Access and Inclusion to Electoral Processes

Strengthened Institutions Conduct Fair and Efficient Election Process

Background

Participation in democratic processes is a fundamental right that should be accessible to all, in terms that are as equal as possible. Indeed, it is essential that elections and electoral processes be inclusive and provide opportunities to increase participation by addressing the needs of all voters and citizens.

Political inclusion, an integral part of social inclusion, is defined as “engaging all in the community in political processes, such as civic education, voting, running for office, and offering input to representatives as policies and legislation are developed, thereby creating a sense of agency and belonging”[1]. Thus, political inclusion focuses on vulnerable groups in society, as they are less likely to participate and be included.[2] All election stakeholders should be assured that the process is open, inclusive, and accessible to all.

The inclusion of women, youth, and persons with disabilities at all levels of the electoral process is very important, especially in decision making, but also in policy creation, adoption, and execution. In 2015, changes to the Electoral Code resulted in an increased quota for women of 40 percent.[3] Since then, political parties have mostly maintained the bare minimum in line with this legal requirement. On the candidate lists submitted prior to the 2020 early parliamentary election, 42,78% were female (slightly more than the 40% legal requirement) and 57,22% were male.[4] In comparison to the 2016 parliamentary elections, this was only a slight increase in the distribution of the mandates in parliament. Also, in 2016, out of 120 parliament mandates, 82 were men and 38 women, whereas there are 43 females and 77 males in 2020.

Regarding the inclusion of young people in electoral processes, only 302 young candidates were included on the political parties and coalition lists for the 2020 parliamentary elections, out of a total of 1,560 candidates. During the 2020 parliamentary elections, only 16 candidates (13.33%) between the age of 23 and 35[5] were elected.

When it comes to people with disabilities, participation in political and public life enables these individuals to take part and have a voice in the decisions that affect their country, their community, and themselves. Such participation is an important means of overcoming exclusion and discrimination and dismantling other barriers that persons with disabilities frequently face. It is the role of the government to ensure that people with disabilities are able to participate in all types of decision-making processes, including actively participating in electoral processes.[6] During the 2020 parliamentary elections, none of the 15 competing political parties and coalitions proposed people with disabilities on their candidate lists.

 

Access and Inclusion to Electoral Processes Workshop

In order to contribute to greater inclusion access and opportunities in North Macedonia’s electoral process, IFES, as part of the Swiss funded “Support to Electoral Reforms” project, held a three-day Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) workshop on the topic access and inclusion to electoral processes. The BRIDGE training represents a modular professional development program, particularly focusing on electoral processes. The training was held online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the BRIDGE methodology and approach was adjusted to incorporate online tools and technologies.

The BRIDGE module addressed areas of electoral processes where access is a challenge as well as which segments of the population are affected, and what solutions could be applied. 26 participants from different backgrounds, ages, and professions such as election administration, public institutions, political parties, civil society and media, took part in this highly interactive, internationally certified training. The team of trainers and consultants complemented each other’s expertise and provided international perspectives as well as local context while applying the BRIDGE methodology.

The trainers facilitated discussions on topics such as social inclusion in elections and using new technologies and participants actively engaged in issues such as: reasonable accommodation in elections, unique barriers to political participation encountered by women, youth and people with different types of disabilities.

Additionally, the training emphasized the importance of consultation processes throughout the electoral cycle – from post-election analysis through design of materials and development of procedures – in order to make real improvements in creating an accessible environment. The event also aimed to increase awareness about the context in North Macedonia and facilitate better communication among election participants.

Furthermore, the training provided a networking opportunity for participants, as well as specific tools to analyze electoral structures and procedures and develop strategies to promote access. Participants were given the opportunity to strengthen their capacities and discuss social inclusion and challenges in the participation and organization of electoral and political processes. Participants also learned how to identify discriminatory practices in the electoral context and recognize that there may be direct and indirect discrimination at different stages during the electoral process.

This workshop and other inclusion initiatives aim to facilitate access for everyone in the electoral process, and relevant stakeholders (election administration, institutions, political parties, media, CSOs etc.) will provide voices to the unheard and marginalized, thus promote greater active participation of all citizens in the process.

Testimonials

“I am happy to see different representatives of election administration, institutions, civil society and political parties present here today and this way re-affirm your commitment in supporting the electoral processes and further implementation of international electoral standards, good practices. Switzerland is glad to have been able to provide support and assistance in this type of efforts and interventions, which will hopefully contribute to more inclusive, transparent and credible electoral and political processes in the country.”

Sybille Suter Tejada, Swiss Ambassador to the Republic of North Macedonia

“This workshop really helped us understand better our role and responsibility in the overall electoral process, and especially the importance of considering different aspects and perspectives of vulnerable groups.”

–  A political party representative

“it is interesting how we tend to neglect other people rights in the process; it is definitely something we all need to consider. The electoral process is not only about the Election-Day but about what happens before and after. The participation of all groups will help strengthen the position of vulnerable groups in the society but also increase their rights.”

–  SEC representative

 

More Project Information

“Support to Electoral Reforms in North Macedonia” is a project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation/Swiss Embassy in North Macedonia and is implemented by IFES and NYCM (National Youth Council of Macedonia). The government and other state institutions, as well as civil society and political parties, are participating in the project’s implementation.

 

 

 

 

[1] https://www.gmfus.org/sites/default/files/achieving_political_inclusion.pdf

[2] https://electoralreforms.mk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Candidate-List-Analysis.pdf

[3] Electoral Code 2015, article 64, paragraph 5

[4] https://electoralreforms.mk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Candidate-List-Analysis.pdf

[5] https://www.radiomof.mk/infografik-77-mazhi-i-43-zheni-vo-novoto-sobranie-najmladiot-pratenik-ima-23-godini/

[6] IFES FOSTERING ELECTION INCLUSIVENESS THROUGH IMPROVED ACCESSIBILITY, Policy Brief

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