Letter to the international community from 85 CSOs
First and foremost, allow us to express our gratitude for your publicly announced support to the civil society and its efforts to promote democracy in Republic of Macedonia, which would not be possible without fair and free elections.
We agree that Republic of Macedonia has been derailed on its road towards democracy and that the only way to bring it back on track is fulfilment of all urgent reform priorities, including recommendations made by the senior expert group as part of the so-called Priebe Report.
We agree that significant part of the work remains to be done to fulfil minimum conditions for “credible elections”: revision of the voters list, prevention of any intimidation or pressure on the voters, as well as ensuring fair media coverage. However, it must be stressed that certain progress in terms of electoral reforms is not sufficient to create conditions for overcoming the political crisis and that significant reform progress is needed in other areas as well: the rule of law and fundamental rights, de-politicization of the public administration and freedom of expression.
We have not witnessed actual reforms that should have led to creation of conditions to solve the political crisis in Republic of Macedonia, nor have we witnessed constructive dialogue among the government, the opposition and the civil society.
Therefore, on 14th and 28th January 2016, more than 75 civil society organizations addressed the EU and US representatives with letters demanding TRUE REFORMS TO BE IMPLEMENTED FOR FAIR AND FREE ELECTIONS.
It is our responsibility as civil society organizations to indicate that expected progress has not been achieved in addressing issues raised in the letters from 14th and 28th January 2016, on the contrary, there is notable regress in the rule of law and the principle of power sharing, demonstrated by means of political frivolousness and misappropriation of legislative and judicial branches of government on the part of the executive branch. The unilateral decision on parliament’s dissolution with delayed effect is an unconstitutional act which, at the same time, is contrary to the principles of consensus building as determined in the Przino Agreement. Moreover, in an utterly non-transparent and urgent procedure, the Constitutional Court has allowed the President of State to pardon perpetrators of crimes against the elections. This possibility was used by the President on 12th April 2016, when he granted blanket pardon to 56 persons, majority of which are high level government officials, including Nikola Gruevski, leader of VMRO-DPMNE and his closest associates. This shows that the ruling party is pursuing a despicable plan to completely annul the Przino Agreement and to thoroughly undermine the legal and political system in Republic of Macedonia for the single goal of continuing to rule the state unpunished, in a situation of unlawfulness.
Controversial decisions taken by the Criminal Court and the Appeals Court in relation to investigations opened by the Special Prosecution Office are indicative of the high degree of judiciary’s dependence on the interests of governing parties and privileged treatment of persons suspected of having committed election frauds.
Continuous obstructions on the work of the Special Prosecution Office represent an intrusion in its independence to investigate and prosecute crimes related to and arising from the contents of the illegal interception of communications. Day-to-day hindrance of the work performed by the Special Prosecution Office, accompanied with an unprecedented smearing campaign in the media, prevents fast and efficient investigation into indications for criminal activities, as established in the Priebe Report.
There is no progress in terms of parliamentary oversight on the Directorate for Security and Counterintelligence (UBK), whose concentration of power has been indicated as the main generator of the interception scandal. The chair of this oversight parliamentary committee had stated that they have been prevented to perform essential control over UBK’s technical capacity, in particular because they had not been presented with minimum information as to the equipment disposed by this secret service. The chair of the parliamentary inquiry committee for the interception scandal had declared the work of this committee as failed, indicating that the reasons thereof are boycott and blockage on the part of VMRO-DPMNE.
As regards the fight against political corruption (which had been assessed as the biggest problem in the Priebe Report), there have been no visible results; on the contrary, tangible regress is noted. President of the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption recently made a scandalous public appearance and prevented media efforts to compare asset declarations of the former Prime Minister, in that assuming the role of his public defender.
Recently, civil society organizations raised awareness in the public about numerous cases of pressure on employees at public institutions and persons awaiting employment therein. Frequency and intensity of pressures are increasing as the date for elections is approaching. Non-compliance with the principle of separation of the state and party has been observed in large number of municipalities, accompanied with abuse of office and abuse of state resources. Disrespect of the principle of separation of the state and party is most prominent in the behaviour of the former Prime Minister, who continues to abuse state resources and issues orders and tasks to line ministers – all in service of his premature election campaign.
The governing parties continue to play the role of news programme editors at the media outlets they are corrupting and controlling. Political pressures and intimidations are continued and enhanced, along with hate speech and instigation of violence not only against those who criticize the government, but also against the Special Prosecution Office. The governing parties have refused to discuss amendments to the Law on Audio and Audio-Visual Media Services, initiated by five journalist and media organizations and supported by the European Union and the United States.
Specific recommendations put forward by the senior experts have not been complied with, although they should have enabled and guaranteed fair and free elections, in particular because: a) there is no judicial or political resolution concerning direct political influence in election irregularities; b) SEC (whose established was delayed by four and a half months) has not investigated irregularities disclosed on the previous elections; c) all shortfalls established in terms of the voters list have not been addressed yet, thus maintaining citizens’ distrust in the voters list.
