Macedonia, 13 days before early parliamentary elections, which are to put an end to the political crisis, is living in a polluted environment as a result of the low living standards, and in an even more contaminated political reality as a result of the low level of political culture and strong influences of the centers of power, personified in the actors of the ruling parties. Hence, the pre-election period is characterized with election irregularities, threats and pressures on the electorate.
Election campaign with low level of political culture
In this election campaign one person participating in the rally in Ohrid has died in a traffic accident, several have been targets of physical and many more of verbal violence. With the purpose of ensuring mass presence at the rallies of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE, strong pressures are carried out on the public administration, on volunteers who are waiting to have their employment contracts extended, or their first ones made…these are the characteristics of this pre-election period.
The Non-governmental organization of CIVIL in just one week has recorded over 70 cases of election irregularities by its observers on the ground, and around 100 reports from citizens on an early start of the election campaign, on abuse of state resources, of minors and has also recorded cases of corruption…
State Election Commission has no mechanisms for deleting the “phantoms”
The State Election Commission (SEC) today at a session was supposed to sign the Voters Register and submit the election material to the municipal election commissions in accordance with the deadlines set in the Electoral Code.
However, even though the Voters Register has passed several filters, in which in addition to citizens, political parties have also submitted comments, it is still not cleaned-up. According to the latest announcements made by the SEC, the Voters Register counts 17,784,524 voters. Though according to reports of citizens, in the Municipality of Resen alone, of a total of 17,011 voters, around 1,000 voters in the Voters Register are “phantoms”.
The SEC is not responding neither to CIVIL, nor to the complaints of citizens. Instead of transparency, this state body is characterized with almost complete enclosure, even though it is of vital importance for the credibility of these early parliamentary elections, which are to put an end to the longstanding political crisis in the country.
Work of the SPO intensifies in the midst of the election campaign
The trial for the “Fortress2” case has been postponed, in which the Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) accuses seven people employed in the Administration for Security and Counterintelligence (UBK) for illegal destruction of documents, 2,047 official documents from the illegal wiretapping. The next hearing is scheduled for January 17, as according to the defense and the judge, the SPO did not have the approval of UBK to use the classified evidence in a court procedure. According to the SPO, this also questions other proceedings of the Court, in which the classified evidence had not been declassified. The first suspect in the case is the former Head of the Fifth Administration, Goran Grujovski. The trial is led by judge Lidija Petrovska, for whom the SPO demanded her withdrawal because she was mentioned in the so-called “bombs”, which were released last year by Zoran Zaev, leader of the opposition SDSM.
The SPO requested from the Public Prosecutor’s Office acting against organized crime to undertake the case of “Sopot” under its competence. The President of the Council of Public Prosecutors, Petar Anevski, confirmed that he had received an extensive request, which he will review in the upcoming period, but pointed out that the case that the SPO is requesting had happened long time ago.
The SPO submitted a new request to the Criminal Court for obtaining a court order to search the telecommunications operator, from which data is missing for the investigation in the case of “Target”.
Biased, instead of balanced, media reporting
The media sphere continues further to be a reflection of the political influence of the ruling parties. Pro-government media continue with their current practices of favoring government activities and with political marketing of the ruling party, while other media that are trying to maintain their balanced approach of informing are prevented in doing so, because VMRO-DPMNE refuses to participate in debates.
The first week of the election campaign in the media, according to the preliminary findings of CIVIL – Center for Freedom, is a sad and brutal reflection of the reality in which the Macedonian society is finding itself in, including the manner in which it is trying to resolve the political and social crisis through this election process in Republic of Macedonia, which many, among whom also political actors, consider to be perhaps the most important in its history.
In the struggle for minimum conditions for holding credible elections, instead of having a real electoral race in which the media serve as a platform for confrontation and analyzing the political offer, the media, in this polarized society along ethnic, religious and other grounds, are far from being up to the task, of remaining to be guardians of democracy and of the public interest. The work of the Temporary commission for monitoring the work of the media during the election process and the AVMS are only slightly managing to lessen the effects of the long years of undermining the media space by the centers of power, mainly by those close to the ruling parties. Though it can be noticed that the programs of the broadcasters, unlike before, do have more space for the opposition.
Members of European Parliament are scanning pre-election Macedonia
Three MEPs Eduard Kukan, Ivo Vajgl and Knut Fleckenstein last week scanned the situation in Macedonia, ahead of early parliamentary elections. According to their evaluations, the political parties are prepared for a fair and transparent race, while elections will be able to be held in an atmosphere of trust and transparency. They believe that there is a spirit of cooperation among the two main parties and their leaders for avoiding incidents during the election campaign. They announced their visit to Macedonia again after the elections, when the results will need to be admitted, so as to continue with the reforms defined within the Przino Agreement. At the same time, the MEPs stressed their interest and expressed support to the Special Prosecutor’s Office.
Austrian diplomat Sebastian Kurz is also paying a visit to Macedonia, who following the meeting with his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Poposki, stated that “the implementation of free and fair elections, along with the implementation of the urgent reform priorities, will enable Macedonia to return to the path that will lead it to the opening of negotiations for EU membership”.
His presence at last night’s rally of VMRO-DPMNE in Skopje, stirred strong reactions on the social networks, and was assessed as openly lobbying for the ruling party during elections. But, for Kurz there is nothing controversial. He participated in the rally as a member of the European People’s Party.