The uncertainty on the Macedonian political scene ended with the formal fulfillment of the political agreement from August 31. At last, the leaders of the four biggest political parties agreed on the date for early parliamentary elections – December 11, the ninth elections in independent Macedonia.
The new provisional government is to ensure conditions for free elections. The parliamentary majority voted on the new composition of the Macedonian Technical Government that is to have a 100-day mandate. The opposition, led by SDSM, will take part in this government, as well, with Frosina Tasevska – Remenski, as Minister of Labor and Social Policy. Oliver Spasovski is the new Minister of Interior. Their obligation, among else, is to depoliticize these ministries and to direct their capacities and the resources of the ministries in providing conditions for free elections. SDSM is also participating with three deputy ministers, namely Kire Naumov for Finance, Aleksandar Kiracoski for Information Society and Administration and Ljupco Nikolovski for Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy.
The Parliament will be dissolved and announce elections on October 12.
Inner-government outwitting from the very beginning
Both VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM hope for electoral victory. Formal Prime Minister Emil Dimitriev requests for a decent cooperation, instead of conflicts between the ministers and deputy ministers. Aside from the organizing of elections, for Dimitriev it is important for the government projects to keep running.
According to SDSM, the intention of the oppositional ministers and deputy ministers is not to share government with VMRO-DPMNE, but rather to take part in the preparation of credible elections. The opposition is convinced that there will again be dishonest, hidden intentions of the government, which the ministers of SDSM will have to avoid and prevent.
The government is under the conductor’s baton of the leader of VMRO-DPMNE Nikola Gruevski, who many people call a shadow minister. In the past few days, the government with Gruevski at the top has been pulling some strange moves. The appointment of Oliver Andonov as Minister of Interior, with a mandate that lasted less than 24 hours, is confirmation to this. He, however, immediately appointed Mitko Cavkov (his predecessor) as head of the Public Security Bureau, and according to the Przino Agreement gave his resignation in order to receive the new decision for additional deputy minister of the MOI in the provisional government. This move indicates turbulent days for the MOI within the next 100 days.
However, the overnight appointment of Cavkov as Director of the Public Security Bureau, along with the employment of new party members in the MOI prior to the elections strengthen doubts in relation to the realization of credible elections. Because instead of depoliticization, the party has been growing closer to the state. These conclusions have been imposed despite the assurances of Minister Spasovski that the next elections in Macedonia will be fair and democratic, and that this is a time of ending election irregularities, of ending all attempt for corruption of voters, pressures, electoral fraud.
CIVIL – Center for Freedom announced serious monitoring of the entire electoral process, by activating all of its capacities, with particular focus on all of these sectors and with the purpose of alerting the public on potential abuse by the institutions, on political corruption and other types of irregularities for which it already published a detailed report during the summer, entitled “Free Elections: A Non-Negotiable Condition”.
The Voters Register is final, but has it been cleared?
The election campaign is planned to start on November 21, while the State Election Commission (SEC) will close the Voters Register on November 27. The election campaign ends on December 10, when election silence begins.
One of the most important conditions for free elections is a revised Voters Register. The parties agreed that this condition, which is also part of the Agreement for overcoming the political crisis, has been fulfilled. However, the opposition, civil society and the expert public continue to doubt the reliability of this document. CIVIL repeatedly alerted the public about cases in which citizens, among which are legal experts and journalists, figure on the “phantom” lists, while “phantoms”, for which the organization published several reports, do not figure on the list of disputed voters. Prof. Mirjana Najceska stated for CIVIL that she would file criminal charges because the state, contrary to the law, is denying her and her husband their right to vote. For them it is unexplainable how their identification details ended up on the list of disputed voters, when they do not meet any of the three legal barriers under which their voting rights could be denied.
The State Election Commission (SEC) announced that it would remove 30.447 disputed voters from the Voters Register. Though, prior to the elections, it would give them another opportunity to review the list. And if in those 10 days the citizens with disputed records do not report to the SEC, then they will be declared as “phantom” voters and will be removed from the voter lists.
