Macedonia’s preparations for planned elections in April have not progressed enough to hold a “credible” vote by then, the US and EU ambassadors to the country said Sunday.
Macedonia’s political leaders slated to the snap elections because of deadlock over claims against government of illegal phone-tapping and widespread abuse of office.
It planned to go ahead with elections on April 24, the ruling VMRO-DPMNE (The International Macedonian Revolution Organisation - Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity) announced in January.
The main opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) has threatened to boycott the elections, complaining that the conditions are not in place for them to be free and fair. Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev said that his party would boycott the vote, citing a lack of media reform to reduce government influence and failure to conduct a thorough review of the electoral roll.
A statement signed by the EU mission to Macedonia and the US embassy said that they were particularly concerned at "reports of pressure and intimidation of voters and others" and about the lack of an agreement "on media reform, to ensure a more level playing field".
"We note that the work of the State Electoral Commission to date and the findings of all relevant experts indicate that at this stage the necessary conditions for organising credible elections on April 24 are currently not in place," added EU ambassador Aivo Orav and US ambassador Jess Baily.
US ambassador Jess Baily read out the letter to reporters in Skopje, capital of Macedonia, and said "If elections cannot be held at the foreseen date, political parties are expected to work to take the necessary measures to allow holding credible elections at the earliest possible date”.
After the country’s last poll in 2014 which is won by Gruevski’s VMRO-DMPNE party, the SDSM boycotted parliament saying the polls had been marred by fraud.
After almost a decade in power, the crisis deepened last year when the opposition accused Gruevski of illegal surveillance, wire-tapping, high-level corruption, interference in the media and judiciary. The government denied the allegations and accused the main opposition leader of spying and of trying to destabilise the country.
The parliament of the Macedonia voted to dissolve itself on February 24 for snap elections, after noting the resignation of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
Macedonia has been an EU candidate nation since 2005 but has yet to open membership negotiations.