Xhabir Deralla: There is chaos in the voter list
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INBOX7: Mr. Deralla, your NGO Civil participated with about 150 observers in these elections. Can you tell us what kind of irregularities your observers came across on the ground?
Deralla: – There were a number of irregularities. First, if you allow me, I would start with one of the greatest irregularities concerning the system, and it is the voter list. Many other irregularities resulted from it, such as suspicions, and in some cases obvious indications that there were people with multiple IDs voting multiple times. We saw irregularities there are more entrances, more apartments in a single block of flats, even imaginary blocks of flats. In this connection we noticed a number of other inconsistencies, weaknesses and I would say irregularities because thanks to the chaos in the VL many people did not use their right to vote, that is, that right was denied because polling places were disseminated in many cases. Family members who for years, decades have been voting at one polling place, spouses who have been living together for twenty years in an apartment, suddenly in this election looked for their polling places separately. These are things that are incredibly affecting the quality of polling day or the entire election process. On the election day there was a series of irregularities, although I would say that it all went relatively peacefully, there was no physical or armed violence or there was not too much.
On the other hand, we would say that in these elections there was physical violence if we consider the attack of a high representative of the opposition party by a senior representative of the government coalition in a polling place which is terrifying according to the democratic character of elections.
There were many other inconsistencies, such as violation of electoral silence, bribery, corruption of electorate, pressure, blackmail, promises of jobs and other benefits that come after you vote for a particular party and you will be hired to bring more voters. So you do not get something for yourself if only you vote, but if you bring as many people as possible, your family, your friends, your neighbors.
INBOX7: Could you specify the municipalities where these irregularities occurred?
Deralla: We can say that even in the municipalities where there was a low turnout, that is the municipalities with predominantly Albanian population, we noticed irregularities because the party that had called for a boycott performed a kind of pressure on the electorate between the Albanians not to vote. Otherwise, in all municipalities in Skopje, particularly the urban city municipalities, we noticed a lot of irregularities, most of them really serious.
We noticed irregularities in Veles, Kumanovo, Strumica, Delcevo, Stip, Bitola, Ohrid, Kriva Palanka, Negotino, Prilep…I would say virtually everywhere. There were irregularities in rural areas, too. We see most irregularities as a growing trend in urban areas, at least for the first round of presidential elections. I assume that this figure will increase. The array of irregularities, pressures in the electoral context will increase as the election day approaches, when parliamentary coincide with presidential elections. We assume that the violence will grow and continue to divert attention in other directions, or to put pressure on the entire electorate.
INBOX7: So far, according to the irregularities that you have found, do you have any calculations how much the situation in the field corresponds to the voter list. I mean as an overall figure from more municipalities.
Deralla: It is somewhat difficult for an NGO to determine it. We may look big, but we are a relatively small organization. We cannot do that as we do not have instruments at hand, so we do not have the institutions at hand. It must be done by a more serious institution but if it decides to work professionally, not in party fetters. But ultimately we can make some estimates. We will certainly do it, but currently the analyses are still underway. Our estimate is that the number is huge.
INBOX7: How much does the number of persons registered in the voter list deviate from those on the ground?
Deralla: If you say that there are a three-digit number of cases reported by citizens, and another three-digit number which we are reading in reports of our observers, I can tell you that thousands have been in question so far. However, that figure, we suppose, or it is my personal assumption, is much higher.
INBOX7: Do you think this condition will be reflected in the second round?
Deralla: It will absolutely reflect, as it reflected in the first round, or in past elections in 2013 and 2011. We have been involved in the electoral processes since 2008. This year, perhaps the most drastic of all the years before, it will be obvious that the VL is seriously bad and would seriously affect the entire election process, and I guess that will affect the democratic process afterwards.
INBOX7: At one of the sites you have been characterized as the main fist of SDSM in the campaign monitoring. How do you comment on these attacks?
Deralla: I wrote on Facebook that “Kurir” practices a kosmodisk journalism that looks “cross-eyed”, but it works. It is funny to me, although the effects or consequences of such journalism are perilous to democracy. Such journalists are involved in a very serious crime practice in something that for me, at least for a long time, and today, has been my holiness – once a journalist always a journalist. It is really sad what journalists do with journalism, some of them, of course. It is truly bold and large what many journalists do, but in a smaller number of media. I want them to know they have my respect and support at any time.
INBOX7: How do these presidential elections differ from the previous ones?
Deralla: One important difference is that in the last presidential election at least we saw a debate between presidential candidates. The debate was this year left out except for a relatively tenuous debate in a setting hostile to any content, journalism, let alone quality presidential debate, with all due respect to the people who work there. I am talking about the setting, the position of the institution, which does not provide any quality debating time or opportunities. Moreover, the difference being that irregularities are raised to a higher level system.
So if structural violence was present but not crucial in the last presidential election, here we have a structural violence, a structural performance towards everything, an organized approach to any segment of the political process called elections. The difference is that we have more quality irregularities.
INBOX7: Do you expect incidents in the second round of presidential elections?
Deralla: I hope there will not be any incidents. I hope that institutions will find strength at least in these remaining few days to make it possible to have more dignified elections, although I doubt it. As for the incidents, unfortunately I think there will be some. Regardless of how it seems to us as spontaneous violence, it is not spontaneous.
INBOX7: What places would you say will be the most critical on the election day?
Deralla: Urban environments are somehow more susceptible to irregularities, but on the other hand, rural areas are trampled. Right now, while you are in my office, they are over. Irregularities occurred there long ago. On the election day, the final pieces of the plan will be executed. What can be explosive is on interethnic plan. And my organization will work on it preventively. It is possible to get to the serious destructions of the electoral process in the evening hours. I hope that after the election day those in power will not manifest power as they manifested in other elections. It does not matter whether it was an accident or not, it ended with a fatality, and in other cases it ended with spectacular arrests of opposition members.
The day of the second round of presidential or parliamentary elections will be very tense. We know that. I can say that in major towns there can be more serious irregularities because there are more people.