Time: 7:30 p.m. CEST
Event though parliamentary election on December 11, scheduled in Republic of Macedonia would not be the only early election in the country 25 years of independence, it will be the most chilly one, as freezing temperature in the mornings slow down the habitual cycle of dynamism in the country. The forecast on Sunday is more promising than in the previous week, when all participants on the early election campaigned across the country trying to persuade the voters in their programs, visions and promises.
Early election on December 11 could end the political crisis in the country, which endures for more than three years or it could deepen the gaps among different political stakeholders. The European Union, which officials are guarantors of the July 15 agreement, commented that it would closely monitor the election on December 11, 2016.
A state-run Macedonia Informative Agency’s published on Friday a statement from the spokesperson of the European Commission Maja Kocijancic, that the elections are opportunity for the state to commence. As Kocijancic stated to MIA, the election offers chance for the country to unite around the strategic goals. The election process is only the small part of the bigger commitments of the country, undertook with the so-called Przino Agreement.
End of Political Campaign
About six hours before the end of the political campaigns, which endured for three weeks, President Gjorgje Ivanov, appealed to all included in the electoral process to demonstrate appropriate level of the political culture and respect the Constitution and laws of Republic of Macedonia. Ivanov expects that the will of the people will be respected on December 11. For Ivanov, that could mark the beginning of the end of the political crisis and could mean the start of the national reconciliation.
Eleven political subjects gathered in pre-election coalitions or independently would expect their share in the percentage of the voters, who will cast their votes on Election Day. About 1,784,416 people would vote for 123 members of the Assembly (Parliament) of Republic of Macedonia. Early parliamentarian election in Macedonia happens almost two years before the scheduled term for general election due to the political crisis in Macedonia. The last general elections were in 2014, when Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity and their coalition won 42, 97% of the votes.
At stake for these elections are not the only the parliamentarian seats at the Assembly, but who will lead the country in the next four-year period. Main rivals at this election are former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia president, Zoran Zaev. Despite the previous elections in Macedonia, the main political battle will be in the Electoral Unit 4, where Gruevski and Zaev would contest for the trust of the voters.
Despite, these are not usual elections in the country, considering the developments since the summer of 2013, when riot police moved into the makeshift opposition camp in Skopje center and removed the activists from the ground to start building of the administrative building and cut the trees. But, that was not the end of the confrontations.
In the following year, about 20.000 students marched in Skopje for education rights and against the education reforms introduced by the ruling government of VMRO-DPMNE and political subject of Albanians, the Democratic Union of Integration.
How We Get Here?
During the winter of 2015, president of SDSM, Zoran Zaev disclosed the information about massive reported intercepted conversation, on which he blamed at first, foreign intelligence services and later said the materials came from domestic factors. Soon after the disclosures of the materials, opposition started to publish those conversations on thematic news conferences. The situation erupted on May 5, 2015, when protesters, and people clashed with riot police at the government building in Skopje. Two months after the European Union representatives and Ambassador of the United States in Skopje, Jess Baily brokered an agreement with several steps to end the crisis.
One of the agreed subjects stipulated in the so-called Przino Agreement was the issue of an early election, which were postponed two times, as there were at first scheduled for April 24, than for June 5 and finally re-scheduled for December 11, 2016. The agreement holds signatures of the European Union Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy, Johannes Hahn, the United States Ambassador Jess Baily, president of VMRO-DPMNE Party, Nikola Gruevski, president of SDSM, Zoran Zaev, president of DUI, Ali Ahmeti and president of the Democratic Party of Albanians, Menduh Taci. But, their parties are not the only one who will contest on Election Day.
Who is Competing on Election?
As the data of the State Election Commission of Republic of Macedonia shows 11 political subjects and coalitions would compete on early elections. BESA Movement, consisted of Albanians in Macedonia would participate on the election for the first time, and another political subject, Left, would also be part of the election process in the country.
