Changes to the electoral code almost invisible in the campaign
When changes to the electoral code were brought at the beginning of last year it seemed that there would not be anyone unhappy. However, the campaign shows that the changes are not enough and really visible
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The ink on the right thumb that will mark voters on Sunday might stay the most visible thing passed as a change to the electoral code, something which the government, parties and the OSCE/ODIHR have been agreeing for months.
Changes were made in late January this year. They have covered most key observations except changes in the electoral voting system and the distribution of mandates in the diaspora, for which the parties have not reached an agreement and agreed to settle it before the next parliamentary elections.
In short, the parties agreed from the date of announcement of elections to the election day not to begin new constructions, not to carry out emergency payments to citizens, not to pay subsidies that are not regular, to have stronger controls of the voters’ list, then they agreed on several measures necessary to bring a more equitable representation of the candidates of the public broadcaster, and campaign donations are limited.
But those who follow the election process believe that these changes have not brought any visible and large differences.
–There is a step forward, but it is far from sufficient and visible – says Mitko Gadzovski, political scientist from FON.
Ideal code impossible
In last year’s local elections almost to the election day the public witnessed laying foundation of schools, sports halls, bridges. Now this is not the case because the penalties are high, but Gadzovski says there are ways that are not restricted to doing a similar promotion.
–For example, from technical aspect there is no legal provision that bans officials to appear on projects that are already underway and it is used to avoid the already adopted amendments to the electoral code – considers Gadzovski.
The report of OSCE/ODIHR about the local elections held in March last year stated that “in spite of the active campaign, biased and partisan coverage, interference of government and party activities did not always allow a field for equal competition between candidates”.
– I think ideal separation can never be expected. From the adopted amendments to the public service a difference is noticeable since more space is given to the opposition, and in most private media there is affection towards the ruling party – says Professor Rizvan Sulejmani.
Gadzovski considers that the difference between the state and the party is not completely visible.
– Participation of officials in the campaign still does not allow clear separation between officials’ and party activities. There is some separation established, but it is not totally clear – says Gadzovski.
After the elections, changes again
Analysts believe that after these elections some new changes in the process will probably be necessary.
–They will be necessary mostly in the area of increasing the clear division between party and officials’ activities, and every subsequent change I think will increasingly determine the credentials of the participants in the elections. I think we need to increase the penalties, and to apply the law for those who break it during the entire election process because until now in most of the cases only violations occurring on election day have been sanctioned – says Gadzovski.
What are the key changes?
- Donations must not be higher than 50, 000 Euros by a legal entity
- Visible ink for marking voters
- Changed composition of the electoral boards in the diplomatic and consular representations where the President of the Board is elected by diplomats and the deputy and the members by the administration and parties
- It is forbidden to start construction, laying the groundwork, commissioning of facilities built with budget funds.
- It is forbidden to carry out payments of salaries, pensions, social assistance or
payments and other tangible benefits of budget or by means of public funds that are not regular monthly payments and
- It is prohibited to pay subsidies that are not regular monthly payments
The Ministry of Interior should perform updating of voters’ lists four times a year and to make a special statement of persons who are overseas on election day
MRT during the election campaign to provide one-third of events in the country, one-third of government events and a third events of opposition
The parliamentary channel will provide free advertising for three hours both for the opposition and the ruling parties
The laws governing the elections have so far been changed after almost every election.
After the recent changes, when it became clear that along with the second round of presidential elections it will be voted for early parliamentary elections, the opposition again demanded changes to the code because they had been passed before being announced that the elections will actually be double. SDSM then asked to solve the problem with the two different deadlines for closing the voters’ list, a legal solution to the problem with respect to deadlines for the campaign and the issue of media representation, but the minister of Justice, Blerim Bedzeti turned down repeated interventions to the laws and the issue was left to the State Election Commission.
The current electoral code was adopted in 2006, and first amendments were passed after the elections in 2008 when the diaspora vote was inserted in it.
ODIHR, in its first assessment for the campaign given last week, says that there is progress in the changes that need to ensure separation of the state from the party, but it evaluates the restrictive definition and duration of the election campaign as contentious, the inequality of votes in the country and in the diaspora, high threshold of 50 percent to win the presidency in the first round and 40 percent in the second and the lack of audit and sanctioning political parties reports.
They evaluated that several times SEC members have voted along party lines. According to them, almost all candidates and parties have violated the pre-election period.
Editor: Tamara Causidis