Macedonia schedules presidential election for April

07/02/2014

The vote will be the first held under the country's amended election law.

By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 07/02/14

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Macedonians will select a new president on April 13th under an amended election law. [AFP]

Macedonia will hold a presidential election on April 13th, following an agreement by the ruling and opposition political parties to amend the election law.

"According to my constitutional responsibility as president of the parliament and the deadlines stipulated by the electoral law, I signed the decision to call an election for president in Macedonia," said Trajko Veljanovski, president of the Macedonian parliament.

The amended election law stipulates electoral lists will be checked four times a year, and every voter will have one finger marked with ink on Election Day instead of spray as was the case so far.

The law also stipulates government officials may not open facilities built with taxpayers' money within 20 days of the election, nor promote such structures in their campaigns.

Corporate and media donations are limited to 50,000 euros per candidate, while abuses of public funds for election purposes will be sanctioned with prison sentences from three to five years.

Experts said the agreement and electoral changes were needed to raise standards, which will be practically seen in the April election, and are significant for Macedonia's path to EU and NATO membership.

"The agreement itself will be noted but will not be a determining factor for obtaining a positive or a negative grade [on accession]. The democratic development is a process for the benefit of all the citizens, not solely for the purposes of Euro-Atlantic integration," Vladimir Misev, president of the Institute for Democracy in Skopje, told SETimes.

The EU welcomed the agreement that led to the election law amendments, which was a result of discussions for three years.

"Electoral reforms are an important part of the high-level pre-accession dialogue and of the political dialogue established on March 1st of last year," said Peter Stano, spokesperson for the European Commission.

One key aspect of the agreement is the financing of elections, which now allows for equality in the electoral process, said Gordana Siljanovska, a professor at the Law faculty in Skopje.

"The way parties reached the agreement on the election law is how they should also behave when it comes to other questions of national interest," Siljanovska told SETimes.

Elsewhere in the region, Montenegro has revised its 2006 electoral law, making changes that will go into effect this month.

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The amended law prohibits officials from campaigning during regular work hours or using their government-related media appearances for election purposes.

Moreover, public property cannot be used to promote political parties and no candidate is allowed to use relations with foreign representatives in the campaigns.

Correspondent Ivana Jovanovic in Belgrade contributed to this report.

How will the electoral changes in Macedonia influence the election process? Share your opinion in the comments space.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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