Challenges remain in the media sphere
The public found out that Srgjan Kerim, ex-director of “Media Print Macedonia” (MPM), had been an advisor to Prime Minister Emil Dimitriev for half a year, after having formally retired in February. Last year the government nominated Kerim for the prestigious function of UN Secretary General. A large “purge” was carried out in this past period. Many journalists, known for their efforts for professional and objective informing received dismissals from the media under the government’s control.
Still, a spark of hope for more objective informing has appeared on the first channel of the national television (MTV). Journalist Santa Argirova is the new chief editor of this channel, which to some extent gives hope that the news program of MTV will bring objective and balanced contents within these 100 days until the elections.
The temporary commission on media regulation (ad-hoc body that stems from the political agreement) has been completed with the selection of Ljuljzim Haziri. The methodology for media monitoring of the Agency for Audio and Audio Visual Services was adopted.
Despite the formal decisions and agreements, CIVIL and the media experts consider that there are not enough guarantees that the media sphere, in which the pro-government media dominate, will be able to ensure full objective and professional information.
The judiciary continues to demonstrate pressure on journalism. The Criminal Court postponed the hearing for journalist Zoran Bozinovski, suspected in the case “Spy”, because the Court of Appeal had not submitted all evidence related to the case. Journalists peacefully protested in front of the Court demanding the Court to abolish Bozinovski’s detention.
Despite all efforts and partial reforms, there are still many challenges remaining in the media sphere.
CIVIL and the international community with support to the work of the Special Prosecutor’s Office
“The Special Prosecutor’s Office should be able to continue to work unhindered on clarifying the allegations of abuse of power, so that the confidence of the Macedonian population in the democratic institutions of the country can be strengthened again”, - is the message of the international community after the agreement was reached for holding elections on December 11.
Previously, CIVIL had also made a public announcement in which it expressed its unconditional support to the work of the SPO.
However, the blocked amendments to the laws on witness protection and privacy also block the work of the SPO, which is supposed to give guarantees for the security of the witnesses. Witnesses that wish to be protected keep arriving in the Special Prosecutor’s Office, but fear for their security. The SPO cannot offer them appropriate protection, because it does not have the authority to determine the status of a protected witness in the cases it leads.
The SPO rejected the appeals of those accused in the case “Spy”, but proposed reduction of the penalties, and probation for some of the accused. This time the Prosecution put the “Skopje 2014” project under scrutiny, because of which Minister of Culture Elizabeta Kamceska – Mileska was called for questioning and the richest Macedonian businessman Orce Kamcev.
For the public it remains unclear how the Municipality of Bitola, at a time when Mayor Vladimir Taleski is held under house arrest that has been requested by the SPO, has managed to sign an agreement worth 5.4 million euros.
Gruevski welcomed by rows of students, while schools lack desks and chairs
The leader of VMRO-DPMNE Nikola Gruevski has inviolable power over the work of the state institutions, even where politics cannot even imagine. The rows of students that welcomed him at the entrance of the “Dimitar Miladinov” school in the Municipality of Center is confirmation to the above, when he together with his wife took their daughter to her first school day, accompanied by the school’s director.
Many reactions on the social networks were prompted by rumors that a school teacher had been allegedly reallocated so that she could teach Gruevski’s daughter. While the school denied such rumors, legal experts pointed out that this is an obvious example of abusing children for political purposes, endangering the child’s best interest, discrimination and violation of the right to quality education, according to the Convention on the rights of children.
On the other hand, the first day of school reflected precisely the long-lasting catastrophic policy of the government in the education sphere. Contrary to what the Ministry of Education and Science has been claiming in that the number of students is increasing year by year, according to official data from the State Statistical Office, the number of students in primary schools has decreased for an incredible 45000 students or about 20 percent within the past 10 years. According to the opposition, it is not true that everything has been prepared for the start of the new school year. Due to delays in tender procurements, it remains uncertain when all students will receive their textbooks. There is information from several schools that there are not enough desks and chairs. Not even transportation has been organized from several rural communities where they live to the schools in the city where they attend class.