Friday, March 20, 2009

The Macedonian Elections

Sunday, March 22, is Election Day for Macedonia. President (a largely ceremonial post in this parliamentary system), Skopje Mayor, and municipal mayors and councils all around the country will be picked today. Or not, because low voter turnout and numerous candidates usually necessitate a second round of elections after the first. That's the best I can do. As much as I am interested in politics, as an American, I absolutely refuse to attempt to understand how a parliamentary democracy functions. One-issue party platforms? Coalitions?! It's all very disturbing and, frankly, nonsensical.

The ruling party, VMRO, is expected to maintain and most likely increase in power, as the main opposition Social Democrats have collapsed lately. If you're actually interested in the internal politics of Macedonia, here is BalkanInsight's Macedonian Election Center. An even better read would be Justin's summary, which I really, really suggest you read.

The last major elections were marred by violence, and there is a worry that new incidents could occur, although most people don't seem to be too worried about it. The violent incidents really harmed Macedonia's progress towards the European Union, so it's important to keep things civil this time around.

Two personal observations:

1.Billboards for candidates are everywhere in Skopje, and elections here are pretty complicated - a Skopje resident has five pages of ballots to fill out. For this reason, the candidates are numbered, and this number appears on the campaign advertisements. This makes them look exactly like advertisements for local news programs to those who speak little or no Macedonian, with the candidate number as the channel. Take this example for Gjorge Ivanov, the presidential candidate for the ruling Macedonian party, VMRO:

Tell me that doesn't look like a morning show on your local NBC affiliate. His slogan in the corner, 'Eden za site' = 'One for All'.

2. I have been getting lots of free stuff. In the past months, groups of supporters for candidates have come to my door. These groups seem pretty targeted: one composed of elderly pensioners, one of blue-collar looking middle-age guys, and one group of attractive 20-something women. They shove notebooks, pens, flyers, etc., in my face and start trying to sell me on their candidate (or gauge my support for someone else). I just tell them I'm a foreigner and collect my prizes. I'm not sure, but I think this sort of thing would be a pretty huge violation of election law in the States. VMRO's people stopped at my door last night, and I got a neon-orange hat for Vladimir Todorovik (Skopje Mayor), a strawberry-scented Gjorge Ivanov (President) air freshener, and a flyer for Ivanov. Neither my wearing of this neon orange hat, nor my freshly strawberry-scented bathroom, constitute an endorsement of any candidate.

Here's to you, Lady Democracy. I hope you have one hell of a weekend.

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