10 November 2014 Published in Law Written by 

How much does the Roma vote worth in the Republic of Macedonia

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According to all previous reports of Freedom House, Macedonia is partially free democracy. Serbia was unfree democracy until the fall of Slobodan Milosevic. In the last decade in our Balkan surroundings despite Macedonia partly free democratic countries are Albania, Bosnia, and Kosovo. This fact shows us in what kind of democracy we live. According to the current electoral system in Macedonia, the political competition implies an inferior position of the Roma political bloc. The Roma community is not able to compete among their ranks; they are forced to make a coalition with the larger political parties if they want to achieve a particular political or institutional position in the state. So it appears that the choice of Roma political representatives is dictated by the quantity (numbers), and not by quality.

So far, the representatives of the Roma community have always been chosen in the first constituency (Skopje, Suto Orizari). Taking into account the so far actions and results of the Roma MPs raises the question whether this is the best choice and quality that is offered by the Roma political elite and whether the Roma outside Skopje feel them as their representatives in the Parliament? In my opinion, the Romani community has far better capacity for political representation in the other cities. On the other hand, it is logical to remind ourselves that one political option or an MP can neither in theory nor in practice can become a legitimate representative of the whole community. Actually the fact that all Roma political parties made a coalition with VMRO-DPMNE without having any cooperation and dialogue among them (5 parties) is a sufficient evidence of how and from where our Roma political parties draw their legitimacy and positioning within the system.

This analysis examines the possible directions on how to overcome the shortcomings of the current political situation and how to create an atmosphere for a better political offer in terms of quality and, of course, how to use the new potential in the Romani political elite that comes from the constituencies outside of Skopje.

In my opinion I think that outside of Skopje has a sufficient critical mass, mature political capacity, and quality, but due to the current electoral models they are not able to break through and show up on the political scene. The following factors contributing to this situation:


  • Electoral Code[1]

I argue that this electoral system favors only the major political parties where the numbers decide, the vote of minorities, including the Roma, have less impact and value. The result of this attitude within the political competition for more votes decreases the value of Roma votes which due geographical and politically tailored constituencies do not have an equal and fair opportunity for quantitative amalgamation of the votes from the Roma electorate. However, if this electoral system changes and if we have a constituency for numerically smaller communities then it will allow more democratic environment and fair-play election race that will offer quality and quantity. Moreover, if we introduce a model of open lists, the voters will have a chance to vote for candidates, and not just for a party.


  • How the system of open lists would look

If the party X has ten candidates, the voters can vote for the party and for the candidate. So if the party X wins 5 places, on those seats will sit those candidates who received the most votes by the citizens and no matter in which ordinal number they were on the list.


  • How our current system looks

At the moment, we can vote for a political party, the party before the elections decides which candidate in which ordinal number will be placed on the ballot. So if the party X has ten candidates and they win only five seats, on those seats will sit the first five candidates who were on the list.

As a result of the electoral system in 2011 only five out of 18 political parties won seats in the Parliament[2]. What happened to the votes that people gave for the other 13 political parties? The analytical estimations suggest that more than 100,000 people or 10% of the people who have voted for other parties do not have a representative in the Parliament of Macedonia. According to this electoral model, some political parties provided MPs with less than 8,000 votes, while other political parties needed more than 10,000 votes for one mandate. From here we can conclude that the right for an equal vote does not apply to these 10% of the people who were left out without a representative in the Parliament. If we would have one territorial unit for the smaller ethnic minorities the redistribution of the mandates would have been different and many political parties would have participated in the Parliament, and the people in the country would have been equally represented.

In 2011, the mandates were distributed according to the proportionate model without threshold for entering in the parliament. Not having a threshold to a certain extent is beneficial for the Roma political parties because with the majoritarian system of voting we need between 10 to 20 thousands votes (depending on the number of voters per consistency) for entering in the parliament. It is obvious here that a vote for an individual is being lost because it goes for the political party, but this is an issue that was agreed between the political parties. According to the D'Hondt method[3], the total number of votes that each political party receives is divided with 1,2,3,4 to 20. The received elective quotients are arranged by size, the largest twenty, are the places that were in the lists. Each list of candidates gets MPs according to the highest quotients in these twenty. If the distribution of the last twentieth place appear two identical quotients, the seat shall be determined by lot.


