Citizens Association MOST has started the monitoring process of the elections ever since they were announced. MOST has deployed 80 long-term observers in all municipalities throughout the country who have been monitoring all aspects of the election process. The Election Day was monitored through 2.664 observers who have covered around 55% of the total number of the polling stations. The out of country voting was monitored as well, by deploying 20 observers who have monitored the voting in 18 out of 41 diplomatic-consular representation offices of the Republic of Macedonia. With aim to monitor the voting of the sick and disabled persons and the persons who are in custody there were deployed 114 observes and the voting of the persons serving prison sentence was monitored by 17 observers. Additionally, subject to monitoring was the work of the State Election Commission (SEC) and of the Municipal Election Commissions (MEC), too.
MOST observers used to be static ones, and they have monitored the voting process at the polling stations all day long. Additionally, 120 mobile teams - consisting of 2 observers were deployed as logistical support to the static observers and these mobile teams monitored the voting process at the polling stations that were not covered by MOST static observers.
According to the reports and information gained from the observers and 80 regional coordinators, the preliminary statement of the Citizens Association MOST is that the Election Day was marked by high voters’ turnout, irregularities within the voting procedure, and by serious indications for vote buying and pressure on the voters at certain polling stations.
During the Election Day, MOST has been informing about presence of unauthorized persons before the polling stations who were agitating, as well as about increased number of cases when the ballot paper was photographed behind the polling booth, which lead to indications for vote buying and pressure on the voters conducted in front of the polling stations. This one can be endorsed by the number of interventions of the police that were noted within the official report from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
As to the voting procedure at the polling stations, the most frequent reports form the observes were related with family/ group voting, violation of the ballot secrecy, misused of the procedure for voting of the persons who were not able to cast their vote on their own, failings in the process of informing the voters on the manner how to vote, and with the voters who were not able to find their name in the Voters List.
After the voting was finished, at certain MECs, there was noted disorder and chaotic work, as well as correcting technical mistakes within the minutes submitted by the Election Boards (EB). Additionally, in certain cases it was noted that the ballot boxes were delivered to the MECs without being sealed by security tapes, by which the procedure for packing and preserving the sensitive election material was violated.
As to the early voting, conducted a day before the Election Day, the trend of decreasing the number of this type of persons was noted this year too. According to the SEC the number of these persons was 5.746. This trend is a result from the SEC efforts by issuing new guideline for voting of this type of persons by which the criteria for registering persons for early voting were made stricter. Still, in some part of the municipalities the number of registered voters was higher in comparison with the rest of the municipalities. Regarding the very same process of voting of these type of citizens, the observers have noted violations of the secrecy of ballot in more cases, as well as 3 cases when the EB had not have the ballot boxes.
Regarding the voting of the persons serving prison sentence, there were not any serious irregularities, except for the PI “Idrizivo” where 419 voters could not find their names in the Voters List. The very same note goes for the out of country voting, where a suspicious issue is that certain voters clamming that were registered for voting, could not find their names in the Voters List.
The election campaign was very dynamic, marked with increased number of direct meetings with citizens, so called door to door campaign. This time the nagative campaign intensity was increased by using sharper rhetoric. The misuse of the interethnic issues, once again was part of the campaign, through accusations for redefining the countries’ system and use of the languages.
During the election campaign, the pressures on the employees within the public sector to attend the party rallies or to vote for the ruling party were not omitted. The trend of presence of the public officials on the party events during the working hours continued too as missed of the public resources. Parts of these irregularities were confirmed by the international observers as well. Cases when budget funds were used illegally were noted, i.e. promotion of commencing construction or opening of objects financed by public funds.
In spring this year, a comprehensive review of the Voters List was conducted, containing crosschecks, administrative and field review. This process was marked by several challenges, starting with the criteria for crosschecks, ending with the quality of the filed review. As an outcome of this process, around 29.000 voters were not registered in the Voters List in these elections, and 170.000 voters who according to the SEC assumptions, live abroad were transferred in the special extract of the Voters List for citizens who reside abroad. This type of active registration of the voters with inconsistent records was conducted for the first time. In spite the efforts for reviewing the Voters list, there are inconsistent records which resulted from long-term systematic problems within its maintenance and updates.
Few days before the Election Day, there were technical problems on the SEC web page for Voters List check-ups, that is, large number of citizens reacted that could not find their names in the Voters List. After the problems were solved, the web page was put into function again, and this time the search could be done only by the registration number of the citizens, but not by name and surname and by addresses. This act created confusion among the citizens who at the very moment were not able to find their names on the web page and this one did not contribute towards strengthening the trust in the Voters List before the Election Day.
The SEC has improved its transparency by conducted 5 out of 46 sessions without presence of the public. Still, the key decisions were made on working meetings behind closed doors. Even though the SEC was supplemented by independent members who are elected by consensus of the ruling and oppositional political parties, still there was not a lack of political quarrels between the members nominated by the political parties. Once again the SEC faced the challenge to meet all the deadlines for conduct of the election process, which is an indicator that in a very short time certain measures for capacity building of the SEC should be undertaken.
In April 2016, at 2 closed sessions, the new members of the MECs were elected, since the mandate of the previous ones has expired. One of the MEC’s competences is to form the EBs. MOST has monitored this process and 13 out of 25 monitored MECs have incompletely conducted the random choice rule, i.e. within the selection of EB members, other criteria were applied such as knowing the members of the MEC, relative’s relationships, occupation, etc., even though these criteria are not prescribed by the Election Code. Additionally it was noted that part of the MECs members were not trained enough about the manner of election of EB members and on the way to use the software.
The Municipal Election Commissions, as always, have faced problems in terms of premises, finance and equipment. Unlike SEC, the MECs have to improve their transparency, since they do not inform the observers about the conduct of the sessions.
As to the training of the election administration, there were inconsistences regarding the SEC instructions on a valid ballot paper, by which only encircling is a valid way to mark the ballot paper. This news was not part of the video-guidelines of the SEC designated for education of the election administration that was developed for the first time. This lead to some part of the EBs, not to be consistent in the process of declaring valid and invalid ballot papers.
At the very moment the deadline for lodging complaints on the voting process is on, and should this kind of complaints are lodged, we do appeal the SEC to review them seriously and to make decisions consistently and in accordance with the Election Code and best international practices, because, having on mind the small differences within the gained votes of the participants, the SEC decisions can have an impact on the final results and deployment of the mandates in certain Election Units.
MOST extends its utmost gratitude to all the citizens who selflessly supported our efforts to ensure domestic non-partisan monitoring of the elections and who have been part of MOST’s great family, as well as to all those who supported and helped the mission of the MOST Citizen’s Association.
The Project “Domestic monitoring of Early Parliamentary elections 2016” is supported by the Embassy of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, USAID through the National Democratic Institution, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the National Endowment for Democracy.
The content of this press release is the responsibility of MOST and do not necessarily reflect the views and positions of the donors.