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«INTERNATIONAL ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION (IEOM) The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Presidential and Early Parliamentary Elections, 27 April ...»

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INTERNATIONAL ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION (IEOM)

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Presidential and Early Parliamentary Elections, 27 April 2014

STATEMENT OF PRELIMINARY FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

Skopje, 28 April 2014 – This Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions is the result of a

common endeavour involving the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

Christine Muttonen (Austria) was appointed by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office as Special Coordinator to lead the short-term observer mission. Isabel Santos (Portugal) headed the OSCE PA delegation and Stefan Schennach (Austria) headed the PACE delegation. Ambassador Geert-Hinrich Ahrens (Germany) is the Head of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission, deployed from 10 March 2014.

The assessment was made to determine whether the election complied with OSCE commitments and Council of Europe standards for democratic elections, as well as international obligations and domestic legislation. This Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions is delivered prior to the completion of the election process. The final assessment of the elections will depend, in part, on the conduct of the remaining stages of the election process, including the count, the tabulation and announcement of results, and the handling of possible post-election day complaints or appeals. The OSCE/ODIHR will issue a comprehensive final report, including recommendations for potential improvements, some eight weeks after the completion of the election process. The OSCE PA will present its report on 28 June at its Standing Committee meeting in Baku. The PACE delegation will present its report on 23 May at its Standing Committee meeting in Baku.

PRELIMINARY CONCLUSIONS

As in the first round of voting, the 27 April 2014 presidential election and early parliamentary elections were efficiently administered, including on election day. Candidates were able to campaign without obstruction and freedoms of assembly and association were respected.

However, the campaign of the governing party did not adequately separate its party and state activities, at odds with paragraph 5.4 of the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document and Council of Europe standards. Allegations of voter intimidation persisted throughout the campaign. The Albanian party in the government continued to boycott the presidential election and exerted undue pressure on ethnic Albanian voters not to take a presidential ballot. Before the counting began, the main opposition coalition announced that it would not recognize the results of these elections.

A lack of analysis and independent reporting in the media continued during the second round of the presidential and early parliamentary election campaigns. OSCE/ODIHR EOMmedia monitoring showed that the majority of monitored media was largely biased in favour of the ruling party and its presidential candidate and mainly negative against the main opposition party and its candidate. The media often failed to distinguish between the coverage of officials in their capacity as ministers and as candidates.

International Election Observation Mission Page: 2 The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Presidential and Early Parliamentary Elections, 27 April 2014 Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions One hundred and twenty members of parliament were elected under a proportional representation system and three were elected in a majoritarian system in three out-of-country districts. The uneven distribution of voters in the out-of-country districts and the difference between the numbers of voters in the in-country and out-of-country districts do not fully ensure the equality of the vote as provided for by paragraph 7.3 of the OSCE 1990 Copenhagen Document and Council of Europe standards. In addition, the 40 per cent turnout requirement in the second round of the presidential contest may lead to cycles of failed elections if turnout is lower.

A number of Electoral Code provisions regulating the parliamentary elections were amended in January 2014 addressing some OSCE/ODIHR recommendations. However, inconsistencies and ambiguities impacting the early parliamentary elections remained, including the legal definition of campaigning and length of the campaign, and the provisions on the use of public resources during the campaign. The State Election Commission (SEC) issued several instructions, which effectively amended the law, in an attempt to regulate the overlapping campaigns for the two elections. The legal authority of the SEC to do this is questionable.

The SEC met almost all of its legal deadlines and held regular sessions, but continued to be divided along party lines on all politically contentious issues. Despite the late closure of the voter lists for the early parliamentary elections, the printing of the ballots and the voter list excerpts were concluded on time. As in the first round of the presidential election, the SEC did not communicate effectively with the Municipal Election Commissions (MECs) on several issues, causing some confusion regarding the procedures. However, MECs carried out their duties in a professional manner.





Gender representation criteria were respected in the election administration bodies. As per legal requirements, every third candidate on parliamentary candidate lists was reserved for the less represented gender. However, women were underrepresented in rallies observed by the OSCE/ODIHR EOM, and gender issues were not raised in campaign programmes.

There were two separate voter lists for these elections: 1,779,572 voters were registered for the presidential election and 1,780,128 for the early parliamentary elections. Concerns were raised by a number of IEOM interlocutors with regard to the accuracy of the voter lists, particularly large numbers of voters residing at the same address. Legal provisions that allow political parties to challenge entries in the voter lists are vague and do not clearly specify which agency is responsible for conducting an investigation; this undermined proper implementation.

The campaign was active with a large number of rallies and meetings with voters. However, a significant advantage in resources and therefore in political advertising meant that the governing Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity and its presidential candidate dominated both campaigns. In addition, the campaign of the governing party often did not adequately separate party from state activities. As in the first round of the presidential election, there was a steady stream of strong accusations of corruption within the ethnic blocs. The Democratic Union for Integration boycott of the presidential election resulted in the turnout in ethnic Albanian areas being significantly lower than in ethnic Macedonian areas.

