These days, as we’re expecting the opening of the debate about the implementation of the Agreement of 2 June, which aims to end the political crisis in Macedonia, the election model will be in the agenda.
Four parliamentary political parties (VMRO and SDSM from the Macedonian political bloc, and DUI and DPA from the ethnic Albanian bloc) are releasing to the public opinion their proposal in regards of what the electoral map of the country should be like, and what method will be used upon electing future members of parliament. This is an important point in the process of installing democratic values of this country, which is a prerequisite for fair and correct elections, acceptable by all electoral actors and factors.
Macedonia has an electoral system which bipolarizes and regionalizes the political scene on ethnical backgrounds. Bipolarization represents a political system which acknowledges only two parties or to centers of political power, which constitute the main actors of the political scene. Regionalization comes as a result of organizing the country in six electoral districts where each of them has twenty deputies. Hereby, we are dealing with a proportional model with closed lists, which dates back in 2002 – a post-conflict period that implied the normalizing and restoring the democracy in the country.
Perhaps this model was necessary at that time when politics was divided on ethnic grounds, and not as it is now – on political interests. At that time, when the conflict had caused deterioration of the interethnic relations, decisions were not made based on arguments, but based on the hatred against the other ethnicity. The model with six electoral districts was indeed imposed as a compromise between the Albanian part, which demanded the whole country to be one electoral district, and the Macedonian part which demanded a combined electoral model.
QUANTITY OVER QUALITY
The system of bipolar political scene might be successful in countries with democratic tradition, strong and non-partisan state institutions, and a high level of public awareness. But, in Macedonia as it seems the main beneficiaries of this model are the political parties which are transforming into silent gravediggers of democracy itself. The actual model of six electoral districts has been perfectly processed by the two political parties which currently share the power – VMRO and DUI, so they get the most members of parliament although they only get a minority of the total number of voters. Second pair of beneficiaries of this model are SDSM and DPA, but without the possibility of coming to power in Macedonia.
Therefore we have an inter-ethnic bipolarization which divides the political scene in two blocs – Macedonian and Albanian, and an intra-ethnic bipolarization that favors only two Macedonian and two Albanian political parties. It is exactly this bi-scaled bipolarization that has destroyed all new political initiatives whose goals might have been sincere in terms of fighting corruption, installing genuine values, orienting the country towards the EU and NATO integrations as well as building a system of values that will produce peace, security, stability, progress and economic development.
I think now is the time to channel the debate towards finding of a model which will liberate us from the deputies bodyguards of the leader, and it will bring to the parliament the true representative and defender of the voters’ interests. Two incapable deputies do not make a capable one. This bunch of anonymous deputies represents only a closing valve of introduction of the voters’ interests in the mechanisms of the institution of the system. These deputies that never proposed a law or amendment do not represent their voters, but rather they represent their party and its caste.
ONE ELECTORAL DISTRICT WITH OPEN LISTS
I think it is about time that the ethnical bipolarization of the political scene is eliminated, as a step towards the political bipolarization. This process must be followed by the return of the quality of representation in the Parliament, by choosing the model which will strengthen the connection of the voters and their representatives, and will weaken the control of the leader and his caste on the representative of the people.
To eliminate this bi-scaled political bipolarization and to discard the harmful regionalization of the political scene, the focus of the debate and the pressure on the political feudal lords should remain within the grounds of choosing the proportional model with one electoral district and open lists.
The open list system provides that every citizen, except from electing the party, they will be able to choose the candidates for deputies within that political party.
If to this moment the caste of the party was the organ that determined the order of the candidates for deputies on the list by which only those that were on the top positions got elected, the open lists will give the voters the opportunity to order the candidates and elect the deputies they want. So, it may happen that those who are listed in the bottom may get more votes than the top candidates. This entails the leading clan of the party not to nominate people who will only be manageable by them, but those who possess the authority and the credibility to get the most of the votes. The open lists make it possible for the elected deputy not to be a hostage of the leader or the party’s leading clan, but to refer only to the votes received directly from the electorate.
This model will not only improve the quality of representation in the Parliament, but will also affect the democratization of the political subjects by imposing internal changes and reforms, depending on the support that particular candidates will have in elections. In the long run, the open lists will force parties to nominate profiles that match voters’ needs and expectations, rather than the level of loyalty to the party’s leading clan.
One electoral district would grant equal importance for each vote. Some argue that this electoral system may cost Albanians 2-3 deputies, but this is not true and it is out of sense. If the number of Albanian MPs drops as a result of the poor voter turnout, then this can be taken as a response of the citizens to the developing politics. The current model with six electoral districts did not even give the opportunity for the citizens to express their will by abstaining of voting.
For example, 20 deputies are elected in the Electoral District 6, regardless of whether 300,000 or 30,000 citizens voted. Voter turnout in this district has been somewhere around 35%, including the ballot stuffing in several polling stations. Hence, the parties have not felt the strikes of the voters who may have chosen to abstain as a result of their revolt. Furthermore, by staging incidents and tension some political parties may have deliberately discouraged the voters they cannot control. By doing so, they’ve achieved their desired outcome only with the voters they control, by blackmailing or buying them out through various forms of corruption. It is about time that the politics returns to the citizen and serves only to them.
The voices supporting the idea of One Electoral District in Macedonia fortunately are growing. This raises hope that April 24th will not bring a black and white political reality, but a diversity which will introduce new values in the country’s democratic system. The citizens don’t find it important to have a substantive change of politics, but only a formal rotation of the ruling parties.