Weekly analysis: Macedonia before elections, politicians measuring their strength against each other!

The State Election Commission (SEC) this afternoon will determine the candidate lists for MPs in the six electoral units in Macedonia, submitted by the parties and coalitions that are participating in these early parliamentary elections, which are to put an end to the long-term political crisis in the state.

The main election race will be between the parties- signatory to the Przino Agreement. SDSM leader Zoran Zaev, as a representative of the coalition “Together for free Macedonia”, will be running against Nikola Gruevski, leader of VMRO-DPMNE and of the coalition “For Better Macedonia”, in the fourth electoral unit. Their opponents will be Ljubco Georgievski from VMRO-NP, as a representative of the coalition “VMRO for Macedonia”, and representatives of six other parties and coalitions, among which is former intelligence officer Slobodan Bogoevski from the “Coalition for Changes and Justice”.

Leader of DUI, Ali Ahmeti, and leader of DPA, Menduh Taci, will be winning the sympathy from voters in the Sixth electoral unit. On December 11, we will know what the mood of the Albanian electorate is like in this electoral unit, but now it is clear that Ahmeti is not welcomed among the Albanian electorate in Kumanovo. Last night citizens of Kumanovo blocked the road in order to prevent his arrival at the scheduled pre-election gathering.

The SEC also needs to decide on the candidate lists of the one-man political party, whose president is Branko Janevski – Social Democratic Party of Macedonia, which has submitted candidate lists for MPs – doubles to the candidates of SDSM and the Citizens Coalition.

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Law enforcement is necessary for fair and democratic elections

Today the SEC will officially publish the candidate lists for the upcoming elections, according to electoral units. In the meantime, representatives of the SEC emphasized that the main preconditions for organizing fair and democratic elections in Macedonia have been fulfilled. Members of the SEC stress that in order to have regular and credible elections, it is necessary to implement the laws and that there has to be cooperation between the institutions, NGOs and the parties. They also point to the need of signing the already approved, by political parties, Code for prevention of violence during the pre-election and election process, especially if we take into consideration the political crisis in which this country has been in the last years. The MOI announced that they will cover all the electoral units and polling stations, in order to ensure a peaceful and democratic election process.

The SEC will determine the order of the lists of candidates by drawing lots on November 20. And on November 18, it has to publish the lists of candidates for MPs in daily newspapers. Officially, the election campaign starts on the 21st this month. On November 22, the SEC will submit the Voters Register to the political parties which, within five days, to November 27, must submit a request for entering, adding or deleting certain data. On November 27, the SEC will sign the Voters register. On December 8, it will hand over the electoral material to the Municipal Election Commissions, while the election campaign officially ends on December 10, when election silence begins, one day before early elections that are to be held on December 11.

CIVIL has reacted and indicated numerous irregularities in the Voters Register, which is not revised, for which citizens from different towns in Macedonia regularly report on and point out to phantom voters figuring at their addresses.

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Ahead of elections, and not a single case of the Special Prosecutor’s Office has finalized

Criminal investigations on numerous cases opened by the Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO), closely linked to the “Wiretapping” scandal, and in which many former and current political officials of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE are involved, have still not be resolved in court. The public is eagerly awaiting the verdicts for the perpetrators of criminal acts. But, it seems that the Macedonian legislation is using delaying tactics.

On the other hand, there are also court procedures being led against participants in the Colorful Revolution, among which are current candidates for MPs on the lists of SDSM and the coalition Together for Free Macedonia. The trial of Pavle Bogoevski, accused for participating in a crowd that caused damage to the building of the Ministry of Culture during the protests, has again been postponed for December 21. The Prosecutor submitted expert opinion on the damage, prepared according to the date, on May 10, two and a half months before the charges were filed! The expert opinion was a surprise to the judge and the defense, because at the previous hearing, the Ministry had not reported damage in the indictment against Bogoevski.

The situation with the media in Macedonia has worsened

The situation in the media sphere in Macedonia has significantly worsened this year. This is the assessment of the European Commission, according to which, Macedonia media lack political pluralism, while the national television stations are supporting the ruling party in a coordinated manner.

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) have also presented their opinion, in which it confirms that most of the assessments of the Commission in regards to violence against journalists, financing of the media and in regards to the situation in the MRTV and the media regulator, coincide with the views of this association. The European Commission confirms that journalists are exposed to various attacks, while the authorities are doing nothing to punish the criminals, among which are also politicians. The AJM outlines that physical attacks, illegal wiretapping and poor working conditions of journalists have the purpose of stimulating self-censorship.

The trial of journalist Zoran Bozinovski has started. He gave his testimony before the judge for over an hour and presented his defense, claiming that the case against him has been mounted by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, former head of the secret police Saso Mijalkov and former Minister of Interior Gordana Jankulovska, while judge Lenka Davitkovksa has fined Bozinovski 2,000 euros for contempt of court.

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The International community remains a critically inclined friend of Macedonia

Ahead of early parliamentary elections in Macedonia, clear and unequivocal messages are coming from representatives of the international community. The International Community remains to be a critically inclined friend of Macedonia with messages for fair and democratic, credible elections, unhindered work of the SPO and realization of the recommendations for reform of Priebe’s report, as a precondition for successfully overcoming the long-term political crisis.

The criticism of former German Ambassador Gudrun Steinacker, in a column for Deutsche Welle, is especially strong. According to Steinacker, after 10 years of ruling of VMRO-DPMNE and DUI, Macedonia has become a dysfunctional state, whereby VMRO-DPMNE one of the wealthiest parties in Europe. The proportions of manipulation, abuse of power and weakening of civil society have all surfaced with the wiretapping scandal in 2015. Without massive pressure from outside, Steinacker assesses that democracy and the rule of law in Macedonia have almost no chance.

Monika Taleska

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