Sunday, May 19, 2024

Electoral ‘’Masks’’ 

Author: Sefer Selimi Jr. 

Forced isolation and coercive measures by the Government to prevent the further spread of Covid-19 pandemic changed our daily lives. Largely, the government’s response, crisis management and response to the consequences produced in the coming period will be the battlefield for the next political race.

On April 12, 2020, early parliamentary elections were scheduled to be held in North Macedonia, but the outbreak of the epidemic disrupted the pre-election campaign and canceled the election date at a meeting of leaders with President Pendarovski. The annulment of the review of the constitutionality of the decision to call early elections by the Constitutional Court may be a warning that they may be organized soon, perhaps in the next two months. Recent party statements and public clashes between the main parties also suggest that we are likely to approach a political campaign.

For the largest ruling party, SDSM, it is clear that it is positioned that early parliamentary elections be organized as soon as possible. In fact, it seems that the ruling party is ready to campaign virtually, without mass rallies of citizens with the sole purpose of keeping them in the near future. Logic after this insistence must stand in fear of the ensuing period and the economic crisis that is knocking. It is certain that, like all other countries, North Macedonia will have an economic recession and this crisis will most likely be gradual and the real effects will be seen in a few months. Therefore, the sooner the elections are organized, the smaller the bill will be in the votes that SDSM will have to pay for the economic crisis. In addition, the government’s response to the pandemic, especially the performance of the Minister of Health, has been positively assessed by the citizens and in an effort to capitalize on this moment is tempting for the fact that the collective memory is short and most likely if the elections are delayed, there will be no major impact on voters. SDSM also expects stimulus packages and the direct injection of money into the economy, especially in small and medium-sized businesses, to reflect positively on their votes, and if elections are organized soon, the implementation of economic packages is likely to be rapid but also misused for clientelism and electoral corruption.

On contrary, VMRO-DPMNE is interested in holding elections as late as possible. In fact, they are likely to demand that elections be held on a regular date on December, when the effects of the economic crisis will be felt by citizens, and that this offers them the opportunity to build a campaign on public discontent and the “golden offer ” to get out of the crisis. They also need time to damage the positive perception of the government’s response to pandemics, especially for Minister Filipce, and this does not rule out that in the ensuing period there will be organized denigrating campaigns on his figure and work. As for the stimulus package and for economic assistance, it will be an extraordinary platform to build accusations of corruption, but also to give pre-election promises that will go beyond real opportunities for realization and that will sound good to the citizen’s ear.

For the Albanian parties, the next period will most likely not have any major reflection and the framework of clashes and the race between them will remain for the topic before the pandemic. The only change will be their ability to mobilize voters if the campaign is to be virtual and here of course the financial capacity to buy the right PR plays a role.

Chances are early elections will be held in late June or August, but they could be postponed until late fall, and this will be clarified in the next two weeks. However, the key factor will remain the situation with pandemics and it will not only define the theme of the campaign but also the form of election organization. “Masks” that were once synonymous with electoral irregularities this time will be the norm for organizing them!

 

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