ELECTIONS Roberson: CIVIL is always a step ahead

“For CIVIL’s recent report on the local elections, I offered an international human rights perspective on the elections. If you haven’t read the report, I encourage you to do so”, stated Heather Roberson, expert on human rights and the Balkans, at the public event “Alert: Free elections, a (non) negotiable condition”. According to Roberson, the perspective of the internationals for Macedonia is positive and they think that finally, Macedonia has “chosen democracy”, but the fact remains that if you are studying Macedonia, you really have to come to Macedonia, otherwise not only will you not get the whole story, but you are likely to get the wrong story.

“Speaking as an American, I can tell you that we in particular love these stories, because they confirm our belief that deep down, everyone wants to be like us. If we can just remove the “bad leaders,” everything will fall into place…However, even if this is the tendency of internationals, to always want to hear the good news, and to discourage sources of bad news, here on the ground we need to be extremely careful with this kind of thinking and to be honest with ourselves. Why? Because what is important is the actual human experience, and the realization of human rights and freedom in real life, not just how the country is perceived”, outlined Roberson.

She added that the work CIVIL is doing is very important, because she does not agree with the narrative that Macedonia has made the “right choice,” and now has the “right leadership,” but that it is still pressing, still criticizing, still saying we must do better and must be fully transparent in negotiations and reforms.

“The international community tends to have a very narrow focus. We tend to look at elections in terms of questions of what happens on Election Day, and in the period directly before and after. We ask, Was the election stolen? Did ballots disappear? Were people intimidated? Could they find their polling places? Of course, these are all important questions. However, this is only a small piece of the puzzle. It is crucial, also, to examine the overall conditions outside of elections. It is important that the conditions exist for new challengers to come out of the woodwork and build support for their ideas.  I am not saying that everything that has the words “civil society” attached to it is a good thing, but it is important for new interest groups to form and for civil society to thrive”, said Roberson.

Roberson encouraged reading CIVIL’s reports, as they are different from the others she has read on human rights and freedoms, in terms of voting rights.  She also emphasized that this is how you develop relationships with stakeholders, civil society, and democracy.

Biljana Jordanovska

Camera: Аtanas Petrovski


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