  • Example for allocation of the parliamentary seats in one of the sixth constituencies

If in the elections participate three political parties with their own lists, A, B and C and they obtain, list  A 120.000, list B 80.000 and list C 60.000, the number of votes for each party is divided by one, two, three, ... to 20. According to the D'Hondt method, from a political party A will enter in the parliament the first nine from the list. From the list, B will enter 6 MPs, from the list C will enter the first five[4]. If in the elections compete four or five parties (which is the practice in Macedonia), it means that the fourth party can achieve just one MP, the fifth party does not have any chance.  

With the current electoral model if the minorities decide to run the elections independently, it is very hard for them to get an MP. Therefore, if we want all minorities to be equally represented in the country, we need reserved seats in the parliament for them.

The Article 62 of the Constitution of Macedonia allows from 120-140 members in the Parliament [5]. Currently, we have 120 MPs that are chosen with the proportional model plus 3 MPs from the diaspora that are chosen with the majoritarian model. With the reserved seats for the minorities, we would have more than 3 MPs in the Parliament. When we would have these seats our Roma political parties would not need to make coalitions with the major parties, they can run the elections independently. The competition here would be between the Roma political parties. Those Roma parties that would get the majority of the votes they would seat in the Parliament. In this case, all Roma from the country would choose who will represent them, and not as so far when just the first and the second constituency decides who will represent the Roma from Macedonia. Reserved places for the minorities in the Parliament is a reality in some countries such as Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Romania, and Kosovo. Bosnia and Kosovo have reserved places for the Roma in the Parliament.


  • Awareness and democratic maturity of the Roma electorate.

After the independence of Macedonia, due to the poor socio – economic situation the Roma as a voting body were easily bribed during the elections by the Roma and non-Roma political parties. Mostly Roma were bribed through free provisions of the essential food items, or money which depending on the area had a certain amount.  However, with the time the political emancipation of the citizens has developed so there is a decreasing trend of “buying" votes.

With "selling" of our votes, we allow the political parties to treat us like puppets, not as people who give them political power. On the other hand, the act of buying and selling votes reflects the overall picture of a democratic state because the manipulatively elected MPs from the start are with de-legitimized credibility inside and outside Macedonia. The experts claim there are several factors that contribute to this situation. Firstly, the socio-economic situation of the Romani population, then the degree of their education and the unconsciousness of their civil rights and responsibilities.


  • The political culture of the major parties

The major political parties, in general, prefer less capable leaders next to them. The positions they are given (political or institutional) cannot bring any change for the everyday life of Roma. As a consequence the Roma leaders lose their integrity and credibility towards the Roma population.

The Roma community in Macedonia has a mayor who is ethnic Roma and he runs the municipality that is populated by Roma majority. Furthermore, the Roma people have councilors in several cities in the state, but how much these "authorities" are able to implement the promises they give the citizens? How much they represent the Roma interests in local governments?

The coalition with the major parties does not allow our Roma councilors to protect the interests of Roma. Roma councilors are satisfied with their position, and they do not protect the interest of Roma community but rather the interest of the alliance. I am convinced that some of the Roma councilors in the municipalities will agree with this statement, and I will ask them whether they are willing to oppose the coalition partners when it comes to the Roma interest.

The lack of a political program and ideology of the Roma political parties is still a problem because we as a community do not actually know what the Roma political parties would do for improving the situation of the Roma community. I must point out that efforts were made in the last years for greater participation of Roma in the political parties, so today a significant number of young Roma are already politically active. Roma as a minority are more commonly becoming a deciding factor in choosing a mayor in local level. Evident fact is that when the difference between the major parties is very close, the votes of Roma decide who will be the next mayor who will lead the municipality. However, whether our Roma political parties know how to benefit for themselves and the community when they bargain with the major political parties is still a question?

