Macedonia - Election 2008
At NATO's Bucharest Summit in April 2008, all 26 NATO Allies agreed Macedonia had met the criteria for membership. Consensus on extending a NATO membership invitation could not be reached, due to the unresolved dispute with Greece over Macedonia's name. Following the Bucharest Summit, the opposition DUI party, in collaboration with the governing VMRO-DPMNE and DPA parties, called for the dissolution of parliament and for early parliamentary elections, which were held in June 2008.
The final week before the 01 June 2008 parliamentary elections was marked by continued tensions between ethnic Albanian parties DUI and DPA. Police charged 88 individuals for pre-election or Election Day violence. Of the overall number, 20 suspects were in pre-trial detention, including DPA-affiliated crime boss Agim Krasniqi and his gang of nine and three individuals charged in a June 1 shootout in the Skopje neighborhood of Cair.
On June 1, the country held national parliamentary elections. The country held two additional rounds of elections--in 187 polling stations on June 15, and in 15 polling stations on June 29--as a result of a review y the State Election Commission (SEC) of reports of violence, intimidation, and serious irregularities. International observers characterized the elections as flawed, and the OSCE Election Observation Mission in Macedonia reported that the parliamentary elections did not meet key OSCE commitments. OSCE reported that the government procedurally administered the elections well in most of the country, but cited a failure of some election stakeholders and relevant authorities to prevent violent acts in predominantly ethnic Albanian areas. OSCE and other international observers noted that voters in many locations were not able to freely express their will due to limited and selective enforcement of laws and organized efforts to violently disrupt the elections.
During the campaign period, the security environment varied significantly between predominantly ethnic Albanian areas and the rest of the country. The OSCE report stated that the lack of a police response to numerous acts of violence and intimidation in predominantly ethnic Albanian areas created an atmosphere of impunity. Violent incidents in predominantly ethnic Albanian areas marred the June 1 round of elections, with one person killed and several others injured. The security situation improved for rounds two and three of the elections, preventing violent incidents like those of June 1.
Discrepancies between the 2006 election code and several laws passed since that time affected the appeals process in the parliamentary elections. OSCE noted that discrepancies in the judicial appeals process resulted in gaps in the protection of rights of electoral candidates, due to lack of clarity about which body was responsible for deciding on appeals as well as which specific actions by election bodies constitute final administrative acts and could thus be appealed.
Following her party's defeat in the 01 June 2008 early parliamentary elections, Radmila Sekerinska, President of the largest opposition party, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), stepped down on June 3. Sekerinska conceded ruling party VMRO's landslide victory, but noted that her party had managed to narrow the predicted 3:1 lead of her political opponents to a 2:1 lead that secured 28 (out of 120) MP seats for her coalition. Referring to SDSM's "established principle" of holding its leaders solely accountable for election defeats, Sekerinska said her decision was final and could not be reversed by SDSM's Executive Committee. On July 26, Prime Minister Gruevski was reconfirmed in office with a new coalition along with the DUI party and one smaller party. Next regular parliamentary elections should be in 2012.
Macedonia was at a crossroads in its democratic development -- if it succeeded in holding free and fair re-runs, and DUI accepted the outcome, there was a good chance that the damage already done to the country's NATO and EU candidacies could be repaired. If it failed to do so, the political repercussions would be swift and potentially destabilizing. DUI would feel that it had been cheated out of what it considered its legitimate place as the representative of the majority of ethnic Albanian voters.
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