Civil - Center for Freedom, a few days before the voting day for the Local Elections, disclosed the information obtained so far about irregularities detected throughout the country, revealing numerous infringements of the rules and laws; therefore even now it could be said that these elections are neither fair nor democratic, nor free and non-violent.
Until now there are hundreds, and surely even over a thousand, infringements of the rules on fair and democratic elections, but also on the Election and other laws that should ensure regularity of these Local Elections 2013.
This is a general assessment by Civil - Center for Freedom presented at today’s press-conference, five days prior to the Election Day on 24 March, where we summarised the results up to now from the activities within the Free and Nonviolent Elections Project 2013.
The information from the associates hired within this project, who are covering the territory of the entire country, as well as from Civil’s mobile team that visited numerous municipalities and settlements, reveals many irregularities and illegalities, therefore even now it could be said that this election process cannot be assessed as fair and democratic.
The information on the most frequent violations detected in many municipalities was disclosed in front of the journalists, with a remark that the specific information, as regards the offenders, the places where the violations were committed and other details, will be published in the final, comprehensive report that is to be prepared and published by Civil at the end of the overall process.
Civil’s President, Xhabir Deralla, and the coordinators of the media-monitoring, Anushka Cvetkovska, and of the prevention working groups, Albulena Karaga, before the representatives of numerous media, presented the information from the fieldwork about the most frequent types of violations due to which these elections near the end of the overall process cannot be assessed as free and non-violent.
“Our associates on a local level throughout the Republic of Macedonia inform from the field that as the Election Day approaches there are more and more promises of employment in local or state institutions all over the country.
The criteria are very high, that is, more votes are required from those who are promised employment. Many of those who are promised employment are being told that they will only be taken into account, that is, they will rise higher on the employment list.
The lists of guaranteed votes mentioned at the previous press-conference are still prevalent.
Publishing of vacancy announcements is noticed in many places in the country. Blackmailing with social welfare, in other words revoking or awarding social welfare to the poor citizens.
Three years overdue scholarships were paid in the course of these days, whereby the scholarship holders are being pressured to be active agitators.
Layoffs and layoff threats are noticed as a type of pressure over the citizens in many municipalities, but also in state institutions. The temporary employment contract in firms that are contractors for the municipality is used as a method of indirect “vote buying”.
The employees in the administration throughout the country do not go to work; they are active in the campaign headquarters and in the field agitation.
Construction works are present everywhere.
The abuse of children and minors is a serious infringement, which can be seen everywhere. Presence at headquarters, displaying posters, online activism, etc. It should be stressed that these children and minors are the main sources for promoting hate speech on the social networks.
Through the children in the schools, during classes, the teachers – party stalwarts are trying to influence the voters, that is, to influence the pupils’ parents.
In one part of the schools or in their immediate vicinity there are many posters and party propaganda material. Having into account that many of the schools are polling stations, this is also a serious infringement of the election rules.
The tearing of posters and damaging/demolishing party campaign headquarters has been regular Macedonian election folklore which even the parties no longer consider as a major incident.
The smaller ethnic communities and socially vulnerable groups in the society are under particularly strong pressure.
There is a great fear among the citizens, especially concerning their personal data and the secrecy of the ballot.
There is also a strong pressure over some nongovernmental organizations, i.e. in order to influence the activists, institutions such as the courts and the police are activated.
As a particular risk we emphasise the frequent warnings of incidents in some municipalities in order to hinder the election process and to prevent the completion of the election process in one round, so as to gain time and room for additional pressures over the voters.
The independent candidates, as well as their supporters, are also under strong pressure.
We also received information about police officers who are active in the party campaigns, and we will notify the MOI about that.”
These were some of the comments regarding the election campaign, as information from the field, presented at today’s (19 March) press-conference of Civil.
As regards the media and media information during the pre-election period, having in mind that the media play a major role in the democratic processes, and are a mirror of the ethics and respect of the human dignity in the society, within the Free and Nonviolent Elections 2013 Project, Civil conducts a full and day-to-day monitoring of all printed media, but also monitors the electronic and Internet media.
The public media services are a source of information which is accountable to the public and has a special responsibility to provide in its programmes equitable, balanced and comprehensive coverage of the events, hence the editorial independence of the media is all the more important in the election period, Civil’s media monitoring team deems.
From our monitoring until now it can be conclude that, unfortunately, contrary to all professional and ethical codes, in the past period there have been serious infringements of the legal framework and professional standards of notification.
Hate speech, bias and demonization of the political party opponents, ethnocentrism, national chauvinism and discrimination both concerning party ideology and in terms of even more sensitive inter-ethnic issues”.
These are just a fraction of the comments regarding the pre-election irregularities and unprofessional coverage of the local elections by the media, which we address to the politicians, political parties and activists, journalists and editorial policies.