Macedonian electoral standstill

On 11 December Macedonia held early parliamentary elections, which were supposed to resolve a two-year political instability. Results of the two main parties are more or less 1% away from each other, with 99.72% of the votes counted: ruling nationalist VMRO DPMNE gained 38% and the opposition Social Democrats (SDSM) – 36.7% according to the Central Election Commission. Both parties declared victory and are looking for coalition partners. They are most likely to reach out to ethnic Albanian minority for support. Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) got 7.3%, which could bring 9-11 seats. Newly formed BESA party has 4.87%, which might result in 5 seats. DPA-led – Movement for Reforms acquired 2.95% - potential 3 seats. Democratic Party of Albanians alone received 2,61%, which could mean not more than 2 seats. The voter turnout was 67% - one of the highest in recent general elections.

For now it remains unclear which of the two parties will be able to form a government. "We will have a projection of [the number of] MPs during Monday," the head of the Electoral Commission, Aleksandar Cicakovski, told a press conference at 3am on Monday. DIK has to determine the exact number of seats for each party: seats are distributed among six electoral units, with each delegating 20 MPs to the 120-seat parliament. Predictions suggest that both parties could have 51 seats and even with 1% advantage it will not be enough to form a 61-seat majority. SDSM had a convincing victory in Skopje – 42% against 33% of VMRO DPMNE – while the latter won more votes in rural areas.

Reactions

SDSM celebrated its historic ‘victory’ on a Sunday evening already, in front of the government building. Zoran Zaev announced that the party has two more seats than VMRO DPMNE. The pro-opposition paper Sloboden Pecat said on Monday: “The government in Skopje has fallen.”

VMRO DPMNE was also in the streets on Sunday night celebrating its own ‘victory’. Vlatko Gjorcev, a senior official in Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's party, told supporters at the group's headquarters: "We won once again. Tonight, today on December 11, the 10th victory in a row." The pro-government Dnevnik paper said: “Tightest difference ever. VMRO-DPMNE’s 10th victory.”

International observers

OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission concluded in its statement of preliminary findings and conclusions that the early parliamentary elections were an essential step in resolving two years of deep political crisis. It noted that the underlying issues, such as voter registration and media, are yet to be addressed in a sustainable manner. The campaign was competitive but took place in an environment characterized by public mistrust in institutions and the political establishment, and allegations of voter coercion. Allegations of voter intimidation, widespread pressure on civil servants, vote buying, coercion, and misuse of administrative resources persisted throughout the campaign. Financial reports submitted by contestants on 1 and 10 December revealed significant overspending, particularly by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE). The election administration struggled with the preparations for elections and missed a number of deadlines, but election day was generally well administered and proceeded without major incidents. The State Election Commission’s (SEC) preparations for the elections were hampered by inefficient internal organization, politicized decision-making and shortened legal deadlines. Significant improvements to electoral legislation in 2015 addressed most previous OSCE/ODIHR and Council of Europe Venice Commission recommendations. Additional amendments in 2016 introduced temporary mechanisms for the cross-party oversight of key aspects of the electoral process. However, some recommendations remain unaddressed and certain provisions are ambiguous or conflict with other laws.

Sources: The Courier Mail BalkanInsight DIK VOA BBC The Times OSCE

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