The finale of Civil’s “Free and Nonviolent Elections 2013” project took place last Thursday, 13 June, at the StoneBridge Hotel, before numerous representatives of the embassies in RM, domestic and international institutions and the civil sector, as well as representatives of the media.
“Unscrupulous Struggle for Power” is the title of the publication promoted by Civil last Thursday, 13 June, whereby it finalised the extensive “Free and Nonviolent Elections 2013” project which was carried out in the course of the past 5 months.
The title of the book, which was promoted at the StoneBridge Hotel in Skopje, is also a succinct assessment of the manner in which the last electoral process in the Republic of Macedonia was organised and carried out.
Before the large audience, which included representatives of the diplomatic corps, of international and domestic institutions, the civil sector and the media, once again at this occasion we presented Civil’s activities in this electoral process and the results thereof.
At the presentation, Civil’s President - Xhabir Deralla and the coordinator of the prevention working groups - Albulena Karaga informed that the project included over 160 persons who fulfilled their tasks in an honest, conscientious and brave manner. The report “Unscrupulous Struggle for Power” is the result of their activities, as well as of the comprehensive monitoring in which any kind of irregularity was recorded.
At the promotion of the publication, we presented Civil’s activities within this project, as well as the assessments of the elections’ regularity and the conclusions from the comprehensive monitoring of the parties’ campaigns, the activities of the state and local administration, the voting process and the manner in which the media were reporting on the entire electoral process.
During the presentation of the publication “Unscrupulous Struggle for Power”, Deralla and Karaga conveyed Civil’s assessment that these elections were one of the most undemocratic ever held in the Republic of Macedonia.
There were numerous developments during the year prior to the elections which suggested that we could expect anything but a democratic struggle for obtaining the power on a local level, and they culminated in the situation on 24 December, that is, with the brutal police intervention over the opposition and journalists at the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia.
The party campaigns were aggressive and fierce, with an abundance of hate speech, and the biggest ruling party ran rings around the others. State and local resources and administrative employees were put in the service of the parties in order to ensure votes.
There was also a massive abuse of children; what is more, the teaching staff and heads of educational institutions played a shameful role in that part. In addition, many people were unlawfully employed during the election campaign, and there were also layoffs of those who do not share the same political opinions.
The citizens were exposed to unprecedented pressures, threats and blackmails, thus we cannot by any means speak of “freely expressed will”. The strongest pressure was exerted on the socially vulnerable groups and smaller ethnic communities, the Roma above all, but also the others.
The fierce nationalistic speeches of leaders and candidates of some parties and the mobilization of voters on ethnic grounds, especially in Kichevo and Struga, caused severe and long-term damage to the already heated relations between the Macedonians and Albanians.
The demographic intervention, which we simply called “Pustec” in the book, although not a novelty in terms of counterfeiting the citizens’ will, was conducted by the ruling party in a uniquely brazen and insolent manner.
The extensive monitoring of the media only affirmed the assessment that was given several times before, by Civil among others, of the high degree of unprofessionalism due to their lack of freedom and financial dependence on the government and other centres of power. Their role at these elections was assessed as infamous, which particularly goes for those who were openly and fiercely supporting the parties of the ruling coalition. With a note that there were also (a few!) media that did their job in an honest and professional manner, Civil concludes that for the most part they could be qualified as partisan-state media.
The report also contains recommendations to the authorities, political parties, civil sector and the media. These recommendations are based on a careful observation and selection of the most urgent issues in order to obtain both long and short term conditions for truly free and nonviolent elections in future, as well as improvement of the human rights situation and democracy in the country.
Among other things, we appeal to the government to solve the problems with the voters’ lists, to regulate the election campaign by law, and to change the manner of appointing the members of the State Election Commission, so that it could become professional instead of partisan. We also demand to stop the procedure for adopting a new Law on Media, which will additionally complicate the situation with the freedom of expression.
The guests at the ceremony, at the cocktail party organised after the presentation, had the chance to exchange opinions about the recent elections and developments during and after that period, among each other, with Deralla and Karaga, as well as with the other authors of the final report – Harald Schenker, Risto Popovski, Anushka Cvetkovska and Ilir Ajdini, as well as with the other participants in the “Free and Nonviolent Elections 2013” project.
Photographs: Vancho Djambaski, grant and logistics manager, FOSM