The second annual Macedonian “Assembly Days” offers a step toward giving the public a voice and first hand view of their government in action.
Since gaining independence from communist Yugoslavia in 1991, Macedonia has withstood violent conflict in neighboring countries and its own brush with civil war, and is now on course to join the transatlantic community of democratic nations. The country of two million is vigorously pursuing political and economic reforms in hopes of obtaining membership in both the European Union and NATO. Its parliament, known as the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia, is building political stability by promoting public participation in the reform process.
Parliament is strengthening its public outreach in impressive ways. With NDI’s assistance project, members of parliament have opened 46 constituent offices around the country. As a result of these outreach efforts, constituent offices received more than 120,000 visits from citizens who raised 9,720 cases, of which 4,589 were resolved.
Parliamentary committees have also convened public legislative hearings on key reform issues in the Assembly and public meetings in locations throughout Macedonia, thus providing forums where citizens can give their views on draft legislation. And with NDI’s help parliament has organized an innovative, week-long initiative called “Assembly Days”, in which several thousand citizens, including young people, visit the Assembly to learn how it functions and to have a better understanding of how, in Macedonia’s young democracy, government affects their lives.
The second annual “Assembly Days” took place in May 2006. Like the 2005 inaugural event, some 10,000 citizens from all over Macedonia walked through parliament’s doors to participate in roundtable discussions with parliament’s president, the Honorable Ljupco Jordanovski (now Ambassador to the U.S.). Also included were conversations with other members of parliament on such issues as Macedonia’s accession to the European Union, education and job creation. Participants in Assembly Days also got to tour the parliamentary building; observe legislative proceedings; and view a fine arts exhibition. Children participated in drawing contests.
President Jordanovski officially opened the event, commenting that the influx of citizens will help the institution improve its work as members of parliament hear what the public has to say.
“In many countries in the world, parliaments are closed places where decisions are made with little public awareness, much less input”, said NDI-Macedonia Country Director Chris Henshaw. In literally throwing open the doors of parliament, President Jordanovski and his colleagues are turning parliament into what it should be—an open and participatory institution that belongs to the citizens of Macedonia.”
Parliament plans to make Assembly Days an annual event.
Published on September 26, 2006