Sunday, May 19, 2024

PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS IN TIME OF PANDEMIC – CHALLENGE OF POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS AND ACTORS

  • Is the RNM ready to hold fair and democratic elections in a time of pandemic?
  • How far will it meet the Copenhagen Criteria (political, economic, legal)?
  • The Criminal Code of the Republic of North Macedonia provides for eleven criminal offenses against elections and voting.

 

By Subhi JAKUPI, PhD

 

Supporting the democratic election process is an issue that helps the development of the state, the advancement of society’s standards and the democratization of representative institutions. In order to administer regular, free and democratic elections, the involvement of a large number of people is needed, and everyone should be aware of their responsibilities in the electoral process and be accountable for their actions in accordance with the election rules. (law). State authorities should also be careful in financial administration, based on dealing with the means at their disposal. Successful elections are achieved through a comprehensive professional administration, well trained and in particular by respecting the protocols of the voting method provided in pandemic time and being aware of the importance of the process they administer.

ELEMENTS FOR ADMINISTRATION OF ELECTIONS

Four elements that must be met for election administration, namely:

– clear and applicable electoral regulations to ensure free and fair elections;

– autonomous electoral administration (electoral bodies);

– electoral procedure that guarantees equality (gender, racial, etc.), and at the same time the possibility of exercising free and fearless voting;

– voters (electorate) who are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

To properly manage a country’s electoral process, you need to be aware of the historical and cultural circumstances of the country in question, the financial and political situation, and the level of voter education. World experience and standards give us data that the cost of elections in countries with developed democracies is from 4 to 6 US dollars per voter (In the Republic of North Macedonia there are 1,817,023 voters x 6 dollars = 10,902,138.00 dollars ) may be the cost of the election. In a genuine election administration, a sincere cooperation is needed between the responsible state institutions, the election administration (bodies), the political parties, the non-governmental organizations of the country and the international observers.

How prepared are we to meet the Copenhagen Criteria (political, economic and legislative criteria – “acquis”) where they are the rules that determine whether a country has the right to join the European Union, where they require a state to have institutions for it maintain democratic governance and human rights, have a functioning market economy and accept the obligations and purpose of the EU. The European Commission, the OSCE / ODIHR and the Council of Europe, influence the creation of electoral policy and set rules according to which the development of successful elections is measured as free, fair and democratic, such as: “Code of Conduct and Good Practice in the election process ”of the Venice Commission, the OSCE Copenhagen Document (1990), the Paris Charter of 1990 and other OSCE documents related to electoral standards.

Therefore, electoral irregularities that have been recidivist in the past election cycles in our country should be avoided: filling ballot boxes, stealing ballots at the polling station, signing more voters in the voter list by one person, voting for one person. on behalf of the other, forced pressure and expulsion of observers and members of electoral councils from the polling station, intimidation of members of electoral councils, inconsistency of the number of voters and the number of the signed list of voters with the number of ballots found in the ballot box voting, unsigned or forged minutes, family voting, vote buying, voting called “Bulgarian train”, violation of the secrecy of the ballot, etc.

Despite all the above-mentioned irregularities, the legal system in the Republic of Northern Macedonia provides for a certain mechanism for the protection of the right to vote and for the correct and democratic security of the electoral process, such as the procedure for the protection of the right to vote. who are competent to ensure the legality of the electoral process. Also, an important mechanism for the protection of electoral rights is the misdemeanor procedure which takes place before the regular courts. This context is of particular importance and the legal-criminal response to electoral irregularities, which is also the judicial form of electoral law.

The Criminal Code of the Republic of North Macedonia provides for eleven criminal offenses against elections and voting:

– Obstruction of elections and voting (Article 158);

– Violation of the right to vote (Article 159);

– Violation of the freedom of choice of voters (Article 160);

– Misuse of electoral law (Article 161);

– Bribery during elections and voting (Article 162);

– Violation of the secrecy of the ballot (Article 163);

– Destruction of election documents (Article 164);

– Electoral fraud (Article 165);

– Misuse of funds to finance the election campaign (Article 165 a);

– Mandatory imposition of a restraining order for the performance of the activity or duty profession (Article 165 – b);

– Illegal disposal of budget funds during the election period (Article 165-c).

 

These offenses are systematized in a separate chapter (Chapter Sixteen) in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Macedonia, which is entitled “Criminal offenses against elections and voters” and what should be emphasized that these offenses provide effective prison sentences of up to 10 -twenty years. The common group object of protection of criminal offenses against elections and voting is the electoral system which represents the amount of principles and procedures by which free, impartial, secret democratic elections must be ensured, which is the fundamental value of the constitutional order in the Republic of North Macedonia.

