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Macedonia’s early general elections were competitive, transparent and well administered throughout the country, the OSCE/ODIHR monitoring mission to Skopje said at a press conference on Monday.
The OSCE assessment was released a day after polls closed in the general elections for seats in the country's 123-seat parliament.
The monitors expressed concern over allegations of isolated cases of irregularities, intimidation of voters and the questionable accuracy of voting lists, and had criticism for the election campaign.
The day of elections was “overwhelmingly positive” said Roberto Battelli, the head of the OSCE /ODIHR monitoring team. “The voting was conducted in a peaceful atmosphere and the subsequent counting of votes was assessed as positive in 9 out of 10 observed countings”.
He stressed that the wide range of media have helped voters to reach informed decisions about whom to support and that the State Electoral Commission in charge of carrying out the election process has done its job in an expedient and largely professional manner.
Regarding the election campaign, the OSCE/ODIHR stressed that especially the ruling party officials “often failed to separate party from state activities” thus breaching one of the Copenhagen criteria.
The mission found “credible” the allegations that surfaced during the campaign that some public servants were under pressure to vote for the ruling party. An investigation by journalists last month raised suspicions of a large scale government scheme to bully civil servants into providing votes for the ruling party.
OSCE/ODIHR said that the accuracy of the electoral roll remains a matter of concern despite previous efforts to clean up the list of voters.
The OSCE /ODIHR mission provided the majority of the foreign election monitors, over 300 people.
Macedonia’s largest local monitoring group, the civil society association MOST, also came out with largely positive remarks for the voting process. MOST provided several thousand monitors and covered over 70 per cent of the polling stations in the country.
“The voting went off in a calm and democratic manner with increased turnout,” said Darko Aleksov, MOST’s head.
MOST pinpointed several shortcomings, such as the premature start of the election campaign and partially nontransparent political party financing.
Aleksov expressed regret that the campaign featured a large degree of political polarization among people, negative campaigning and hate speech from politicians, and the use of children and adolescents in the campaign.
After two decades of independence, and just weeks before the June 5 elections, Macedonia has finally located its pivotal point.
On June 5 Macedonians will vote for 123 legislators in six electoral districts. Three of the legislators will be elected from the diaspora, which is allowed to vote for the first time. More than 1.7 million people are eligible to vote.
1,821,122 million people out of some 2.2 million Macedonians are eligible to vote in the June 5 general election. The clickable map shows the top candidates for the Macedonia 2011 early elections by electoral region.
During the country’s 20 years of post-independence history past elections were often marred by significant controversies and allegations of fraud. As the June elections approach, doubt remains whether the friction between the two parties will allow for polls that meet international standards.
The main political players are divided into two ethnic blocs. Macedonians traditionally choose the party that forms the government. The Albanian camp produces its own champion, which is then usualy asked to join the government as a junior partner.