This scheme is a visual representation of the strategies of negotiation and examines the questions of interest and relationship between the political parties.

By applying these strategies[6], we have four results

  1. We win - they win
  2. We win - they lose
  3. We lose - they win
  4. We lose - they lose

Our community always loses, and they win (point 3) it explains the outcome of this approach. In addition, I am going to demonstrate an example of the local elections where Roma votes decided who will be the next mayor of the municipality. In the last local elections in Tetovo, the two major Albanian parties in the first round decided not to cooperate with the Roma political parties believing that they have enough support from their electorate. After the first round, the difference between the two Albanian parties was about 100 votes in electing the mayor. As a consequence their strategy inevitably had to change - towards cooperation with Roma political parties. In this case, the votes of the Romani community decided who will be the next mayor (the power was in the hands of Roma).  In this game, our political parties did not know how to negotiate with them because they were guided by their personal interests, which in the end resulted in their victory (of the Albanian party) they got the Roma votes, and we lost (Roma) the benefits of the public policy.


  • How they had to negotiate in this situation

Analyzing the context of the situation in both election rounds I suggest the following strategies:

  1. It is clear that every political party should analyze the principal actors and the possible scenarios in the game in order to adapt the future performance strategy in the electoral process and coalition. In the first case when they predict that they have power and safe position, we as the other side need to approach them with an offer for the Roma votes and in return to ask for benefits of public policies. In this context, we get a well-built position and open space for future cooperation. The outcome of the first round is not so important as long as we play the game according to the rules.
  2. The decisive moment is played during the second round when the stakeholders are in a narrow battle for the mayoralty. In this situation, we have the advantage; we can offer two options. The first option is the pull strategy[7], when we are waiting for them to come to the negotiation table and give us an offer from our first set of conditions. The second option is push (push) strategy[8]again we give them hand for cooperation, and we invite them on the negotiating table. Unlike the first option, we develop a strategy for getting our requirements (a compromise between the two sides). The common interest here is the outcome of the negotiations they get the Major, and we get our requests. In both options, we win, and they win (1 point)



The change of the electoral model can only happen if there is enough political maturity and understanding of the democratic values among all parties who represent the citizens of this country. Changing the electoral system would lead to greater democracy and more exceptional quality of the candidates who will represent the interests of the people. With this model, Roma from all around the country will decide who will represent them at the national level. Let's hope that the major political parties will accept this model, abandoning the current model that gives dominance level of monopoly for the politicians that are coming from Skopje. It is proved throughout the history that any form of monopoly does not bring development and stability of the society. The monopolies have no sense of social responsibility; they are primarily driven by commercial interests for profit and power. In the periods of ideological monopoly, the vote of the individual was jammed, and there was no democracy. In our state, Macedonian Roma are living in partially free democracy where the ballot boxes are full of votes that are bought from the poor. It is time to put an end to the abuse and degradation of the democracy in Macedonia. This is a public call for the Roma leaders to reform their ranks and behavior and to provide conditions for equality and dignity of the Roma vote.


[1] Electoral Code -  http://www.sec.mk/Predvremeni2011/IZBOREN_ZAKONIK_(Precisten_tekst).pdf

[2] Redistribution of the mandates  -

[3] D’Hondt method - http://www.tcd.ie/Political_Science/staff/michael_gallagher/ElectoralStudies1991.pdf

[4] How the mandates were distributed - http://press24.mk/story/makedonija/pratenichkite-mesta-kje-se-raspredeluvaat-so-dontoviot-model

[5] Constitution of Macedonia - http://www.uni-graz.at/opv1www_ustav_makedonija_mak.pdf

[6] Strategies for negotiation - http://purchasingnegotiationtraining.com/negotiation/what-does-win-win-negotiation-mean/

[7] Pull and push strategies - http://www.governing.com/columns/mgmt-insights/A-Push-Pull-Strategy-for.html

[8] Ibid

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