The campaign period for Macedonia’s June 5 snap general election started on May 16, but only the governing VMRO-DPMNE is fielding candidates, as the other main parties have decided to boycott the vote saying condition for free elections have not been met.
The election was planned under the Przino agreement intended to end Macedonia’s political crisis in 2015. However, the country was plunged back into crisis in mid-April, when President Gjorge Ivanov decided to pardon politicians facing criminal proceedings, and protests dubbed the “Colourful Revolution” have taken place almost daily since then.
The European Commission does not see that minimum conditions that will enable credible elections on June 5, which could be recognised by the international community, are in place, European Commission spokesperson Maja Kocijancic, said in a statement sent to bne Intellinews on May 16.
The continuing political crisis in the EU candidate country is moving the country further away from its Euro-Atlantic aspirations, warned Kocijancic, who is a spokesperson for EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
Kocijancic noted that the Commission has repeatedly stressed the need to clean the electoral roll, ensure balanced media reporting and investigate the intimidation of voters.
These are also the main demands of the opposition parties. The main opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) has warned several times that it will not participate in the election if conditions are not in place.
“Under the current circumstances, any government resulting from elections, in which three major parties are not participating, would not be a credible partner for the international community,” Kocijancic said in a statement.
The SDSM, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), which is a junior partner in the government, and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), also in opposition, did not submit candidate lists for the June elections to the state election commission by the May 11 deadline.
Given the situation, the European Commission urged all political leaders and relevant authorities to take decisive steps to address the situation and to respect the Przino agreement.
The first wave of the crisis was triggered in early 2015, when the SDSM released a number of tapes last year with recorded conversations concerning, among other things, the involvement of the VMRO-DPMNE-led government in the judiciary, media and key appointments.
The Commission underscored that political leaders should address persisting rule of law problems without further delay, concerning in particular the need for Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov to revoke his decision to pardon politicians.
The decision, which was taken unexpectedly by the president on April 12, sparked massive protests. Several thousand people have marched almost daily in Skopje and other cities in Macedonia to express their disapproval of the decision and the regime in general.
Ivanov’s decision also undermines the work of the Special Prosecution Office, which was set up under the Przino agreement, and has already launched several investigations involving VMRO-DPMNE top officials and former ministers of interior and transport, Gordana Jankulovska and Mile Janakieski.
The latest investigation concerning the illegal demolition of a residential building of an opposition businessman, dubbed “TNT”, also involves VMRO-DPMNE leader and former prime minister Nikola Gruevski, but he was not accused in the case because he had already been pardoned by the president.
“Justice must prevail and must be seen to. This is the only way to restore citizens’ trust in the state institutions, to end the current tensions and to preserve rule of law in the country. Political leaders cannot pretend that this is business as usual,” the statement sent by Kocijancic said.
The European Commission also warned that recent events will have serious consequences.
The parties themselves are responsible for ensuring democratic progress and bringing their country back on the Euro-Atlantic path, the statement concluded.
MEPs Richard Howitt, Eduard Kukan and Ivo Vajgl warned on April 21 that they “are now forced to consider further actions to meet the requirements clearly laid out by the European Council, European Commission and European Parliament.”
The comment indicated that European Union officials are considering the possibility of freezing Macedonia’s bid to launch EU membership talks, in an attempt to increase pressure on the country’s government to end the ongoing crisis.
Macedonia has been waiting to start EU negotiations after it became an EU candidate country in 2005. The European Commission recommended opening negotiations on EU membership with Macedonia in 2009, but the launch of talks has been postponed since then mainly due to the conflict with Greece, which objects to the use of the name “Macedonia” as this is shared by a Greek province.