SEC breaches all deadlines, remains unstaffed

 

The State Election Commission (SEC) remains short on staff, although the deadline for its completion passed more than three months ago. Per the Pržino agreement, the state’s chief election body should also see a broadening of its mandate.

Vlado Gjorčev, 05.01.2016

The so-called Treaty, signed by party leaders Nikola Gruevski, Zoran Zaev, Ali Ahmeti and Menduh Thaçi on June 2, 2015, states:

“By July 31, 2015 at the latest, the State Election Commission shall be revised and new members appointed. By September 30, 2015 at the latest, the State Election Commission shall receive a broadened mandate to secure free and fair elections and equal opportunities for election participation for all parties. This especially includes increased supervision authorisations. All OSCE/ODIHR recommendations shall be implemented, including the revision of the electoral register in accordance with a new methodology, subject to a later agreement. Before the commencement of the upcoming elections, the Government shall seek increased long-term supervision, as well as a short-term OSCE/ODIHR monitoring mission.”

Prof. Mirjana Najčevska, PhD, human rights expert, has written on the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations awaiting implementation. She summarises the OSCE/ODIHR remarks in the following bullet points:

  • No separation of party and state interests was made during elections, constituting a breach of the 1990 CSCE/OSCE Copenhagen Document
  • Citizens were bullied and intimidated by the authorities
  • The inclusion of the diaspora vote constitutes a breach of the Constitution and article 7.3 of the 1990 Copenhagen Document
  • The State Audit Office has been prevented from performing financial audits of political parties (especially those in power)
  • The political parties in power control the majority of the media
  • The exploitation and misuse of the public broadcasting service is in breach of article 7.8 of the 1990 Copenhagen Document
  • Electoral regulations are reformed in haste and fragmentarily
  • The complaints procedure is inadequate
  • MoI interferes with SEC activities
  • A number of categories of vulnerable groups cannot exercise their voting right
  • Political parties (especially those in power) provide no account of election finances
  • No penalties are stipulated for political parties that fail to submit a financial report

On December 16, 2015, more than two months later than agreed, the Macedonian Parliament voted on the members of the SEC during its 83rd session, with 102 in favour, no votes against or abstaining.

Aleksandar Čičakovski was elected President of the Commission, with Rexhep Prekopuca as vice-president, both from the expert quota. Atanas Urumov (from the expert quota), Silvana Boneva and Sašo Srcev (proposed by VMRO-DPMNE), Violeta Duma and Igor Milev (proposed by SDSM), Subhi Jakupi (DUI) and Bedredin Ibrahimi (DPA) were elected members of the Commission.

Seeing as the Commission’s secretary general is not elected by Parliament (neither proposed by the political parties nor from the ranks of the experts), on December 22, 2015, the SEC adopted a Rulebook on the procedures regarding the appointment of a secretary general, stipulating that a public advertisement will be published in daily newspapers, open to all state administration employees currently occupying a managing position. The advertisement was first published on December 23, 2015.

“Candidates must be citizens of the Republic of Macedonia, hold a university degree in public administration and management, and possess experience in public sector management. Members of political party bodies may not apply.”

On January 4, 2016, the SEC elected Dobre Jančev as its secretary general. Jančev previously occupied the office of state councillor for education, legal and international cooperation in the SEC and will serve a five-year term.

The SEC reported that its members held a session on December 29, 2015, proposing drafts of the rulebook on the methodology of keeping and the rulebook on the methodology of updating the electoral register.

On December 30 both rulebooks were delivered to the four largest political parties, who now must reconcile their stances on the draft texts before they are adopted by the SEC.

“The State Election Commission expects the four largest parties will come to an agreement shortly, so as to allow the Commission to adopt these vital acts concerning the verification and updating of the electoral register,” the SEC said in a statement.

Next on the list of vital tasks for the SEC will be to establish a methodology regarding the electoral register.

The strife with the SEC does not end here. VMRO-DPMNE raised the issue of Violeta Duma (SEC member proposed by SDSM) having reached the statutory retirement age. Then, on December 12, 2015, the Parliamentary Appointment Commission (PAC) adopted the decision to relieve her of her duties as member of the SEC.

The opposition countered that the decision to relieve Duma served to weaken their position in the SEC during the pre-election period, as they would have a single representative in the authority that prepares and organises the elections until a new member is elected.

SDSM underlined that this move by VMRO-DPMNE is a breach of regulations, as Duma is entitled to at least a year’s extension of her employment contract. The DUI representatives in the SEC abstained from voting regarding her case, which Ermira Mehmeti explained with the need to deliberate further before they reach a decision.

The Commission’s president, Zoran Ilijoski, a VMRO-DPMNE MP, explained that Duma could not seek a contract extension as the Electoral Codex stipulates that SEC member mandates are terminated when they meet the terms of retirement.

Despite complaints by the opposition, the MPs from VMRO-DPMNE and their coalition partners adopted a draft-decision to relieve Duma of her duties. The draft is expected to make its way to a plenary parliamentary session by January 11 at the earliest, when Duma will officially be relieved of her duties. A public advertisement for one SEC member will then be put forth, while the appointment requires a two-thirds Parliament majority.

According to opposition leader Zoran Zaev, it is of imperative importance that the elections are fair and democratic.

“And who can guarantee this without a revised electoral register? The SEC must reveal whether there is sufficient time to compare the data with the new software it has yet to obtain and to complete a field check of more than 1,700,000 voters,” said Zaev for Vistinomer

 

SOURCES:

 


This article was created within the framework of the Project to increase the accountability of the politicians and political parties Truthmeter implemented by Metamorphosis. The article is made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for Democracy(NED) and The Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD), a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, an initiative that supports democracy, good governance, and Euroatlantic integration in Southeastern Europe. The content is the responsibility of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, National Endowment for Democracy, the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, or its partners.

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