Macedonia - Election 2002
In September 2002 elections, an SDSM-led pre-election coalition won half of the 120 seats in parliament. Branko Crvenkovski was elected Prime Minister in coalition with the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) party and the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP).
On August 13, 2001, domestic political parties signed the Framework Agreement (FWA) that brought the 2001 insurgency to an end, with international facilitation by the US and the EU. Officials estimated that approximately 100 laws would be affected by the FWA to some extent, 80 of which are specific to decentralization and local self-governance. By year's end, the Parliament had started implementing FWA-mandated legislative actions (including amendment of the Constitution), which provided for enhanced minority civil rights and devolution of power to local governments. The platform and laws deal with issues such as Albanian language usage in Parliament, local government, and higher education; equitable access to media; reform of police and inclusion of more minorities in the police and other state institutions; and the return of police, refugees, and IDPs to the former conflict areas. Government officials estimated that the process will be completed before the next local elections in 2004.
Opposition parties won a decisive victory in the 15 September 2002 national parliamentary elections, which were free, fair, and peaceful, with a turnout of 73 percent of the population. The technical conduct of the elections, under the leadership of State Election Commission President Mirjana Lazarova-Trajkovska, and with international assistance, met international standards. The OSCE led an international monitoring effort that involved almost 1,000 observers. The mostly ethnic Macedonian "For Macedonia Together" coalition (led by the SDSM and LDP) won 60 of 120 parliamentary seats, defeating the governing VMRO-DPMNE party and its pre-election coalition partner, the Liberal Party, which together obtained 33 seats. The Macedonian Socialist Party won one seat. Among ethnic Albanian political parties, the DUI, led by former NLA commander Ali Ahmeti, won 16 seats. The ethnic Albanian DPA won seven, the PDP two, and the NDP one.
Of the few, isolated electoral irregularities, the most serious occurred in Lesok, where "Lions" entered a polling place brandishing weapons, beat the local electoral board president, and stole the ballot boxes. Elections were rerun in Lesok 2 weeks later. The rerun was peaceful and did not change the outcome of the elections.
On 31 October 2002, Parliament voted in a new Government composed of the SDSM, LDP, and DUI. SDSM President and former Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski was confirmed as Prime Minister; the SDSM also heads the Ministries of Defense, Foreign Affairs, Interior, Local Government, Culture, Economy, and Environment. The LDP heads the Ministries of Finance, Labor, and Social Welfare, and Agriculture, and has one Minister Without Portfolio. The DUI heads the Ministries of Justice, Transport and Communication, Education, and Health. One of three Deputy Prime Minister positions was allocated to each of the three parties.
Prior to the September 15 national elections, the ruling VMRO-DPMNE-led government tried to influence the outcome through intimidation of opposition supporters and journalists. During the campaign, there were incidents of intimidation of political candidates and supporters. A local SDSM party leader had a molotov cocktail thrown through his office window. VMRO city bosses threatened to fire municipal employees who voted for the rival SDSM. Local police were used to harass opposition supporters. Prior to the elections, Former Minister of the Interior Boskovski attempted to manipulate the voters list by registering 3,200 ethnic Macedonians who live in Albania (and had recently been issued passports by Boskovski) as "residents" of the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior. Following the conclusion of the elections, VMRO-DPMNE tried to cast doubt on their validity.
Former Minister of Interior Boskovski and approximately 10 senior police officers attempted to intimidate the State Election Commission (SEC) President on the night of September 18 in order to prevent her from announcing the election results within the legally mandated 72 hours. Boskovski continued to publicly make claims of forgery and fraud, which were unsubstantiated by international election observers. He also sent police--with a falsified warrant--to raid the ballot printing plant in Prilep on the evening of September 17. Boskovski alleged that hundreds of thousands of additional ballots had been clandestinely printed and fraudulently used. However, his party, the VMRO-DPMNE, had been among those that had previously agreed to destroy the ballots prior to the elections due to a printing error. On September 9, members of the "Lions" paramilitary unit disrupted an opposition campaign rally in Prilep with gunfire. No one was injured. Prior to the rally, some of the "Lions" and other VMRO-DPMNE supporters tried to block opposition leaders' entrance into Prilep by blocking access roads.
A national census, specifically called for in the Framework Agreement, was carried out in November 2002 with EU assistance and oversight. The census enumeration, which met international standards, was accepted by all significant local groups. However, an ethnic breakdown and final results were still pending at year's end. It was decided that broad acceptance of documentation to indicate residence would be accepted as valid identification; sufficient numbers of minority enumerators were hired; and several languages were used on census forms. In accordance with international standards, Macedonian citizens abroad longer than one year were not counted.
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