EU Ambassador Aivo Orav and US Ambassador Jess Baily | Photo by: BIRN
EU Ambassador Aivo Orav and US Ambassador Jess Baily said on Friday in Skopje that more work needed to be done before Macedonia faced April elections.
In a joint statement issued after a meeting with the recently elected interim Prime Minister Emil Dimitriev, tasked with overseeing the snap polls, they said: “No later than February 20, the European Union and the United States will jointly asses the implementation of the Przino commitments and whether conditions are in place that would be conducive to holding credible elections on April 24”.
They added: “There is urgent work to be done before parliament’s scheduled dissolution on February 24.”
The diplomats pointed to the need for a fully staffed and funded State Election Commission that would carry out a credible cleanup of the electoral roll, “including field checks”, an agreement on media reforms that would allow “objective and unbiased” reporting, measures to separate state and political party activities and strict procedures to prohibit political pressure on employees.
The statement came after the ruling parties pushed ahead with elections on April 24 – amid concern that the opposition may now boycott the polls because promised reforms remain unfulfilled.
“We also encourage party leaders to refrain from attacks on public officials whose job it is to create the conditions for credible elections,” the two ambassadors added.
Ruling VMRO DPMNE party leader and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski in a recent speech accused Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva, as well as provisional ministers from opposition ranks, of being part of a conspiracy to remove him from office and harm the country.
Opposition Social Demcorats say the cleanup of the electoral roll and an unbiased media are a must if they are to participate in the elections.
Currently, the electoral roll contains more than 1.8 million voters. The OSCE, which has monitored Macedonian elections in the past, has described it as unusually large for a country of just over 2 million people.
The opposition says the ruling VMRO DPMNE party, which has won nine consecutive elections since 2006 – parliamentary, presidential and local – has an interest in concealing fictive or deceased voters on the electoral roll.
Opposition head Zoran Zaev on Friday said it would take at least 85 days to conduct a thorough check of the electoral roll.
The political crisis in Macedonia escalated last February, when the opposition started releasing batches of covertly recorded tapes, which it said showed that Gruevski was behind the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people, including ministers.
The opposition insists that the tapes contain incriminating evidence against many senior officials, including proof of high-level corruption, the government grip’s on the judiciary, prosecution, businesses and media, politically-motivated arrests and jailing, electoral violations and even an attempted cover-up of a murder of a man by a police officer.
Gruevski, who has held power since 2006, says the tapes were “fabricated” by unnamed foreign intelligence services and given to the opposition to destabilize the country.