BURST Reforms without reforms
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Let’s recall…The members of the State Election Commission resigned under strong pressure from the public, after serious misuse of public money was revealed, with uncontrolled squandering, intrigues, mobbing and unacceptable low level of their performance. During the election processes in 2016 and 2017, precisely the election administration headed by the SECs was the one that violated the voting right in various ways, for which CIVIL had the courage and virtue to report, while analysts and experts from this organization published their findings in the public, without pity.
However, the “punishment” that came from CIVIL and the wider public was lessened by the Parliamentary Commission for Elections and Appointment, by unanimously adopting the demands of the spoiled election commissioners for a rich apanage – under the item miscellaneous, without a discussion!
Even though the SECs said that they would donate the immorally acquired money from the overwhelming bonuses they gave themselves during their two-year (non)work, to humanitarian purposes, we haven’t heard that they will also be donating their apanage. And let’s not even talk about the rationalization of giving out the seized money after such disclosure in the public.
It remains unclear whether the luxurious official phones that they bought for themselves in 2016 and 2017 will remain in their pockets, in the SEC or they too will be “donated” for humanitarian purposes. Although the SEC didn’t fulfill its legal obligation for access to public information, we know that their expensive phones probably exceed the amount they “generously” assigned to unblock the accounts of nine municipalities throughout Macedonia, with a total of 9,000 euros. Something like that situation when Grujo promoted the Chinese busses as a “Donation from the Government of RM”, and removed those writings after the entire public laughed at him.
The State Commission for Prevention of Corruption was the focus of corruption and one of the important bases for defense of the Family, and attack on civil society organizations by abusing the financial police and the Public Revenue Office in the last days before the fall of the regime. Under the pressure of the public and after the series of reports of CIVIL, most of the SEC people also fell.
The Ministry of Justice had one minister who became famous with record high bills from restaurants, and resigned (officially) because of the Almir case. Upon his call, we submitted to him reports, analyses and recommendation for reforms in the electoral system (one electoral unit), and everything that is connected to that – reforms in the election administration, changes in the Electoral Code and in some other laws, relevant for the election processes…The reception was kind and friendly, but there was no effect afterwards. At least some of the reasons why the Ministry of Justice did not respond to our recommendation are well known.
These three institutions, the SEC, the SCPC, and the Ministry of Justice are headless, some for a longer period of time and some for a shorter period of time, and are part of the electoral reforms. These are the reforms that will be determining the fate of the Macedonian elections, and thus the policies and practices of the government in the years ahead of us. You might say, this is nothing compared to the fact that we were without a health minister for more than four months, in a situation when the Macedonian health care was in a desperate condition, especially after the destructive raid of the Minister of Death, Todorov.
Well, it is exactly the electoral system and the black holes in the electoral practice in Macedonia that enable us to have a society, institutions and a state that make life difficult for the citizens.
And precisely with such headless institutions, under pressure and blackmail of the Family’s marionettes, we are undergoing electoral reforms, something which they are certainly not at all.
Prime Minister Zaev, in the negotiations with VMRO head Mickoski (appointed by convicted Grujo), behind (semi) closed doors, agreed to give him concessions in configuring the election administration in a manner that will suit only the biggest political parties.
The State Election Commission, an institution with a task to protect the legality of the election processes, should be the highest and most relevant institution for implementing the elections, with maximum protection of the citizens’ right to vote. Instead, the SEC has remained so far the center of the interests of the biggest political parties, dissipation and abuse of public money. The SEC’s new structure that was being agreed between the leaders of SDSM and DPMNE, is a model that was overcome with the Przino Agreement in 2015. The question is raised, is it good to return a model that previously was considered bad? CIVIL’s strong recommendation remains for forming a SEC that will consist of professionals and independent experts, and not of political soldiers.
The fallen and headless institutions, behind the disguise of the participation of some civil society organizations, the major political parties and the international community, are leading a process that is not a process, because now it is completely obvious that it is about cosmetic procedures in the electoral system, changes that don’t guarantee a major leap forward in the quality of election implementation. On the contrary.
Mickoski was given many more concessions in the previous months, in agreements that he himself primarily, and probably the only one, has no intention of respecting. We have already seen what his understanding of the word “dialogue” looks like, there is no need for additional wisdom about the intentions and the orientation of the party that he is officially leading.
Let’s conclude…The current process of electoral reforms is slow and insufficiently transparent. The compromises that are being made with structures of political power, as well as with coalition partners and the opposition, do not promise full respect for the right to vote, and do not promise legitimacy of future government representatives. On the contrary, we can expect only additional disappointments from a system that is corrupt and is violating human rights and freedoms in various ways.
The financing of parties and election campaigns is regulated in such a way that in certain segments it enables even more manipulations than before. This especially refers to the period that political parties are given for submitting financial reports, which has actually been extended. This gives parties enough time for “making adjustments” to the reports and blurs the picture in regards to how much and in which way they spend the funds in election campaigns, as CIVIL’s monitoring team has determined. In this area as well, we cannot see that the voice of independent experts has been heard. In this direction are also the serious remarks about the media representation of political parties, despite the several changes that the Government has passed, primarily, by terminating the government advertising.
The Electoral Code has to undergo fundamental changes and the first opportunity for adopting a new one has to be used.
An electoral system in which everyone will be voting in one electoral unit, including the diaspora, suits Macedonia. Let’s repeat, this system gives power to the biggest parties, and power corrupts, doesn’t it?
It’s not difficult to democratize the electoral system in service of the interests and needs of all citizens. It’s not difficult to create legal and political conditions that give opportunities to initiatives and political options that reflect the interests of smaller communities as well. With democratization of the electoral system, space will be created for contemporary and universal ideas, which are not visible now because of the ruthless struggle for political and financial profit. Dedication and political will is all that is needed! For now, such will can be read only in the statements of current Prime Minister Zaev, but nothing more than that.
It’s up to us, to swallow the fishhook of yet another farce of electoral reform, or to loudly demand crucial changes with which we will step towards higher levels of democracy. I am convinced that the citizens of Macedonia deserve that.