The presidential elections in North Macedonia were well implemented but the legal framework needs further improvement, stated the international observers, who presented their first reports.

– The fundamental freedoms of gathering and expressing were respected and the election day was peaceful and transparent. But, there is still a need for wider election reform – stated the observers.

According to Sereine Mauborgne, Special Co-ordinator and leader of the short-term OSCE observer mission, “This constructive approach must be maintained through the second round and beyond. ” She said that after the elections real effort will be made to enact a coherent electoral law and finally address the long existing challenges…”

International observers perceive as a problem the exclusion of around 11.000 voters due to expired identification documents.

“Even though the accuracy of the voter registry was evident, more attention should be given to the inconsistencies between the state databases and the various formats of data”

According to Marie-Christine Dalloz, the head of the delegation from the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the mature functioning democracy would have brought more voters at the elections because the turnover during the first round was small.

-The delegation regrets that the turnout was low for a presidential election. A mature functioning of the political system and a reform of the electoral law would re-engage citizens and ensure their active participation in the election of their head of state. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission are ready to assist the authorities of North Macedonia in implementing the reforms – said Dalloz.

The campaign took place in a peaceful atmosphere where all of the participants could freely lead their campaigns, by respecting basic freedoms. State representatives were careful to keep their clear distinction between state and political activities and to avoid using state resources in the campaign, stated the observers’ conclusions.

-We were pleased to see a campaign that addressed substantive concerns, with candidates engaging in debate on their visions for the future of North Macedonia. All three candidates clearly advocated for further European integration; whatever future the people here may choose, democratic elections will be crucial. The clear efforts made by state officials to avoid mixing political and official activities are an important development, helping to level the playing field for candidates.” – said Reinhold Lopatka, head of the OSCE”s Parliamentary delegation.

According to observers, the election administration has carried out its duties professionally and has had the trust by many concerned sides. Still, SEC’s transparency and efficiency was made difficult by technical difficulties of their information and communication systems which caused doubt about the safety of the information technology.

The media monitoring on part of ODIHR has determined that the media was unbiased in reporting and presenting various information about the candidates and the political parties and were helping the citizens to inform themselves before making their choices. Both public and other broadcasting services were covering the campaign, mainly independently, while online and printed media sometimes were unbalanced in their reporting.

Further, there was an objection about the legal framework. Even though the law allows democratic conditions, the Election Code was not made for the needs of the presidential election run.

– I hope that both the national authorities and political parties will continue to work in this spirit. The electoral reforms ODIHR has previously recommended need to be completed, with a focus on the transparency and accountability of campaign finance.”- said Corien Jonker, Head of the election observation mission from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)

The international mission for monitoring the elections consisted of 240 observes from 38 countries among which there were longstanding and short standing observers deployed by ODIHR, 39 parliamentaries and Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly personnel and 12 by PSSE.