Sunday, June 08, 2008

OSCE, ODIHR say elections in Macedonia were substandard

Macedonia's elections Sunday (June 1st) failed to meet "key international standards", according to an OSCE/ODIHR observation mission. It cited attempts to disrupt the election in areas dominated by ethnic Albanians.

"Violence and attempts to manipulate the campaign sadly cast a shadow over otherwise well-implemented elections," OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Vice President Pia Christmas-Moller said. "Violence ... in ethnic Albanian areas is an unacceptable breach of peace and people's democratic rights."

Although Macedonian officials administered the elections well, they enforced laws "selectively" and "failed to prevent violence", the mission said in its report.

"The OSCE will monitor whether the authorities seriously address the violations and take remedial steps," Ambassador Robert Barry, the head of the OSCE/ODIHR mission, said. "We will also observe polling stations where voting is conducted again and will make a final decision depending on how much the authorities completely investigate and eliminate incidents."

According to Barry, a widespread failure to take preventive measures permitted incidents to flare on Election Day.

EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn also issued a grim statement Monday. "I deeply regret the violence that marked the elections. The European Union is strongly committed to [Macedonia's] European prospects. I emphasise that carrying out free and fair elections is the essential criterion for the process of EU integration."

Javier Solana, EU security chief, expressed disappointment as well. Spokeswoman Cristina Gallach said he had a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. "He is expecting a revote at the [worst-affected] polling stations in order to improve the image of the elections," she said.

On Monday, US Ambassador to Macedonia Gillian Milovanovic and EU Special Representative Erwan Fouere met with Gruevski to discuss the election violence.

All efforts should be made not only to pursue the perpetrators but to prosecute them. Macedonia failed this exam on democracy, but international institutions are giving it a new chance [with the planned revote], Fouere said after the meeting.

"These elections were not as good as in 2006," Milovanovic said. "Sadly, people were prevented from voting; however, the prime minister's pledge to eliminate these problems is encouraging and we are expecting better results in two weeks. I am surprised that people reacted indifferently to the incidents as if they were happening to somebody else, not to them."

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