Republic of Macedonia: elections on 11 December

Message to the citizens: Your future at stake!

In the last 3 years, I have been involved in efforts to revive the ailing democracy in Macedonia. In a few days, you will elect a new parliament. Electing honest politicians without a track record of corruption is certainly a first step to rebuild your democracy.

Elections however are not the final point, but only the beginning of much needed changes. These elections can’t be a referendum for certain politicians or political parties to continue with undermining your democracy.

During my stay, I met members of your government, politicians and party representatives who blindly support serious crimes and as politicians are involved in corruption, steal your money and put it on their personal banks accounts abroad, have connections with organized crime, and don’t want to accept any responsibility for their deeds. This is the reason why they successfully control the judiciary to escape from prosecution and prison. Elections can never be a blank cheque for them to continue with such activities.

During may stay, I have observed how inspection services, often ordered by politicians, extort businesses, forcing them to close. This is the main reason why your local economy is ailing today.

I have seen teachers forced to pay ridiculous fines, just because inspectors need to meet their quota of fines. How can you motivate teachers to care about their work? Any inspection should in the first place support the people they control and help them to improve what they are doing, instead of fining them.

I have heard how young girls are forced into sex with their professors to pass an exam at the university. This problem is not limited to a few rotten apples, but seems to be widespread. I have seen how people buy diploma’s and degrees, including PhD’s, without any serious exam or thesis. I have seen how this ends in hospitals with incompetent medical staff who are a serious threat for the patients.

I have seen how people end up in jail, not because they committed any crime, but because they were critical towards the government. I have seen journalists and editors in chief who were fired or forced to quit their job, because they were critical towards the government.

And yes, I have seen how one party systematically controls the citizens and forces them to support them. Many of these citizens are employed by the government. They work often for salaries that are insufficient to lead a decent life, but too much to die. And they are afraid: “if this government can’t continue, I will lose my job.” “They know how I vote, they will see if I don’t vote for them.” “My children will lose their job, if I don’t vote for them.”

The same party now promises many projects and shouts that employment will go up, that you all will live in a paradise. This is far from the truth. This party and their allies have no policies to deal with the increasing number of challenges your country is facing. They don’t develop your local economy, they don’t review the horrendous system of inspections and above all, they don’t allow critical voices, they don’t allow you to live in freedom. Instead, they throw you some crumbs to keep you happy and run away with most of the cake.

I also met many citizens: you all deserve a better country and a strong parliament, which effectively controls the government. And yes, I saw on the electoral lists also sincere, honest, competent candidates, who deserve to become a member of your parliament. I met many organizations who are active all over the country to move it back on a democratic track.

When you vote this Sunday — and you all should, don’t be afraid you will lose your job if the government changes, but think twice before you vote: think about the freedom you deserve, about the right and even the duty members of parliament have to ask critical questions to the government, to fight for ministers and politicians who should be accountable for the mandate they receive from you, the money you allow them to spend on your behalf. As citizens and through parliament, you always have the right to know.

When you vote this Sunday, think about your future and the future of your children. You all deserve a better future, including better salaries, a good educational system with respect for the integrity of every student, A system where judges are independent, not the slaves of certain political parties, and finally a parliament that is not blind for the corruption of their politicians and engages actively to move step by step towards more democracy and a fair political system.

I hope to welcome you one day as a new citizens of the EU, when you will actively support our European standards of democracy, accountability, transparency and respect for the fundamental rights of all the citizens.

Good luck on Sunday!

Peter Vanhoutte