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Macedonia - Election 2009

In 2009, Macedonia held presidential and local elections in March (first round) and April (second round). In the presidential race, VMRO-DPMNE candidate Gjorge Ivanov won with 64% of the vote.

Just nine months after holding parliamentary elections marked by violence, intimidation and serious irregularities, Macedonia held its first-ever concurrent presidential and mayoral/municipal elections, with the first round on March 22 and second on April 5. With Euro-Atlantic integration progress at a standstill, all eyes were on preparations for the upcoming campaign and elections, and all parties knew that these elections must be markedly better than the last.

Political aspects of the Presidential and local elections notwithstanding, there were many procedural challenges to jointly administering presidential and mayoral/municipal elections. The State Electoral Commission (SEC), Municipal Electoral Commissions (MECs) and Local Electoral Boards (LEBs) had been re-constituted under tight timelines, and faced the challenges of time and human resources to sufficiently train and prepare ahead of the elections.

The official campaign period lasted only twenty days, beginning March 2. Parties are subject to fines for any political rallies, advertisements or posters ahead of the campaign period. There is a one-day media blackout period on March 21, and rallies and advertising are not allowed on that day.

The State Electoral Commission (SEC), the 85 Municipal Electoral Commissions (MECs) and the nearly 3000 Local Electoral Boards (LEBs) are charged with the procedural aspects of administering elections. The SEC was re-constituted in December 2008, with four of its seven members remaining for another term. The SEC then established the MECs from a pared-down list of possible members, since 100 MEC members implicated in electoral fraud in the June 2008 elections were dismissed from service.

The newly reformed MECs in turn constituted the nearly 3000 LEBs by the end of January. Changes to the electoral code altered the make-up of the LEBs for the March/April elections, with the requirement that two members from the parties in the government that received the most votes in the June 2008 elections (VMRO-DPMNE and DUI) and the two members from the opposition parties that received the most votes in the June elections (SDSM and DPA) be included in each of the LEBs, with the remaining six LEB members named from lists of public sector employees.

The return to including political party representatives in the LEBs (after only a single instance) the June 2008 elections -- of constituting the LEBs exclusively from public sector employees) did little to lessen concerns about political pressure and influence on the LEBs, a serious problem in the June 2008 elections.

Presidential elections were held in two rounds, with the whole country as a single voting district. To be included on the ballot, a candidate must get signatures from 10,000 voters or 30 members of parliament, a threshold challenging for some potential candidates. A candidate could be elected in a single round only by securing 50% plus 1 vote of the total number of registered voters. The bloated voter list (nearly 1.8 million registered voters for a population of 2.1 million) and high number of presidential candidates (seven this time, between four and seven in previous elections) made a first-round win virtually impossible.

The top two vote-getters thus advance to a second round. To win in the second round, a candidate must get the majority of votes from a newly-reduced (reftel) turnout of 40% of registered voters. If the threshold of 40% is not met, the electoral process is re-started from the beginning (nominations of candidates) and the Speaker of the Parliament serves as interim president (as he would in any absence of the President) until such time as elections were re-run and meet the 40% threshold.

In contrast to the 2008 parliamentary elections, the elections were peaceful, and the OSCE stated that police provided a secure environment. The OSCE characterized the elections as meeting most commitments and other international standards, and noted that the overall administration of the elections was professional and transparent. However, the OSCE and other observers noted that intimidation of voters was a problem. Public sector employees were particularly vulnerable to threats that their jobs would be in danger if they did not support the governing party. Some citizens receiving pensions or social services were also threatened with the loss of this income if they did not vote as instructed. In October the Ministry of Justice began a pilot project in two municipalities, Gostivar and Vinica, aimed at updating the voters' lists.

The Ohrid Framework Agreement, recast into the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia and several separate laws, proved to be a good basis for improvement of the multiethnic society, by solving the requirements of the ethnic communities. Progress in the implementation had been achieved, thus improving the interethnic relations. In the period September 2008 September 2009, in compliance with the Programme for employment of members of the communities, adopted by the Republic of Macedonia Government in January 2009, 5 employment advertisements had been opened for 900 civil servants in the bodies of the central and local government. Thus resulting with the following figures for representation of the community members in the budget users at central and local level: out of 77.600 (100%) Macedonians were 59.380 (76.3%), Albanians were 14.640 (18.8%), Turks were 1170 (1.50%), Vlachs were 358 (0.46%), Serbs were 1110 (1.42%), Romas were 451 (0.57%), Bosniacs were 205 (0.26%) and others 554 (0.71%).





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