Macedonia - Election 2011
In June 2011 the country held parliamentary elections, with high public turnout and only minor confirmed incidents. The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights reported that the elections were “transparent and well administered throughout the country”; however, insufficient separation between party and state activities and pressure on public sector employees to support the ruling coalition were problems. For the first time, citizens residing abroad could vote by absentee ballot.
On 06 June 2011, the day after the national election, police arrested Ljube Boskoski, leader of the United for Macedonia political party, on charges of illegal election campaign financing and misuse of official position. Boskoski was convicted on November 29 and sentenced to seven years in prison. Boskoski asserted his arrest was political retaliation for his preelection antigovernment speeches. Other sources claimed that his conviction was also retaliation for his alleged cooperation with the Office of the Prosecutor in the 2001 war crimes cases in which Boskoski received an acquittal, while the second defendant, Johan Tarculovski, was convicted and received a 12-year prison sentence.
In August 2011 the government demolished the Cosmos apartment building owned by Fiat Canovski, leader of the opposition Party for European Future, claiming that it was a few inches above code requirements. Canovski asserted that the demolition was political retaliation for his party’s having joined the opposition and financing opposition-oriented A1 Television after its accounts were frozen, allowing it to remain on the air during the election campaign. The government subsequently filed four court cases against Canovski and appointed to the case a judge who was the aunt of the minister of interior. Canovski reported difficulty in obtaining a firm to assess damages for insurance purposes (not only to his property, but to equipment belonging to the construction company as well). Canovski filed a complaint with the ECHR. On November 30, the government withdrew from parliament a draft amendment to the Construction Law, the purpose of which, according to the opposition, was to legalize the Cosmos’ demolition retroactively.
In December 2012 at the direction of the parliamentary speaker, who was a member of the ruling coalition, police forcibly removed opposition members and journalists from parliament during a dispute over the budget. Following the expulsion, members from the government coalition passed the 2013 budget and several other pieces of legislation. The opposition subsequently protested, boycotted parliament, and threatened to boycott local elections. On 01 March 2013, the EU brokered a deal under which the opposition returned to parliament and participated in local elections. The March 1 Agreement also established a commission to conduct a formal investigation of the December 2012 events. In August 2013 commission members produced a final report. Although government representatives signed the report, they immediately and publicly disavowed its legality and some of its contents.
Government pressure on the media was a growing problem. There were credible reports that the government attempted to impede criticism in the media by directing its purchases of advertising toward progovernment media outlets. The mainstream media rarely published views opposing the government. The government was the largest purchaser of advertising in the country, making media outlets financially dependent on revenue from the government and therefore subject to pressure not to present views critical of the government. During the March 2013 local election campaign, state owned Macedonian Radio Television provided broadcast time to the opposition as required by the law, but there were reports that progovernment editors dictated what to show during the opposition’s broadcast.
In March and April 2013 the country held local elections that had significant national overtones. For example, the major parties campaigned on clearly national problems such as regional relations and ethnic minority rights. Opposition parties attempted to turn the local elections into a national referendum on the ruling coalition’s alleged authoritarian tendencies.
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