Pre-Election Technical Assessment of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
From 16 - 24 June, after a request from A.I.D. Washington, the A.LD. Representative to Macedonia, Ms. Linda Rae Gregory in Skopje, and a number of requests from Macedonian government ministries and political parties, IFES sent a Pre-Election Assessment Team to Skopje, financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The purpose of this mission included: (1) an analysis of the current political and election climate with regard to the new Election Law and the legitimacy of the administrative electoral structure; (2) political party organizations and their activities prior to the official campaign period; (3) study of the status of independent and government-subsidized media institutions and their specific involvement in the pre-election period; (4) gaining a more complete appreciation of the country's ethnic divisions and their effects on the formation of a stable nation-state; and (5) assessing needs and priorities that should be addressed by the international donor community with regard to democratization assistance efforts.
The IFES Assessment team included Ms. Linda Edgeworth, a former Election Administrator for the State of Alaska, and frequent consultant for IFES throughout the former Soviet Union and Africa; Dr. Eran Fraenkel, a professor from Boston, Massachusetts with a specialty in Macedonia and the Balkans and current Executive Director of Search for Common Ground in Macedonia; and Mr. Scott Lansell, Program Officer for the former Soviet Union and Central & East Europe at IFES/Washington.
On the first day of the team's visit the 1994 Election Law came up for a vote in the Assembly, but due to lack of a quorum, it was not voted upon. It should be noted that under the current legal structure, the election law cannot be amended or return for a new vote for a period of six months should it fail to pass. This time constraint left the Sobranje (also referred to as the Assembly) only the time prior to the end of their summer session, which has lasted to mid-August due to extensions, to decide on this issue.
Since the 1990 elections, a number of organizations have commented on the weaknesses and significant flaws in the 1990 law and it is anticipated that if this Law is used in October, a number of its flaws may become even more conspicuous. As one prominent Parliamentarian commented during our June visit, "If we don't pass this (the 1994 version) new law, which includes a number of comments and suggestions from western organizations, it will be difficult to explain to them why we have wasted their time and money."
USAID asked IFES to prepare an assessment of the current election environment and ascertain how the international donor community could best assist this fledgling democracy during this critical period.
The IFES Pre-Election Technical Assessment team returned with seven general areas which need to be addressed by assistance groups who have the technical expertise to support this ethnically diverse nation including:
1. A well-developed and consistent promotion of significant symbolic or actual confidence measures in the administration of free and fair elections should be continued.
2. There is a considerable need to diminish opportunities for allegations of impropriety in the administration of an election.
3. Significant assistance should be aimed toward an ineffective, although seemingly extensive, public information campaign on issues including, but not limited to, citizenship, census, and election procedures.
4. Continued pressure should be brought on the promotion of significant laws either pending or non-existent legal processes including a Law on Assembly Elections, Law on the Independent Media, and Law on Local Elections.
5. Updated and more-complete poll worker training materials and procedures should be available and developed prior to the October 16 elections.
6. Macedonians, including representatives from the government and non-government, must continue to take advantage of Western exchange programs such as educational and technical activities.
7. De-politization of the civil service must be promoted and continued throughout the government.
Macedonia has many significant obstacles to overcome to accomplish a stable democracy. Serious ethnic and nationalistic biases are prevalent throughout the political and social strata. Even the most well-intentioned administration and observation of established democratic activities receives an either perceived or actual reaction from the public - "any action taken tends to be viewed in Macedonia through an ethnic filter".