In Skopje, PACE pre-electoral delegation, concerned by revived tensions, urges all political forces to show responsibility towards the elections and implement the Przino Agreement
Strasbourg, 28.04.2016 – A delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was in Skopje on 26 and 27 April 2016 to assess the pre-electoral climate of the early parliamentary elections scheduled for 5 June 2016.
The delegation*, led by Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), recalled that these early elections were called in the framework of the implementation of the EU-brokered Przino Agreement to put an end to the political crisis that followed the April 2014 presidential and early parliamentary elections. The main opposition party had challenged the results of the elections and boycotted the parliament until September 2015.
The delegation noted that the election campaign was marked by long-standing contentious issues such as the accuracy of the voters list and media reforms. It observed that the climate had significantly deteriorated after the decision by the President of the Republic to pardon 56 persons, including those prosecuted by the Special Prosecutor established by the Przino Agreement to investigate the serious allegations – including electoral frauds - contained in the illegally wire-taped conversations released by the opposition. This decision had provoked major street protests, increased polarisation in society and seriously undermined the work of the Special Prosecutor. The delegation urges the authorities to find a way to revoke the Presidential pardon as soon as possible.
The delegation was aware that all political parties had, originally, shared the view that early elections would be the only way to solve the on-going political crisis. It therefore regretted the decision by the “Social Democratic Union Of Macedonia” (SDSM) to boycott the elections and was concerned by the position of the Albanian parties DUI and DPA which were considering boycotting the elections as well. The delegation reiterated the PACE position that boycotting elections is not a constructive approach to good governance, and is at odds with the rules of democracy.
The delegation expressed serious concerns about the accuracy of the voters list, which is essential to restore public confidence in the electoral process. It took note of the concerns expressed by the parties about media coverage of the campaign, despite the recent changes in the electoral code. It also considered that concrete measures to separate state and political party activities, and to prevent intimidation of voters, had to be taken. The misuse of administrative resources – an issue raised by PACE in previous election observations - was also a matter of concern for the delegation.
The delegation called on all parties to fully implement the Przino Agreement, which offered a path to lead the country out of the crisis and tackled, in the long term, systemic issues. They urged them to reach a political agreement to ensure a smooth electoral campaign, to show responsibility and accountability in lowering tensions within society in the interest of the citizens, and for the sake of the country’s stability.
The delegation noted with satisfaction that demonstrations, in which participated, inter alia, student organisations together with NGOs, did not result in serious clashes, either with the police or with simultaneous counter demonstrations.
The delegation also urged the authorities to make sure that all conditions would be in place to allow political parties to rally and campaign peacefully.
The PACE pre-electoral delegation was in Skopje at the invitation of the President of the Assembly. It met with the President of the Assembly, with the Chairman and members of the State Election Commission, the Minister of the Interior, the Special Prosecutor and the Public Prosecutor, with leaders of political parties, representatives of civil society, of student organisations 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 fully-fledged 22-member PACE will arrive in Skopje prior to the early parliamentary elections to observe the vote.
- Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), Head of delegation;
- Frank J. Jenssen (Norway, Group of the European People’s Party);
- Eerik-Niiles Kross (Estonia, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe);
- Tom Packalén (Finland, European Conservatives Group);
- Andrej Hunko (Germany, Group of the Unified European Left);
- Lise Christoffersen (Norway), PACE rapporteur for the post-monitoring dialogue;
- Valeriu Ghiletchi (Moldova), PACE rapporteur for the post-monitoring dialogue