ELECTIONS CIVIL and the 2019 presidential elections
CIVIL – Center for Freedom monitored the election process from their very announcement on February 8, but also covered the previous period, by monitoring the situation of human rights and freedoms and the social-political processes in the country.
Observantly, impartially and objectively, CIVIL and CIVIL Media’s team, together with the network of supporters, members and external collaborators, citizen journalists, with 160 observers, but also with the enormous help and trust from the citizens, monitored all the political processes and strongly reacted to all shortcomings and irregularities. However, what remains to be applauded is the openness for cooperation and mutual assistance and support of the institutions and competent bodies for conducting the elections.
In addition to the media coverage and press releases related to the elections, CIVIL also offered a series of educational texts, interviews, analyses and field reports, with the purpose to contribute to the implementation of free, fair and democratic elections. CIVIL held meetings with representatives of the Ministry of Interior, the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption, the State Audit Office, the Special Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Information Society and Administration, the Office of the Ombudsman, as well as with representatives of relevant media and media associations, experts, analysts and civil society. CIVIL Media published a series of interviews with an educational and informative character, with representatives of all these institutions, the media and public figures. Part of them were also speakers at the big conference “Like elections – like future”, where the most relevant views and analyses ahead of the election process were presented.
At the conference, the online version of the publication “Everything you wanted to know about the elections”, in Macedonian and Albanian, was also presented, which is dedicated to many different concepts and aspects of the electoral processes, including the most frequent irregularities in the Macedonian electoral processes. This publication is an excellent reading and reminder for the observers and activists and the wider public as well.
In the meanwhile, trainings for observers were held within the framework of two projects implemented by CIVIL, “Civic Lenses”, with the support of National Endowment for Democracy and “Citizens for a free society”, within which framework is also the development of CIVIL’s media platform, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany. Each of the projects include a special focus on the right to vote, political corruption and vote-buying, threats and pressures, as well as political financing. CIVIL organized training seminars, at which observers received guidelines for observing the election process.
In the early period of the election process, even before the start of the election campaign, many cases of hate speech, false news, political corruption, black campaign and early campaigning were noted. CIVIL directed its monitoring focus in this period towards the presidential candidates, their supporters, the political parties and their financing, the institutions and the media.
CIVIL submitted a complaint for violation of the Electoral Code to the State Election Commission. It concerned the case with presidential candidate Gordana Siljanovska – Davkova and the political party VMRO-DPMNE, who on March 25, 2019 organized a public event in Stip where they presented the participant in the election campaign, which represents early campaigning, contrary to the Electoral Code. After the anticipated deadline, the SEC rejected CIVIL’s complaint with the explanation that as an organization, accredited by them, though according to the Electoral Code, is not an authorised entity for submitting complaints, without going into the case itself.
With the start of the election campaign, CIVIL Media started with an everyday election chronicle, in which the campaigns of the presidential candidates were commented. The election chronicle is a unique attempt to look at the political activities from a new angle, texts with abundant information, but also with much witty and irony and that reflect the views of the citizens. The views of the citizens were published often and through the frequent surveys carried out by CIVIL Media on the streets in Skopje and throughout North Macedonia.
Both the first and second round of elections went by in a sixteen-hour working atmosphere in CIVIL’s press center. CIVIL duty teams were active also during weekends and holidays during the election process. In the first election round, CIVIL held four press conferences, and five in the second round, as well as an expert panel discussion after the closing of the polling stations.
On April 21, in CIVIL’s press center, a short panel discussion was held on the preliminary assessments of the first round of elections. Speakers included Professor at the Law Faculty at the “Ss. Cyril and Methodius” University Skopje, Jasna Bacovska, journalist Zoran Ivanov and political analyst Saso Ordanoski. The speakers agreed that election day passed relatively calmly and expectedly, having in consideration how the election campaign went by, namely, how the presidential candidates and political parties that supported them carried it out.
Furthermore, 170 reports for registered irregularities from more than 300 polling stations were processed in CIVIL’s analytical center. In the first round, most reports were for irregularities caused by the election administration, problems with the Voters Register, along with several serious cases of irregularities, of which one attempt for vote-buying, registered in Debar, where pressures from a certain political party were noted.
In the second round of voting that was held on May 5, speakers at the panel discussion were Marina Tuneva, Executive Director of the Council of Media Ethics of Macedonia, journalist Zoran Ivanov and professor Mirjana Najcevska. The speakers agreed that the end was expected, that both rounds passed peacefully, and that the media overall, in terms of the political coverage, performed their work well and professionally.
Xhabir Deralla, CIVIL, assessed that the election day itself, regardless of the peaceful atmosphere and greater turnout, still showed a series of shortcomings in regards to the legal framework within which framework the election processes are carried out, which generate, among else, also numerous problems with the Voters Register. CIVIL’s opinion is that a new Electoral Code is needed.
Insufficiently educated election boards, despite the SEC’s efforts, violation of the election silence, propaganda and many other irregularities were noted by CIVIL’s monitoring.
CIVIL also monitored the political financing, election corruption, the media and social networks, the hate speech and false news.
What additional awaits CIVIL’s team in the upcoming period is a final analysis of all the reports and findings from the election process, from all of its aspects.