Ali Ahmeti, Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) leader, included Ramadan and the attendant ceremonial rituals among the reasons why the elections scheduled for April 24 should not be postponed. Addressing DUI’s General Council, a body composed of the party’s senior representatives, on January 31, the leader of VMRO-DPMNE’s coalition partner said:
We cannot manage such situations without some institutional organisation. We have the name dispute and must negotiate our NATO membership, so if the date is changed the NATO summit is lost to us. We also cannot accept another date because our electorate is preparing for the Ramadan fasting during June. [Source: META Date: 30.01.2016]
Ali Ahmeti’s claim that the “electorate is preparing for the Ramadan fasting during June” is inconsistent, and, should we take into consideration that the alternative date proposed by VMRO-DPMNE and the international community is June 5 (according to news reports during European Commissioner Hahn’s last visit), it is also false.
The Constitution declares the Republic of Macedonia a secular state. This means the state is separate from faith and religion. Article 19 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of confession, as well as the separation of religious communities from the state. This is set out in detail in article 19 paragraph 3, introduced with the 2001 constitutional amendments:
The Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Islamic Community in Macedonia, the Catholic Church, the Evangelical-Methodist Church, the Jewish Community and other religious communities and groups are separate from the state and equal before the law.
Seeing as the parliamentary elections are a matter of the state, it is clear that any religious holiday, be it the greatest and holiest, must not be allowed to interfere with state activities. Thus, Ahmeti’s claim should be considered inconsistent.
To illustrate that elections are held regardless of religious holidays, we will use the example of the 2014 religious calendar of the Macedonian Orthodox community. The first round of the presidential elections was held on April 13, seven days before Easter which fell on April 20. It is a well-known fact that the last seven days before the greatest holiday for orthodox believers are spent in strict fasting.
In addition, Ahmeti’s claim can also be considered false, as the Ramadan fasting takes place in the month before Eid al-Fitr (Bayram), which is to be celebrated on July 5 this year, meaning that the fasting begins on Monday, June 6. The dates have been verified using the 2016 Muslim holiday calendar, published by the Islamic religious community.
This means that if the elections take place on June 5, believers of Muslim confession will not be hampered in the exercise of religious rites. This, in turn, means that Ahmeti’s claim is false.
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