality, as well as the refusal to grant subsidies for tourism development. The main argument which is used to pressure the voters, as indicated by the members of this party, is the promise made by the activists of DPMNE that if this party comes to power in Ohrid the Government will unfreeze the account and grant subsidies.
VMRO-DPMNE made remarks about the current mayor, who again at these elections participates as a candidate of the joint opposition, in the sense that he violates the Election Law by conducting construction works during the election campaign, and also legalises illegally built constructions. The members of this party expect the opponents to resort to pressures, blackmails, threats and promises aimed at buying votes.
At the campaign headquarters of the Democratic Party of Albanians, a party which is in opposition both on a central and local level in Struga, we received a series of information about various forms of pressures over the voters in this city on the part of the ruling Democratic Union for Integration. They gave the example of a DPA activist who was laid off from the Public Revenue Office, where he was in permanent employment. Among other things, there is a noticeable active involvement of the police chiefs in the election campaign, abuse of the forest police that seizes the working assets of the opponents’ activists, taking pictures of the rallies and other activities of the opposition, whereupon the pictures are being published on the social networks, and then people are invited to have a conversation etc.
The main remark of DUI in terms of irregularities and pressures over voters in Struga was about the mobilisation of Macedonian ethnic parties, after VMRO withdrew its list of council members, and some of the names therein were entered into the list of SDSM. In addition, they informed that the Election Code was violated because on the same day an independent list was rejected, established for the Council of Struga by a group of VMRO-DPMNE’s members who were dissatisfied with the coalition with SDSM. DUI’s members also fear about the instigation of inter-ethnic tensions by mobilising the Macedonian electorate around the sole candidate and list of the two Macedonian parties, i.e. coalitions, which could result in dangerous incidents on the Election Day.
The Debar branch of DUI is also alarmed at the prospect of attempts to stage incidents on the Election Day. At the meeting in the campaign headquarters of this party it was indicated that, nonetheless, the atmosphere in this city is calm and democratic and that, as in the previous electoral cycles, they do not expect irregularities and problems.
The Debar branch of DPA made remarks about the involvement of members of the local administration in the election campaign, as well as about pressures and blackmails over people so that they will vote for the party currently in power. DPA also asks for a special, more intensive monitoring of several polling stations, in the areas with population from the lower social class, where there is a strong possibility of buying votes with money and promises of various benefits, such as employment, social welfare and so forth.
The independent mayoral candidate in Debar, Ibrahim Koljari, made a remark about the public broadcasting service, Macedonian Radio Television, which invited only the candidates of two parties – DUI and DPA – on the television debate about presenting the candidates from this city. On the programme, MRT announced that Koljari declined the invitation, which, according to him, was not true at all, i.e. he was not even invited. People from his headquarters also complained about pressures and threats against their activists made by the ruling party.
What we can certainly highlight as a positive result from this visit is the readiness of the participants in the elections to cooperate with our organisation and our field activists, as well as their, at least declarative, commitment, i.e. a promise that each and every one of them on their part will do everything possible to contribute to conducting fair, democratic and civilised elections.