In anticipation of June 1 parliamentary elections, Macedonia’s political parties have come together to sign a code of conduct that they hope will help the country meet standards needed to gain accession to the European Union (EU).
Under the motto “We Can and We Must: Fair Elections 2008,” 36 parties signed on to the code in a May 8 ceremony with the goal of a free and fair election process. The code mirrors a 2005 local election code drafted by NDI using international election standards. In partnership with Citizens’ Association MOST and the Macedonian Women’s Lobby, NDI assisted in adapting the code for the 2006 elections and again for the early parliamentary elections this year.
Macedonia has seen polarization between government and opposition and political conflict among its leading ethnic-based political parties. Both factors have slowed needed governmental, social, and economic reforms. The country has been disappointed by related EU hesitation to begin formal negotiations on Macedonia’s membership. As well, Macedonia’s 15-year dispute with Greece over its constitutional name pre-empted a NATO membership invitation at the alliance’s April 2008 summit in Bucharest. A determination by domestic and international election observers that these parliamentary elections are democratic is expected to generate support in Brussels to advance Macedonia’s EU membership bid and re-invigorate efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution to the name dispute with Greece.
The code draws on lessons learned from past elections, calling on party leaders, candidates, and activists to behave in accordance with international election standards. These include abstaining from violent or intimidating acts, upholding the practice of one-person-one-vote, and refraining from vote-buying and other illegal use of financial and material resources for electoral gain.
“Over the last three weeks, NDI has reached all four corners of Macedonia to increase awareness of the code of conduct for free and fair elections," said NDI/Macedonia Director Chris Henshaw. "This includes more than 400 meetings with party activists and participants. The extent of the campaign is such that everyone in Macedonia will be aware of the code by June 1. While the code cannot stop those bent on violence or other forms of intimidation, it is isolating them.”
Since the May 8 signing ceremony, NDI, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development and from the Swiss, Dutch and British governments, has launched a nationwide, multi-lingual media campaign to promote the “We Can and We Must” campaign. The campaign seeks to remind citizens of the importance of elections for a functioning democracy. Ambassadors of EU member states are also using the code to underscore the importance of democratic elections to Macedonia’s EU membership bid as they speak to audiences around the country. An overwhelming majority of Macedonia’s roughly two million citizens favor both EU and NATO membership.
A PDF of the Code of Conduct can be found at Access Democracy.
Macedonia’s political leaders sign a code of conduct drafted by NDI that commits their parties to abide by democratic election practices. Pictured from left are Menduh Thaci (Democratic Party of Albanians-DPA), Radmila Sekerinska (Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia-SDSM); NDI/Macedonia director Chris Henshaw; Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (VMRO-DPNME) and Ali Ahmeti, Democratic Union for Integration-DUI).
Published on May 28, 2008