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In Skopje, PACE pre-electoral delegation hopes that forthcoming elections will provide a way out of the profound crisis

A delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was in Skopje on 21 and 22 November 2016 to assess the pre-electoral climate of the early parliamentary elections scheduled for 11 December 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. It also recalled that they had been postponed twice in 2016 and hoped that they will be held in a peaceful environment.

The main political parties considered that the minimum conditions for the holding of elections had been met, the delegation noted. However, several of its interlocutors mentioned, among the issues still to be resolved, the accuracy of the voters list (now acknowledged to be better than before but still having room for improvement) and the continued misuse of administrative resources. The delegation welcomed the fact that all political parties supported the holding of these elections as scheduled on 11 December.

It took note of the concerns expressed by interlocutors about media coverage of the campaign and regretted the polarisation of the media, used more as a tool for propaganda than for informing the public. It hoped that before polling day the main media outlets will organise direct debates between candidates which would enable citizens to make a more informed choice.

The delegation was concerned by the fact that the temporary commission working within the framework of the Agency for Audio and Visual Media Services, mandated with the task of monitoring media representation, will last only until the completion of the electoral process. Moreover, the delegation called on the public broadcaster MRT to continue its efforts to ensure balanced coverage even after the elections.

The delegation also called for concrete measures to be taken to separate state and political party activities, and to prevent intimidation of voters. The delegation also underlined the importance of the work of the Special Prosecutor which should be continued into the next legislature.

The fact that the electoral campaign had started calmly and without incident was noted with satisfaction by the delegation, which hopes that the forthcoming elections will provide a way out of the prolonged crisis affecting the country.

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 Foreign Affairs, the Minister of the Interior, the Special Prosecutor, with leaders of political parties, representatives of civil society, and of the media, with the Head of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission and with diplomats present in Skopje.

A fully-fledged 22-member PACE will arrive in Skopje prior to the early parliamentary elections to observe the vote on 11 December.
- Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), Head of delegation;
- Egidijus Vareikis (Lithuania, Group of the European People’s Party);
- Cristina De Pietro (Italy, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe);
- Suat Önal (Turkey, European Conservatives Group);
- Matjaz Hanzek (Slovenia, Group of the Unified European Left);
- Valeriu Ghiletchi (Republic of Moldova), PACE rapporteur for the post-monitoring dialogue