BESA is a movement, mainly created during the protests of Albanians after the cases, which included controversies in the relation between Albanians and state institutions after several police and court cases. Left Party emerged from the protests, which erupted in the last two years in the country, mostly from the sympathizers of the workers and union rights.
Several protesters from the so-called “Colorful Revolution” look for their MPs seats in the Parliament incorporated in the candidates lists of the opposition SDSM and 13 others party, which campaigned under the slogan “Life in Macedonia.”
VMRO-DPMNE “For Better Macedonia,” includes 24 other smaller political coalition partners that would again request the support for another mandate, despite the all controversies involving their high-level representatives in ruling of Macedonia since 2011. This party holds majority since the victory in 2006 and ruled together with Albanian Party DUI in the previous decade.
Political Controversies and Uncertainties
The process of Skopje’s renewal and constructions of building and monuments within the controversial project “Skopje2014,” a common effort by the partners on power created an atmosphere of mistrust of the residents, non-governmental organizations and opposition. Together with pressure, constant turbulences, clashes between protesters and riot police, parties on power challenged the opposition and civil sector. All that created gaps, which EU and US are trying to close with political negotiation and political process.
Republic of Macedonia is on crossroad as divisions, gaps, and mutual accusations for widespread corruption in the country burden the small landlocked Balkan country, which destiny would mainly depend on what direction the country; their political elites and residents would decide to take. Several days before the election, the U.S. Embassy in Macedonia, based in Skopje, issued warning to their residents in the country “to avoid large crowds, protests and rallies when possible.” The Embassy stated that, “while recent elections in Macedonia have been peaceful, election-related disturbances are possible.”
The Embassy gives no further details what kind of disturbances could occur on the Election Day. Most recently, tense atmosphere happened at the large rally of the opposition SDSM and their partners, when some young people wanted to break the security cordon during the rally, but incidents were prevented.
In general, despite the political parties programs, which mainly offer two ideas for the raise of minimum wage in the country to 12.000 denars (200 euros), as SDSM says, and VMRO-DPMNE pledges or 14.000.denars (about 230 euros) from current 10.000 denars (slightly over 150 euros), infrastructure projects, roads, hospitals, better health care etc., at stake it is future of Republic of Macedonia.
Opposition SDSM enjoys support of some of the Albanian population in the country, but not much of the ruling DUI Party, which officials suffered in the interception scandal that now involve newly created institution, Prosecution for investigation of the content of illegally intercepted conversations.
Overall, early parliamentarian election could mark the era of Nikola Gruveski in the politics of Macedonia or it could even further cement his possible role in the future of the political process. SDSM President Zoran Zaev could face same challenges, not only if he wins, but also if he looses the election.
The recent ratings by local research agencies depending of who requested the ratings offer advantages to different political parties. The early vote starts on December 8., when diaspora and soldiers would first cast their votes. Election Day is on December 9 and the polling places would be open from 7:00 a.m. CEST, to 7:00 p.m. CEST.
About 8000 domestic observers would watch closely on elections, together with 667 foreign observers and their 354 translators, the country State Election Commission said. Foreign media houses and reporters would follow the Election Day with 75 reporters. The domestic observers pointed out on several issues and political parties informed about the destroyed billboards or violence toward campaign materials during the campaign process. The campaign started on November 16 and ends at midnight. After the day of electoral silence, the voters would say their words will the country would turn to left or to right.
On social media, one of the popular hashtags is #избори2016. The State Election Commission official Twitter account is @izbori_Mk.
Here is one of their Tweet on how citizens can report electoral irregularities.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe or their mission for monitoring of the elections, ODHIR would hold news conference on December 12, to announce the preliminary findings of the election process.
Even Ambassadors have their roles in the election process. For example, is some of the previous election circles Ambassadors participated in the observation process. Here is the tweet of the U.S. Ambassador Jess Baily, who advocates for voting rights.