Macedonia’s voters came out in large numbers in parliamentary elections on December 11 in a bid to stem a prolonged political crisis that has effectively stopped the political process and upended the country’s bid to join the European Union and NATO. With turnout at approximately 70 percent, citizens voted in six election districts and for 120 members of parliament in what domestic and international observers, including NDI’s Macedonian citizen observation partner, MOST, described as an orderly voting process, albeit not problem-free.
Sunday’s vote was the third run at early parliamentary elections this year. Two prior attempts were scuppered as conditions agreed to by the parties under international auspices, concerning voter lists and media impartiality among other areas, were deemed insufficient.
Provisional results of the State Election Commission (SEC), corroborated by MOST’s independent vote tabulation, are very close, with some 16,000 votes separating the incumbent ruling party, Internal Macedonian Revolution Organization - Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity, VMRO-DPMNE, and its principal challenger, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia. Macedonia’s sizable ethnic Albanian voters punished the incumbent Democratic Union for Integration in favor a new political formation, and SDSM, which garnered a surprising number of ethnic Albanian votes. In securing a very slim majority, VMRO-DPMNE relied on a committed base of support, while SDSM benefited from a higher turnout than usual.
The election took place amid an extended political crisis over alleged government misconduct in illegal wiretapping, judicial tampering, and other abuses that the incumbent parties strenuously denies. Several high-level government figures have been indicted by a special prosecutor, with investigations continuing, although many are concerned that the special prosecutor’s mandate will be ended before investigations are completed.
The SEC is hearing complaints over alleged misconduct and irregularities and thus far has ordered a re-vote in one polling station. Because the results are so close at the district level, where parliamentary mandates are secured, potential changes to polling station figures could materially affect which parties can form a governing coalition.
The SEC must be neutral and professional in shepherding the post-election process through to final results, and proactive and transparent in communicating with a public unused to close results in which corrections to vote tallies are possible. Election monitoring groups should be provided full access to post-electoral proceedings. Political parties must ensure that their actions support the integrity of the election process rather than resort to polarizing rhetoric, especially as the results certification process could take longer than usual.
NDI has been pleased to contribute to efforts to make this election process Macedonia’s most auspicious to-date, through support to political parties, to MOST in mounting a comprehensive monitoring effort to inform the public, and to citizens through the SEC’s voter rights awareness campaign.
Beyond elections, Macedonia will need to pursue a raft of democratic and governance reforms to provide the political stability, transparency, and accountability needed to move its democratic transition—and its related bids to join the European Union and NATO—forward.