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News 10 Jun 16

Survey: Macedonians Lose Faith as Crisis Escalates

People are losing trust in Macedonia's institutions as political instability increases, according to a new opinion poll carried out by the International Republican Institute.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Skopje. Photo by: AP / Boris Grdanoski

The number of respondents who feel that Macedonia is “peaceful and stable” dropped sharply from 19 per cent in January this year to just five per cent in the newly-released nationwide survey by the International Republican Institute, IRI.

The survey said that 67 per cent of respondents feel that their country is less stable today than it was a year ago, a 20-point increase on the 47 per cent who said the same in January.

“Last year’s revelations of the surveillance of Macedonian citizens dealt a severe blow to Macedonian democracy,” said IRI president Mark Green.

“This poll reinforces the critical need for Macedonia’s leaders to focus on reforms that will rebuild public confidence in the country’s democratic institutions,” he added.

A combined 93 percent of respondents describe the situation in Macedonia as critical and unstable or intense and uncertain.

More than half, 58 per cent, believe Macedonia is going in the wrong direction, a 12 per cent increase on January.

"Pessimism over the political situation appears to be influenced by the behaviour of the government in relation to the wiretapping scandal that came to light in 2015, which revealed the illegal monitoring of thousands of Macedonian citizens," the IRI said.

Sixty-four per cent of respondents disapproved of President Gjorge Ivanov’s decision reached in May to pardon officials implicated in the wiretapping scandal and various other crimes.

Under pressure at home and from the EU and US, Ivanov last week withdrew the pardons.

Sixty-three per cent of respondents said they support the work of the Special Prosecution which was set up last year as part of the EU-sponsored agreement aimed at ending the political crisis, and was tasked with investigating all the criminal allegations raised by the wiretapping scandal.

Fewer than half of respondents, 48 per cent, said they believed that the conditions were in place to hold free and fair elections. This represents a   decline from 63 per cent in October 2015 and 59 per cent in January 2016.

The IRI said that the political context, marred by two postponements of the early elections since the start of the year due to unfulfilled reforms that were intended to ensure a free vote, as well as ongoing protests and counter-protests since May, may have had an influence on the lower public confidence in the capacity to hold free and fair elections.

Forty-one per cent of those polled were confident or somewhat confident in the accuracy of the electoral roll, while more than a quarter, 28 per cent, do not believe their vote on election day will remain secret.

The survey was conducted through face-to-face interviews with a random sample of 1,104 Macedonian citizens aged 18 and older.

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