Skopje, April 30, 2015
CIVIL – Center for Freedom is specialized in conducting long-term monitoring on the political processes and the situation of human rights and freedoms in the Republic of Macedonia. Within the project My Voting Rights, CIVIL has conducted research through focus groups and an online questionnaire. Individualized interviews with representatives of stakeholders and actors in the areas of electoral processes and human rights is an ongoing activity within the project implementation. So far, four interviews were made with Ixhet Memeti, Ombudsman, Mersel Bilali, political analyst, Mirjana Najcheska, human rights defender, Jove Kekenovski, university professor.
The team of CIVIL also prepared an analysis on the political situation in the Republic of Macedonia in the period before the local elections in 2013 until April 30, 2015.
Based on the research and analysis, the general conclusion is that Macedonia is in a continuous political crisis, followed by aggressive propaganda, with human rights and freedoms threatened, and with electoral processes of 2013 and 2014 that are illegitimate.
Difficult human rights and freedoms situation
Rapid deterioration is quite noticeable along with continuous violation of human rights and freedoms by the state institutions and local authorities. Contrary to substantial media activity, its contents and nature, the Government and government sound-boards fail to conceal the open discrimination and human rights violations conducted on several grounds.
Discrimination based on political affiliation is noted in every segment of people’s lives, whereas the functioning of the public, local or state institutions has been brought down to following party instructions with the purpose of maintaining their positions and the popularity ratings of the ruling parties.
Employment, public services, all areas of social and health care, education, culture, subsidies in agriculture, tourism and many other areas in which the state or local government institutions participate in or manage policies – are implemented according to political affiliation and the loyalty declared by the citizens towards the ruling parties. The discriminatory policies on different grounds are legalized in Parliament, by passing laws and regulations that often contradict the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia. The constitutional changes were implemented in express proceedings and without wider social consensus within a parliament in which the opposition does not participate. The Constitutional Court is usually silent and portrays a picture of yet another institution that is put under control. Violations of human rights and discrimination have been registered in many other areas as well, whereby, the situation of social and labor rights is especially troublesome. In this sense, the right to education, housing, adequate standard of living and other rights are only declarative efforts of the institutions and the government, whereas in reality there is a precipitous decline in the quality of life. Workers’ rights are practically nonexistent. The attitude towards workers is under any human dignity, primarily in the private sector. Serious violations of workers’ rights is also noted in the public administration where employees are kept under tight control and under continuous pressure from the ruling parties.
Discrimination on ethnic and religious grounds, gender, social status and sexual orientation remain as serious problems in the Macedonian society, a situation for which the institutions at the national and local level are responsible.
The attitude towards freedom of expression and media exceeds the limits of reasonable behavior and testifies the manners of autocratic rule in the country. The government established almost complete control over media on a long run, imposing tireless and overly expensive campaigns, as well as through suspicious proprietary networks.
The situation of media is most drastically reflected in the work of the public broadcaster MRTV. The editorial policy of the public service has crossed all limits of what is acceptable and now is not any more different than that of TV Bastille of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia.
The Lustration Commission which has already gained an international reputation of an institution which serves as one more repressive tool of the government to confront with its opponents, has added the name of Jadranka Kostova, a famous journalist and editor at the independent political weekly magazine Focus, to its list of lustrated persons, upon entirely irrational allegations.
Republic of Macedonia is a country of political prisoners. Among them until recently was journalist Tomislav Kezharovski, who was imprisoned for two years, “guilty” for performing his journalistic work. The manner and timing of the imprisonment of journalist Kezharovski coincides with his investigation into the suspicious death of Nikola Mladenov, founder and editor of the weekly magazine Focus, during the local elections in 2013.
The political prisoners are not the only feature of the politicized judiciary, but certainly represent one of the most visible illustrations of the situation with the judiciary in the country. In such conditions, it is difficult to imagine free and fair elections.
Continuous electoral mobilization
Macedonia went through eight electoral processes in the past eight years, on average, one electoral process per year. The frequent electoral processes are characterized with heavy pressure on the electorate, which at the end of the elections in 2014 led to a boycott of the opposition that disputed the results of the elections.
Civil has been recording electoral irregularities and violations of the right to vote as of 2008. A number of other rights are violated in that process and remain as a problem between two electoral processes.
Institutions are highly politicized, whereby party soldiers are provided with numerous benefits, jobs in the administration, but also positions of impunity and power. Citizens are divided and the public space is narrowed and marked with party-totalitarian symbols of power and domination. This situation is maintained through manipulation and pressure that distract the attention of the public from the real problems, by encouraging and disseminating hate speech. Structural violence and discrimination are implemented in parallel with widespread clientelism. The state and society are identified with the party/ruling parties, whereas the public services to which the institutions are committed to are identified with charity, “in order to help the people.”
We keep learning about cases of serious election irregularities in the local elections of 2013 and presidential and early parliamentary elections of 2014. Here we will state the common characteristics of the elections in both of the years.
Full abuse of all public resources at the state and local level conducted for party goals on every inch of the country. Strong and all day pressure on each and every employee in the administration with a single “working” obligation – to ensure victory for the ruling party and to aggravate, intimidate or bribe anyone who intends to vote otherwise.
Demographic interventions, such as transporting people to vote from Pustec, Albania. During the local elections in 2013, their voting was most visible in the Municipality of Centar, but also in other municipalities around the country where it was needed. The same was repeated, but in a more sophisticated form, at the elections of 2014.
Residents of Pustec in 2014 first voted in the capacity of the Diaspora in Tirana, only to arrive in Macedonia the next day and to vote in several other places throughout the country, starting with Resen, through Kicevo or Bitola, up to several municipalities in Skopje.
The teams of Civil discovered thousands of phantom voters, more specifically, voters in non-existent apartments, parts of buildings, and even entire buildings in Skopje, but also in Ohrid, Resen, Kicevo, Bitola and Kumanovo
Voting with multiple ID cards or passports was noticed on a smaller scale in 2013, whereas during the elections of 2014 it became more evident that there are more documents than voters circulating throughout the country.
Bribery, threats, blackmail and other types of pressures are obvious and are becoming more pervasive within years, regardless of whether we are in an a pre-election period or not. This can also be confirmed by the observation of the situation in the area of human rights and freedoms, same as in the focused elections observation of CIVIL in 2013 and 2014.
Reports from the elections observation entitled “Unscrupulous Fight for Power” in 2013 and “Disqualified Democracy” in 2014, are relevant indicators of just how the electoral processes in the country are conducted, local, parliamentary and presidential.
All three electoral processes in the past two years are a clear illustration of the massive violation of the citizens’ right to vote, the severe abuse of overall public and state resources of the country for party purposes and the apparent manipulation of the Voters Register with proportions that can decisively affect the elections outcome.
The recordings of the intercepted conversations revealed by the opposition, with allegations of serious electoral manipulation and abuse, represent a bitter confirmation of the reports of CIVIL on how elections are conducted in the Republic of Macedonia.
We are left with nothing else but to state clearly and unambiguously that the local elections in 2013, and the presidential and early parliamentary elections in 2014 are illegitimate.