"One Voter, One Ballot" in FYR Macedonia

09 Mar 2009

Gostivar - Major political parties in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are set to discuss a “One Voter, One Ballot” initiative at a March 12 meeting in Skopje. As part of a broader goal of peaceful and democratic elections, the parties are encouraging everyone to vote, and vote using a confidential ballot, when presidential and local elections are held in the country on March 22.

The elections are a test of the democratic process in FYR Macedonia after violent and tumultuous elections in June 2008. Accusations of vote-rigging and intimidation marked those elections, which also left one person dead. Part of the election also had to be re-held due to fraud. Such problems are seen as major handicap to FYR Macedonia’s accession hopes for the European Union or NATO.

As a result, the State Election Commission and the United Nations Development Programme organized the “One Voter, One Ballot” initiative to ensure a calmer, more democratic election this March.
 
The initiative raises awareness of the negative impact of proxy and family voting (where one member of a family, often the male head of the household, votes for the entire family) and transparent ballots on the democratic process. The initiative particularly targets youth and women, and other groups who have been disenfranchised in the past.
 
“The principle of  “One Voter, One Ballot” through the exercise of a secret vote, without undue pressure of political parties, friends or even close family members is a pinpoint of every democracy,” said Cihan Sultanoglu, UNDP Deputy Director for Europe and the CIS, at a February meeting on the issue. “One of the most important moments at which citizens sanction the conduct of public affairs, is through genuine free and fair elections.”
 
Representatives of FYR Macedonia’s major political parties including VMRO-DPMNE, DUI, SDSM and SPA said they would work toward that goal March 22.
 
Previously, “One Voter, One Ballot” events have taken place in Tetovo, Struga, Prilep and Kumanovo. The French ambassador and representatives from several non-governmental organizations have also been involved the initiative.