In Skopje, PACE delegation hopes that the presidential election will represent a smooth process

Strasbourg, 12.03.2014 – The intention of the authorities of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” to organise, on 13 April 2014 its fifth presidential election since independence has been welcomed by a delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) visiting the country to assess the pre-electoral climate.

The delegation,* led by Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), welcomed the fact that the Electoral Code has been improved since the last election. However, following its discussion with various interlocutors, it considers it necessary to underline the importance of implementing all provisions of the new Electoral Code in good faith.

The delegation feels that the decision of the largest Albanian party, which is also part of the ruling coalition, to try to make the presidential election fail is not a constructive one and is at odds with the rules of democracy.

The country will hold early parliamentary elections on the same day as the expected second round of the presidential election, on 27 April 2014. This appears to cause a series of organisational problems, which, hopefully, will not negatively affect the two parallel electoral processes.

The delegation regretted the obvious polarisation of the media, which appears to be more a tool for propaganda than a means to disseminate information to the public. It stressed that, in particular during the electoral campaign, media must be in a position to deliver objective information to the public, so that citizens can make an informed choice on election day.

In fact, the delegation was informed by the highest authorities themselves about a general lack of trust both in the media and in the judicial system. It hopes that no effort will be spared during the electoral process to restore this trust, which is essential in any democracy.

The delegation expressed concerns about various issues raised by its interlocutors, such as the alleged growth of pressure on the media, unclear differentiation between the state and the governing parties which has allegedly led to the extensive use of administrative resources during the electoral campaign, and financing of the campaign.

It fully understood that some of these issues cannot be dealt with in the short time left before election day, but hoped that those which can still be addressed, such as providing in time biometric identity cards to all voters, will indeed be addressed.

The delegation was also informed about a certain lack of trust in the quality of the voters list, as the number of voters was considered by some interlocutors as being abnormally high. It thinks that the responsibilities for compiling on accurate voters list should be better defined between the institutions involved.

The delegation expressed the hope that, despite the strong polarisation of public life along political and ethnic lines, the electoral campaign will be a smooth one without any deviations towards nationalistic and ethnocentric paths, and will focus on debating concrete political programmes.

The PACE pre-electoral delegation was in Skopje at the invitation of the President of the Assembly. It met with the presidential candidates, including the incumbent President, with the President of the Assembly, with members of the delegation to PACE, with the Chairman of the State Election Commission, the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Information Society and Administration, the Vice President of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, the Deputy Auditor General, the President of the State Commission for Preventing Corruption, with representatives of the civil society and of the media, with the Head of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission and with diplomats and representatives of international organisations present in Skopje.

A full 21-member delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will arrive in Skopje prior to the presidential election to observe the vote.

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Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), head of delegation; Saban Disli (Turkey, EPP/CD); Margus Hanson (Estonia, ALDE); Robert Walter (United Kingdom, EDG).