The electoral dispute resolution mechanism remained ineffective. A lack of deadlines for courts to resolve several types of election-related cases combined with a limited right of voters to legal redress on every stage of the electoral process does not fully guarantee effective redress as required by paragraph 5.10 of the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document.

International Election Observation Mission Page: 3 The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Presidential and Early Parliamentary Elections, 27 April 2014 Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions Election day was conducted in a smooth and professional manner with only some technical irregularities observed throughout the day. Election boards (EB) demonstrated a good knowledge of voting procedures. However, in some ethnic Albanian areas the IEOM observed that voters were discouraged by EB members from taking a presidential ballot. Most vote counts and tabulation processes observed by the IEOM were assessed positively, although some discrepancies were corrected on result protocols.

–  –  –

Background In line with constitutional and legal provisions, the first round of the presidential election was held on 13 April 2014. 1 Since none of the candidates received the required majority of the total number of registered voters to be elected, a second round was announced between incumbent President Gjorge Ivanov, affiliated with the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), who received 51 per cent of cast votes, 2 and Stevo Pendarovski, affiliated with the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), who received 37.51 per cent of cast votes. 3 The Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) boycotted the presidential election stating that its coalition partner VMRO-DPMNE ignored its calls to nominate a consensual presidential candidate who would represent both the ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian communities.

As a consequence the turnout in ethnic Albanian areas was significantly lower than in ethnic Macedonian areas. 4 The use of visible ink to mark voters added to the pressure on ethnic Albanian citizens in the first round as their decision whether to vote or not was visible.

Parliament was dissolved on 5 March at the initiative of DUI. Early parliamentary elections were held together with the second round of the presidential election on 27 April.

Legal Framework and Electoral System Elections are primarily regulated by the Constitution and the Electoral Code. The Electoral Code was last amended on 24 January 2014 and addressed some of the prior OSCE/ODIHR recommendations. 5 However, implementation of the legislation revealed that a number of issues and inconsistencies remain unaddressed, including the definition of campaigning and the length of the campaign and the provisions on the use of public resources during the campaign. In addition, the safeguards for the separation of party and state remain insufficient. There is no legal requirement for ministers and other state officials to temporarily step down in order to run as candidates, leading to the misuse of state resources and conflicts of interest between the official actions of ministers and their roles as candidates.

1 Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions of the IEOM for the 13 April presidential election is available at http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/117636.

2 In order to be elected in the first round, a successful candidate has to receive the majority of votes from the total number of registered voters. Mr. Ivanov received 25.2 per cent and Mr. Pendarovski 18.3 per cent of votes of the registered voters.

3 Iljaz Halimi, the only ethnic Albanian candidate, affiliated with the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) received 4.49 per cent of cast votes; and Zoran Popovski, affiliated with the recently-formed Citizens Option for Macedonia (GROM), received 3.61 per cent of cast votes.

4 In those municipalities won by Mr. Halimi the average turnout was 12.85 per cent.

5 Previous OSCE/ODIHR reports are available at http://osce.org/odihr/elections/fyrom.

International Election Observation Mission Page: 4 The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Presidential and Early Parliamentary Elections, 27 April 2014 Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions As an exception, Article 9 of the Electoral Code requires that “authorized officials” of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MoI) and the Ministry of Defense temporarily cease their government duties once they have been confirmed as candidates. This provision is intended to prevent the misuse of state resources and to avoid conflicts of interests that are inherent in the dual role of being an official in a key ministry as well as a candidate during an election period.

This provision is especially relevant to the Interior Minister who has authority over key aspects of the electoral process. Despite this legal provision, the Interior Minister did not step down despite running as a candidate. 6 During the electoral process, the State Election Commission (SEC) issued several instructions that effectively amended the law in an attempt to regulate the overlapping campaign for the two elections. On 7 March, the SEC unanimously decided to start the parliamentary campaign two days earlier with a two-day interruption during the campaign silence for the presidential election.

The legal authority of the SEC to do this is questionable.

In the second round of the presidential election, a candidate who receives the highest number of votes cast gets elected provided that there is a turnout of more than a 40 per cent of the total number of registered voters. The OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe’s Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) have previously criticized this requirement as it could lead to cycles of failed elections. 7 Parliament is elected for a four-year term. Out of 123 elected members, 120 are elected under a proportional representation system in 6 electoral districts. The remaining three are elected in a majoritarian system in three out-of-country districts of Europe and Africa, North and South America, and Australia and Asia. 8 The uneven distribution of voters in the out-of-country districts and the difference between the numbers of voters in the in-country and out-of-country districts do not fully ensure equality of the vote as provided for by paragraph 7.3 of the OSCE 1990 Copenhagen Document. 9

Election Administration

The parliamentary elections, similar to the presidential election, were administered by a threelevel election administration: the SEC, 80 Municipal Election Commissions (MECs), 3,480 Election Boards (EBs) established in-country and 34 EBs in Diplomatic-Consular Offices (DCOs). The SEC is composed of seven members appointed by the parliament for a four-year term: the president and two members are nominated by the parliamentary opposition parties, while the vice-president and three members are nominated by the governing parties.



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