Skopje, 22 April 2019 (MIA) – Sunday’s presidential election in North Macedonia was well run and fundamental freedoms of assembly and expression were respected, and election day was peaceful, orderly and transparent, international observers concluded.
In their findings, the international observers of the OSCE/ODIHR Mission, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), noted that a wide-reaching electoral reform is still very much needed.
“This peaceful, generally well-run election demonstrated that the political will can be found to hold democratic elections,” said Sereine Mauborgne, Special Co-ordinator and leader of the short-term OSCE observer mission.
This constructive approach, she added, must be maintained through the second round and beyond. “I sincerely hope that following these elections real effort will be made to enact a coherent electoral law and finally address the long existing challenges.”
The public broadcaster provided impartial coverage and the media overall presented diverse information on the candidates and the political parties supporting them, enabling voters to make an informed choice, she said.
Marie-Christine Dalloz, head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), also concurred that yesterday’s election was well organised and voters who participated in the election were able to make their choice freely.
“The delegation regrets that the turnout was low for a presidential election. A mature functioning of the political system and a reform of the electoral law would re-engage citizens and ensure their active participation in the election of their head of state. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission are ready to assist the authorities of North Macedonia in implementing the reforms,” she said.
State officials worked to maintain a clear distinction between their official and political activities, and to avoid using state resources in the campaign, according to her.
Reinhold Lopatka, head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) Delegation, said that the campaign addressed substantive concerns, with candidates engaging in debate on their visions for the future of North Macedonia.
“All three candidates clearly advocated for further European integration; whatever future the people here may choose, democratic elections will be crucial. The clear efforts made by state officials to avoid mixing political and official activities are an important development, helping to level the playing field for candidates,” he stated.
However, Lopatka added, the transparency and efficiency of the State Election Commission was hindered by technical malfunctions of its information and communication systems, raising doubts over IT security.
Corien Jonker, Head of the election observation mission from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said the election was smoothly run. “It shows just how much can be achieved when there is genuine political will.”
Jonker pointed out that it was the lack of uniform reporting of candidate expenditure, regulation of third-party campaigning, and reporting by political parties supporting candidates that reduced both the transparency of campaign finance and the effectiveness of oversight.
The international observers called on voters to turn out and vote in the runoff and to contribute to the decisions the country would have to make in the future.
The international election observation mission comprises some 240 observers from 38 countries, including 189 long- and short-term observers deployed by ODIHR, 40 parliamentarians and staff from the OSCE PA, and 12 from PACE.