As the political upheaval in the country quiets, citizens will head to the polls.
By Miki Trajkovski and Marina Stojanovska for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 11/03/13
VMRO-DPMNE supporters rally in Skopje ahead of the March 24th elections. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]
As the election campaign is in full swing in Macedonia ahead of the March 24th local voting, analysts said that despite the recent political chaos, the vote will be free and fair. Some citizens, however, are most concerned with the European future of the country.
Vladimir Bozinovski, political analyst and professor at the Skopje faculty of political studies, told SETimes the election campaigns should focus on local issues, but because of the recent political upheaval, that will not be the case.
"The opposition will use the same rhetoric for parliamentary elections -- not asking for votes, or how to build infrastructure, but how to defeat the central government," Bozinovski said.
Yet, he said that he expects that after the local elections, planned EU-sponsored projects will continue.
"All planned reforms and laws will continue to be adopted to get a positive [EU] report, so we hope in June [that] Macedonia will receive a date for early negotiations with the EU," Bozinovski said.
The two-month long political impasse in Macedonia ended with the intervention of EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fule, European Parliament (EP) special rapporteur for Macedonia Richard Howitt and EP national parties' representative Jerzy Buzek. The three officials hashed out an agreement between the ruling VMRO-DPMNE, opposition SDSM, and the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration.
The inter-party agreement consists of five points, including an interparty memorandum confirming Macedonia's Euro-Atlantic agenda and a promise that all parties will refrain from action that would undermine these objectives.
Electoral reforms regarding the voting lists are part of the agreement, as well as the implementation of OSCE post-electoral recommendations.
Esad Rahic, a former SDSM member, told SETimes he expects that the elections will take place without incident.
"I expect the opposition candidates to offer solutions and programmes in the campaign that will be recognised by the citizens. I'm sure they will lead a positive and democratic campaign," Rahic said.
Arcinovo Mayor Bastri Bajrami, who is running for another term, agreed. "There will be harsh rhetoric among political parties, but … no one will risk incidents because of high penalties. I don't think that anyone will risk his freedom for the benefit of some political party," Bajrami said.
Citizens want politicians to set the country's European future as a priority in the elections.
"These elections will be fair and democratic, though as always, the priority of the political parties will be personal hunger for more power. I think they should take into account the European future of Macedonia," Dimce Sipinkaroski of Struga told SETimes.