OSCE/ODIHR: Elections in Macedonia were democratic

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SKOPJE – The second round of mayoral elections in Macedonia were competitive and respect for fundamental freedoms contributed towards conduct of democratic elections, the observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) concluded in a preliminary statement released today.

Media continued to provide balanced coverage of the contestants, although this was overshadowed by negative campaign advertising. Despite insufficient provisions for the training of polling-station staff, election day was professionally managed overall, the statement says.

The governing coalition endorsed the voting electoral process, while the main opposition parties stated they would not recognize the results, citing alleged widespread violations before and on election day.

“Parties vied for support from beyond their traditional support bases, although they occasionally used aggressive rhetoric and there were reports of isolated incidents of the misuse of state resources and vote-buying,” said Ambassador Audrey Glover, Head of the ODIHR election observation mission.

“The respect for fundamental freedoms contributed towards the conduct of democratic elections.”

Concerns were raised by some parties following a pledge by the prime minister to provide government support for municipalities with mayors from parties in the governing coalition.

“The legal framework forms a sound basis for the conduct of democratic elections. While most provisions of the Electoral Code apply for the second round, the Code does not clearly regulate certain aspects,” Glover said.

“While the State Election Commission increased the transparency of its work between the two rounds, it did not adequately plan for additional training, voter education and financial support for municipalities whose budgetary accounts had been blocked. Polling station commissions, nonetheless, generally performed well on election day.”

The law does not provide for the updating of voter lists between the rounds, effectively disenfranchising voters who turned 18 years old in this period.

The State Election Commission (SEC) adopted a decision that voters whose names were on voter lists but whose identification documents had expired were also not allowed to vote.

The system of election day complaints is centralized. The SEC reviewed and rejected all 46 complaints following the first round. While not meeting the 48-hour legal deadline, all cases were decided in open sessions and decisions published online, contributing to transparency.