The bodies for the implementation of elections have a role and responsibility in the realization of the above-mentioned democratic values, namely: The State Election Commission (SEC), although the composition is proposed by political parties, should maximally focus on professional interpretation of the legal framework and avoidance. political influences in this important period for the future of the country. Municipal Electoral Commissions (NEC) – (80 + 1) composed of Public Professional Administration that meets the professional requirement from a theoretical point of view, but it is worth noting that there are deviations from the fair application of the legal framework that we hope at this time and conditions of elections we will have a professional approach. Electoral councils (3456) in mixed composition 3 + 3 from the public administration and 2 + 2 from the representatives of political parties in position and opposition that are the main link of the fair implementation of the legal framework of the elections where they also represent the electoral body from where the source of electoral irregularities, therefore these bodies should reflect in professionalism and at the same time avoidance of criminal responsibility of the same as we emphasized above also the punishment provided in criminal offenses against elections.

A special and important role in the conduct of elections is played by the voter register in the RMV, where the voter can actively exercise the right to vote, he must be registered and recorded in the voter list. The electoral list is a public document which contains the names of all citizens who have the right to vote. The electoral list is mainly formed on the basis of the registration of citizens and contains the name, surname, age, gender and residential address of the citizen. The electoral list is guided by administrative division, in municipalities, cities and regions and in administrative units. The electoral list is general and applies to all election cycles and referendums and is also formed electronically.

International standards recommend that voter records should be kept by state bodies that have credibility, ie that the election administration should be politically neutral, have appropriate competencies, and have the capacity to be organized according to the principle of decentralization. The most detailed criteria for voters are the Code of Conduct for Practical Electoral Issues approved by the Local Government Commission. According to this Code, meeting the following criteria is essential for electoral lists to be secure:

  • Voter lists must be permanent;
  • There must be regular updates at least once a year where registered voters are not allowed to register for the next period;
  • Voter lists must be announced;
  • There should be an administrative procedure, a court procedure for unregistered voters to be enabled to register, so that the voter on the day of the elections at the polling station in an unhindered manner can exercise his / her right to vote.

 

In the Republic of Macedonia in the Electoral Code, Article 5, it is determined that the Electoral List is a public document and the same is guided in the entire territory of the Republic of Northern Macedonia. However, on the basis of the Electoral List, state and local elections and referendums are held throughout the Republic of Northern Macedonia. In accordance with the Electoral Code, the Electoral List is run by the State Election Commission and is governed by the register of citizens in the form of a register.

METHODOLOGY FOR CLEANING OF THE VOTER`S LIST

This methodology envisages the cross-checking of the database by 10 relevant institutions, which have to do with evidence of citizens’ data and from this SEC ascertains the state of data where 172,505 voters do not match the data as many of them are abroad. with temporary or displaced work. From the analysis conducted between the competent institutions for data evidences, by consensus of the parliamentary parties, the Assembly of RMV brought the amendment and supplementation of the Electoral Code for 39,505 non-existent voters to apply active registration within 25 days of August 2016, where only 8992 voters are presented during this process while others are allowed to register during the public inspection scheduled before the 2016 elections.

From this whole process, it is expected that in the future an institutional analysis will be made for the correctness of the voter list that with the organization of the 2016 elections will give results in the part of the dilemmas that arise during the implementation of the applied methodology.

As it is a sensitive and complex issue to have a list of voters with correct evidence, the State Election Commission needs to have the authority of the central evidence of this public document. From what we have elaborated, there are the dilemmas that are highlighted regarding the Electoral List:

  1. Dead persons on the electoral rolls
  2. Many residents presented at the same address
  3. Residents – voters who live abroad and are in the evidence in the voter lists without a star (*), where MIA has evidence for more star voters (*) only for 72000 thousand voters, while there are data that has over 350 000 thousand voters who are abroad but MIA has no evidence. The MIA must record them correctly with the evidence of the star voters (*).
  4. Voters who are registered in more polling stations. Cases of this nature are rumored but so far we have no argued cases, political parties have the right to present such cases if they possess arguments but in official institutions have not presented such cases.
  1. There are cases where many persons have been given only a biometric passport with an address abroad, where the same works and not with a residential address in the Republic of Macedonia, where the same has not been identified in the electoral lists and has been deprived of the right to vote. It is contrary to positive laws, but the Ministry of Interior has practiced the same for many Albanian residents. They must be given biometric ID cards residing in the RMV so that they can be included in the voter lists and have the right to vote.
  2. There are dilemmas where in some municipalities the number of inhabitants is less than the number of voters and we have many cases where many voters live in other municipalities but have not changed the residence provided by law and in the electoral lists is evidenced in the country. where he presented the last residence. (Although the law provides for a 15-day deadline to submit a change of new residence and a fine of 100 EURO, but there are unscrupulous persons and they do not act).