As regards the blanket pardons granted by President Ivanov on 12th April, we believe it is necessary for this decision to be urgently withdrawn and for Gorge Ivanov to resign from the office President of Republic of Macedonia. Moreover, we expect the Parliament of Republic of Macedonia to be reconvened to take a decision on postponing the elections scheduled for 5th June for an undetermined period and to take actions for establishment of a caretaker government that would implement necessary reforms prior to organization of any future elections in the state.
Deterioration of the political crisis due to non-fulfilment of reform priorities is deeply worrying and we are convinced that insisting on 5th June 2016 as the date to hold early parliamentary elections would only contribute to its further deepening and would further distance Republic of Macedonia from the EU. In that regard, we ask you to reaffirm the need for fulfilment of urgent reform priorities as precondition for setting the date for elections.
In the absence of conditions for free, fair and democratic elections, which imply necessary postponement of the date set for holding elections, we – as civil society organizations – do not have another alternative but to call for boycott of the elections if they are scheduled for 5th June 2016 and to organize protests against the regime, which continues to stomp on democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Republic of Macedonia.
Agri Strumeshnica – Dabile, Strumica | Agro Banica – Banica, Strumica | Agrosojuz – Vasilevo | Association “Inicijativen glas” – Prilep | Association “Women’s Forum” – Tetovo | Association Center for Strategies and Development PACTIS – Prilep | Association for Civil Rights Protection No Pasaran Skopje | Association for Civil Society “8th of September” – Skopje | Association for Counseling, Treatment, Re-socialization and Reintegration of Persons with Problems Due to Drug Abuse IZBOR – Strumica | Association for Cultural Development and Protection of the Cultural Heritage “Kontekst – Strumica” | Association for Culture and Art “SCENE” | Association for Democracy, Debate, Dialogue and Decentralization – PLAN 4D | Association for Development and Activism “Aqua” – Struga | Association for Economic and Political Researches and Analyses KVANTUM PRIMA – Kavadarci | Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women in Republic of Macedonia – ESE | Association for Protection of Cultural Identity of Egyptians IZIDA 41/21 – Resen | Association for Protection of Culture of City of Debar “Deborus” | Association for Spreading Democracy and Democratic Principles in Society PROJECT-EU – Kavadarci | Association Global – Bitola | Association of Balkan Egyptians in Macedonia | Association of Citizens “NOVUS” | Association of Citizens Article 16 | Association of citizens Esperanza – World cultural center – Skopje | Association of Citizens for Promotion of Women Activity Tiiiit! Inc. | Association of Citizens of the Textile and Leather Workers “Tivko Mnozinstvo” – Shtip | Association Radika-DE – Debar | Association Regius – Strumica | Center for Democratic Development and Initiatives – CDRIM | Center for Education and Development – Tearce | Center for Interethnic Tolerance and Refugees – Skopje | Center for Research and Development of the Society VIZIO 2014 | Center for Sustainable Community Development – Debar | Civic Association “Patokazi” – Gevgelija | Civic Initiative “Arsena” – Gevgelija | Civic Initiative “We are Karposh 4” – Skopje | Civil initiative I LOVE CTC | Coalition “Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities” | Coalition for Sustainable Development – CSD | Contemporary Art Center | Environmental Association “Planetum” – Strumica | Food Bank Macedonia | Forum – Center for Strategic Research and Documentation | Forum for Security Policy Research “Securitas” – Bitola | Foundation for Local Development and Democracy “Fokus” – Veles | Foundation Open Society – Macedonia | Freedom Square | FRU – FACULTY OF THINGS THAT CANT BE LEARNED / AKTO | H.E.R.A – Health Education and Research Association | Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia | Humanitarian and Charitable Association of Roma Intelligence ANGLUNIPE – Tetovo | Initiative for Development and Inclusion of the Community – IDIC | Initiative for Saving November 8th Park – Shtip | Institute for Human Rights | International Mobilization Association | Internet Hotline Provider Macedonia | Jadro – Association of the Independent Cultural Scene | Journalists for Human Rights | KHAM – Delchevo | Kontrapunkt – Association for Development of Critical Theory, Socio-Cultural Activism and Contemporary Cultural Practices | LGBTI Support Center | Local Development Association “Acija Plus” – Resen | Lokomotiva – Center for New Initiatives in Arts and Culture | Macedonian Centre for European Training | Metamorphosis Foundation | National Council for Gender Equality | NGO for Youth, Human Rights and Democracy UFUK | NGO Infocenter | Platform for Civic Politics “Ajde!” | PROFICIO – Multiethnic Tolerance through Economic Prosperity | Progres – Institute for Social Democracy | Regional Center for Sustainable Development – Kratovo | Roma Education Center “Umbrella” – Skopje | Transparency Macedonia | Tribunus Civilis – Symbolic Court for Justice of the Civil Society | Turkish Association YENI YILDIZ TURK DERNEĞI | Union of Agricultural Producers – Strumica | Union of the Macedonian Diplomatic Service | Union of Veterans of Macedonia | Vox Academica | Women Organization of Strumica | Young European Federalists (JEF Macedonia) | Youth Alliance – Tetovo | Youth Association ADOLUS – Strumica | Youth Educational Forum