U.S. Embassy Press Statement, December 12, 2016

Ambassador Jess Baily Press Availability:

December 12, 2016

The U.S. Embassy commends the citizens of Macedonia who exercised their right to vote in the December 11 parliamentary elections.

We welcome OSCE/ODIHR’s preliminary conclusions that the elections were competitive and that fundamental freedoms were generally respected.  The turnout was high, and the elections proceeded in a calm and orderly manner, with few cases of procedural irregularities.  We echo their concerns about the administrative preparations for elections and urge the next government to continue to work to build capacity within the State Electoral Commission and to resolve the structural and legal issues with voter registers.

The December 11 elections are an important first step to move Macedonia out of its political crisis.  We encourage the parties who form the new government to work constructively with the opposition to enact reforms that will further the process of Euro-Atlantic integration, particularly with regard to rule of law.  The United States remains Macedonia’s partner in that effort.

Question:  Ambassador, what do you expect of the results and of the political parties, because VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM have similar results for now from the Electoral Commission?

Ambassador Baily:  Obviously, the Electoral Commission has yet to announce the official preliminary results, so we await those.  This is a process that will continue over the next several days.  It’s a process that will be among the parties, and that’s as it should be.  So I’ll be watching that process the way many other people will.

Question:  According to latest information from the State Electoral Commission, the discrepancy between the ruling party and SDSM is around 15,000 votes.  The Mission of OSCE/ODIHR mentioned a lot of irregularities connected with the pressure of the voters, administrations.  So, my question is, could those irregularities change the outcome of the elections, bearing in mind that around 30,000 votes are counted as irregular; they are not counted because they are overthrown?

Ambassador Baily:  As you know, there is a process within the Electoral Code for raising procedural questions during the election, expressing concerns about certain measures that were taken.  That process officially begins once the preliminary results are announced, and it’s important to let that process go forward as outlined in the Electoral Code.  That is also part of the administration of elections, so that would be my observation and I obviously cannot speculate about the outcome of those proceedings.

Question:  How do you comment on the fact that two ethnic Albanian political parties have entered the political spectrum, whereas the two traditionally major political parties seem to be falling down from the political scene?

Ambassador Baily:  In terms of commenting about the various issues with regard to the elections, the meaning behind the vote counts, and all that… I am going to leave those commentaries to the very smart people and political commentators here in Macedonia to analyze.

As a general matter, these were very close and competitive elections, and we’ll see how the results unfold going forward.  But, I can say one thing, what does unite the Macedonian people, according to almost every poll I have ever seen here – and that is the desire, the aspiration to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union.  That is something that brings people together, and that is certainly something that the United States and this Embassy will work hard to help advance, as we have in the years past.

Thank you very much!