 

The current state of the voter list – chronology data for yearsList of registered voters:

Year Election Voter Difference
1990 (11,November) Parliamentary Elections 1.33.9021
1991 (9,September) The independence referendum 14.95.807 +156,786
1994 (16, October) Parliamentary & Presidential Elections 1.360.729 -135 080
1996 (November) Local Elections 1.498.653 +137,924
1998 (18, October) Parliamentary Elections 1.572.974 +74,321
1999 (14,November) Presidential Elections 1.610.340 +37,366
2000 (24,September) Local Elections 1.634.859 +24,519
2002 (15,September) Parliamentary Elections 1.664.296 +27,437
2004 (14,April) Presidential elections 1.695.103 +30,807
2004 (7,November) Referendum on territorial organization 1.709.536 +14,433
2005(10,September) Local Elections 1.711.293 +1757
2006 (5,July) Early Parliamentary Elections 1.741.449 +30156
2008 (1, June) Early Parliamentary Elections 1.779.116 +37,667
2009 (22, March) Presidential & Local Elections 1,792,082 +12,966
2011 (5, June) Early Parliamentary Elections 1.821.122 +29,040
2013 (24, March) Local Elections 1.743.403 -77 719
2014 (27,April) Presidential & Early Parliamentary Elections 1.756.346 +12,943
2016 (11,December) Early Parliamentary Elections 1.784.416 +28,070
2017 (15,Octomber) Local Elections 1.814.644 +30.228
2018 (30,September) Consultative referendum on approval agreement of bilateral with Greece 1.806.336 -8.308
2019 (5,May) Presidential Elections 1.808.131 +1.793
2020 (15,July) Early Parliamentary Elections 1.814.263 +6.132

 

ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN  AND ITS FINANCING

 

Political parties are the pillars of contemporary democracies through which the political will of the citizens is expressed. These are crucial for the generation of active political actors to create policies which through elections and legitimate government are transformed into political decisions. It turns out that as creators of political life in a society, political parties are potentially not only carriers of power, but also responsible for promoting democratic principles. It is quite clear that in order to carry out the basic functions of the parties it is necessary to have the appropriate financial means, however their security must be within the legal framework, which nevertheless enables correct and democratic political partner through various political options and programs.

The election campaign based on the provisions of the electoral code in RMV can be funded by:

– funds from the regular account of the political party,

– membership of a political party,

– donations from the political party,

– natural persons in the amount of up to 3000 euros in denar counter value,

– legal entities in the amount of up to 30,000 euros in denar counter value, and

– loans of the political party dedicated to the election campaign.

 

But it is worth noting that with the recent amendments to the provisions of the Electoral Code, namely Article 76-d paragraph 4, it enables compensation of financial means of political parties for political advertising from the Budget of RNM in the amount of not more than 2 euros per voter that reach a value of 3,628,000 euros in this election. This legal provision is debatable with the principle of separation of political parties from the state, since in a way the state is presented as donors with high financial value.

In order to have transparency and control in the financial means of the election campaign, the political parties themselves, the Commission for Prevention of Corruption, the State Audit Office and the SEC have a role and competence that have a legal obligation to take action and at the same time open criminal and criminal proceedings for to be punished by the competent bodies for non-compliance with legal provisions.

Since we emphasized the important stages of the election process, the question is whether the rules provided until this stage of the election process in RMV have been respected, we can conclude that in the first part of the election campaign we have a number of obvious irregularities: the propaganda material of political parties placed in places not allowed by the competent bodies, holding election party rallies in inadequate places and without respecting the protocols in time Pandemie provided with instructions approved by the competent bodies, present negative campaign by political parties, misuse of state and municipal resources by structures leading with accredited institutions, expression of politicization to the members of the SEC before the start of the pre-election campaign, etc.

Challenge of inter-institutional cooperation that are competent and especially between: Public Prosecutor’s Office, Ministry of Internal Affairs, State Audit Office, Commission for Prevention of Corruption, Agency for audio and audiovisual media services and SEC in undertaking prevention of electoral irregularities by competencies their pre-election stage, voting day and pre-trial stage, objections, complaints, investigative procedures, misdemeanors, eventual processing of criminal offenses and lawsuits in the Administrative Court.

To avoid the negative phenomena in the preliminary stages highlighted in the organization of elections in time Pandemia, we can get good practices from countries that have already organized elections such as: South Korea (April 11, 2020), Serbia (June 21, 2020), France (June 28, 2020), Poland (June 28, 2020) and Croatia (July 5, 2020).

Since a country’s democracy is measured by how well the elections meet the above-mentioned democratic standards, it should be understood that the elections to be held in July this year in northern Macedonia are more important than being properly administered by official institutions in cooperation with active political actors. in the direction that our country has, also that of EU membership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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