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News 12 Feb 14

Macedonian Election Chief Doubts Accuracy of Roll

With only two months to go before presidential elections, Macedonia’s election commission chief says he cannot vouch for the accuracy of the electoral roll.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Ballot box in Macedonia

The head of Macedonia's election commission, DIK, Nikola Rilkoski, said the body cannot dismiss doubts that a large number of fictional or deceased voters remains on the electoral roll.

This is because the check-up is still in the hands of the police and the state statistical office, he says, so the commission has no way of overseeing what they do.

“We will be able to vouch for the accuracy [of the electoral roll] only once we are allowed to do the check-up ourselves,” Rilkoski told Balkan Insight.

The electoral roll has been a matter of controversy in Macedonia for some time.

The OSCE, which has monitored Macedonian elections in the past, has described it as unusually large for a country of just over 2 million people.

The OSCE said it suspected the roll contained numerous fictional and deceased voters and urged officials to check the list.

The opposition Social Democrats say the centre-right VMRO DPMNE party, which has won seven consecutive elections since 2006 - parliamentary, presidential and local - has an interest in concealing fictive or deceased voters on the electoral roll.

However, the ruling party has denied that non-existent votes are kept on the roll, and used to tip election results in the government’s favour.

Rilkoski, who was appointed to his post last November on the proposal of the opposition, said the government had ignored the commission's call to undertake the checks itself.

The government spokesperson, Aleksandar Gjoriev, declined to comment on Rilkoski’s claims. According to him, however, the electoral roll is “clearly under the jurisdiction of the election commission, as prescribed by the law, and only they can confirm its validity”.

Rilkoski’s statement comes at just two month before the presidential elections. The first round of voting is set for April 13.

It has been rumoured that the ruling party and its allies may go for parallel early general elections, along with the second round of presidential polls on April 27.

In local elections held last March and April, allegations of irregularities linked to the electoral roll marred the vote.

The Social Democrats then accused the ruling VMRO DPMNE party of attempting to rig the elections in Skopje and in other areas in the southwest of the country by permitting organised voting by Macedonians from Albania who were allegedly given fake Macedonian residency permits by the Police Ministry and brought in to vote.

The ruling party and the police denied the claims.

However, a local TV station, NOVA, said it managed to film such people voting in Skopje’s Centar municipality in the second round of the elections.


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Background

Macedonia Elections Profile

In April, Macedonia will hold parallel presidential and early general elections - the latter considered more important as they will determine who will hold the most powerful post in the country, that of the Prime Minister.