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news 30 Sep 17

Macedonian Mayoral Candidates Hold First TV Debates

Mayoral candidates in six Albanian-majority municipalities in Macedonia who are running in elections on October 15 will be quizzed in a unique series of electoral debates.


Mayoral candidates will take part in the first of six televised electoral debates entitled ‘DebatPetnime’ (‘Real Debates’) on Sunday, organised by BIRN, Portalb.mk, Internews Kosova and Art Channel.

The debates, to be held every evening in the Albanian language, will be staged in the Cair, Saraj, Struga, Tetovo, Gostivar and Debar municipalities.

All the political parties except for the former ruling VMRO-DMPNE led by ex-prime minister Nikola Gruevski have agreed to take part.

The programme’s format is unique because it records the mayoral candidates’ promises and then revisits them later, in mid-mandate, playing the original tapes at the town hall and inviting the elected mayor to debate with the public.

This offers the opportunity to examine how much their electoral promises have been fulfilled.

“Too often mayors make glossy promises that are forgotten by the time they run for new mandates. The public has the right to know if elected officials kept their promises and politicians have to be aware they will be held accountable,” said BIRN Macedonia’s director, Ana Petruseva.

The format has already proven successful in Kosovo where it has been in use since 2007, and where 98 per cent of mayors participate.

This is the first time such debates have been organised in Macedonia. They will air every evening starting from Sunday on the Art Channel television station.

Faik Ispahiu, the executive producer, who has been directing similar debates for 10 years, said that the climate for freedom of speech in Macedonia is right for this style of debating.

“The format is such that it offers equal time to all candidates, in which time they have to present their programmes and it differs from others because all these candidates know we will be coming back and acting like a watchdog of these promises,” Ispahiu said.

Elida Zylbeari, editor-in-chief of Portalb.mk, a Macedonian website in the Albanian language, organised research on the biggest problems in each municipality and collected evidence about the issues that the candidates should address.

“Albanian-majority municipalities in Macedonia face a lack of investments with the least percentage of investments per capita in the country. They are swamped with garbage and lack elementary living conditions,” Zylbeari said.

“Our investigation shows that we are dealing with cities that lack water supply and fresh air. Candidates often promise to solve these problems, but they very rarely provide accountability,” she added.

The debates will be shown daily at 6pm local time on Art Channel and live on the Facebook page of Kallxo.com.

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