Decision and withdrawal of decision
The State Election Commission at the session of October 26 adopted changes to the guidelines regarding valid and invalid ballots, adopted on March 3, 2020. According to the decision of the SEC, the changes are in that in paragraph 7 of the Guidelines, the provision according to which there should be a stamp on the front side of the ballot is deleted.
The first reaction of experts within CIVIL’s monitoring team was that this amendment in the Guidelines is adopted just 5 days before the voting in the second round of the local elections, which could cause problems and misunderstandings among the members of the Election Board.
Moreover, such a decision opens doors wide for the so-called filling of ballot boxes. With the malfunctioning of the devices for biometric identification of voters, which by the way cost 11 million euros, money of the citizens, this is another “strange” circumstance related to the voting procedure in the local elections.
Minor administrative error that causes big problems
How a seemingly minor, administrative error can lead to election irregularities? It all depends on the intentions. What the intentions were and what the capacities are of the relevant institutions ahead of the local elections remains yet to be examined and analysed. What is it about?
Today’s edition of Election Report deals with the observers and their problems with the election administration bodies on election day, October 17. This is an illustration of how certain administrative shortcomings that apparentlyseem minor can cause election irregularities.
Regulating of badges, only on paper
According to the Guidelines on the badges for identification of all participants in the implementation of the election processes and the observers, adopted by the State Election Commission on August 25, 2021, in the specification according to article 3, item 1 reads:
“In the lower part of the badge, in the middle, on a light green background, the text “domestic observer” is written. The name and last name of the observer is printed in Macedonian and its Cyrillic alphabet and in the language of the community the observer belongs to”.
Screenshot: excerpt of the Guidelines on the badge, 2021
This description is identical to the description of the Guidelines of 2020, where in the description of this badge it alsostates:
“The upper part of the badge is perforated and a metal-plastic clip is placed”.
This year, that obligation was skipped. There were no clips on the accreditations that we received from the SEC. Money was probable saved for the procurement of the fingerprint devices worth 11 million euros.
Screenshot: excerpt from the Guidelines on the badges, 2020
Badges without clips
Very little of this is observed in the badges that the State Election Commission issued to CIVIL ahead of the local elections.
The badges were without clips, but that was not a problem. The organization immediately procured clips, following the provisions of the Monitoring Code.
“Accredited observers SHOULD wear on a prominent place an authorization – badge issued by the state Election Commission, along with an identity document.
Screenshot: excerpt from the Monitoring Code, 2021
No clip, no visibility, but CIVIL took care of that too. One clip costs 7 denars, which is 1.988 denars for all 284 accredited observers of the organization.
Badges without a name
But the badges that CIVIL received did not contain a name. The field where, according to the Guidelines, the name and last name of the observer should be printed, was empty. The badges were sent plasticized. That could not be fixed.
A badge from the SEC, plasticized, without a name, Local elections 2021
In addition, there is no light green field on the badge anywhere. Or perhaps we are colour-blind?
The badges – an excuse for obstructing the observers
Some of the election boards took that as an excuse not to accept CIVIL’s observers at the polling stations. We had to send back our observers to the polling stations with the interventions of the SEC.
Election Boards on the day of the voting on October 17 faced many problems related to the malfunctioning of the devices for biometric identification of voters (fingerprint devices), as well as other challenges. In many cases, they were creative and solved that problem in most different ways.
“Creative” election boards
Still, some of them were “creative” in a wrong way. In several polling stations, the board issued them identity documents from the SEC for party observers on which they personally wrote the names of our observers.
A badge for a party observer, issued under the pressure of an observer of CIVIL on October 17, 2021
Such procedure is:
- Contrary to the legal and secondary acts;
- Incorrect and misleading, it can cause confusion, because it concerns civic and not part observers;
- Insulting both for the observers and for the organization.
Overregulated. That is a short description of part of the problems that the election regulations face. On the one hand, all aspects are regulated, down to the smallest details of the procedures, and on the other hand, little of that really functions in practice.
In combination with ignorance or intentional distortion of the procedures and legal provisions, serious violations occur to the right to vote, one of the fundamental human rights in the world and in our country.
Obstruction and rudeness towards CIVIL’s observers
In continuation, let’s see what kind of problems our accredited observers had during their work on Election Day in the first round on October 17.
At 7.10 am, the first report arrived on obstruction to the work of CIVIL’s observers. At polling station 2755 in the Municipality of Aerodrom, under the excuse that there is no name on the badge from the SEC.
At 7.20 am, the second report arrived for the same situation, this time from polling station 0031 in the Municipality of Bitola.
And hence, from the first hour of the opening of the polling stations across the country, our observers faced obstructions to their work from the election boards in polling station 2317 in Karbinci, polling station 1358, 1360, 1361 in Prilep, polling station 2622, 2623, 2624, 2625, 2626, 2627 in Karpos, polling station 0675 in Kavadarci.
In polling station 1027 in Kumanovo, member of an election board, Dejan Stoimanovic, commented to an observer of ours with the following words:
What is this market, an observer of yours was previously here, you cannot observe here, and every next one will be rejected!”.
But then the president of the election board of that polling station interrupted the communication and allowed CIVIL’s observer to carry out their task. In polling station 1045 in Kumanovo, CIVIL’s observer was not allowed access to the polling station, with the explanation that there already was an observer of CIVIL, but that he had went out for a cigarette, which was completely incorrect. There was no observer of CIVIL in that polling station at that moment.
Pressure on an observer of CIVIL is noted also in polling station 1678 in Sveti Nikole, where a member of an election board loudly commented that they have frequent visits from the CIVIL’s, supposedly they had come for the “third time already”.
In polling station 2628 in Karpos, president Aneta Boskova rudely addressed our observer, commenting that CIVIL’s observers had kept going in and out every 20 minutes, and as for the documentation that was presented to her, she said that anyone could obtain one and enter to observe and do whatever they want to. Obstructions are noted in polling station 2629 in Karpos as well.
In polling station 1900/1, the president of the election board, Uran Mejzini, took away the authorisation of the SEC from CIVIL’s observer, and when he asked it back, he asked if he would be returning. When he answered affirmative, he told him that he has no right to return, because his name and last name were not written on the authorization. Valentina Stojkovic, member of the same election board, took a picture of the authorization of our observer.
This is just a small part of the 76 reports processed so far of CIVIL’s observers from throughout the country. Processing of the remaining reports from the ground is in progress. All data will be announced once the processing is completed.
Xhabir Deralla in cooperation with CIVIL’s Monitoring Team
Camera: Atanas Petrovski
Realization and editing: Arian Mehmeti
Translation: N. Cvetkovska