Open Lists

Background/Summary/Basic info
The need for continuous evolution of the electoral system urges for its periodical changes and improvements. With this change, the system will induce the citizens for their greater level of interest and involvement in the electoral process. Also, the improvement of the electoral model will have positive influence on intra-party democracy, the degree of decentralization of political parties and the level of responsiveness of the elected officials towards citizens.

The introduction of the open lists will bring several advantages: it will enable citizens to choose between different candidates on the lists which will increase the legitimacy and responsibility of elected officials; it will increase the level of intra-party democracy which will lead to greater influence from local party branches to the central level; it will increase the quality of proposed candidates and, accordingly, their campaigns; it will introduce a merit system for creating candidates lists which will decrease the chances for proposing weak candidates, obedient party members etc.

Overall objective
The overall objective of the project is to raise the awareness of citizens for the open lists as a modality of the proportional representation electoral system. This system will enable citizens to vote not just for candidates lists, but also for individual candidates on the lists.

Specific objectives

Increasing the awareness and gathering public support on the issue of open lists
Opening a mass debate trough all the society spheres on the significance of introduction of proportional system with open lists
Lobbying on amending and supplementing the electoral code for introduction of the proportional system with open lists

This project is funded by: The Embassy of the United States of America, the Embassy of the United Kingdom and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

www.otvorenilisti.org

On 14 March, the last from the planned debates within the framework of this phase of the campaign “Your choice to be a person” was held.

The citizens of Gostivar, as was the case on the previous debates, in large numbers attended and actively participated in the debate.

The participants were eager to ask questions, some of which were even raised during the presentation of the proposed election system. One of the remarks by one of the citizens was that the Open List system will contribute towards increasing the number of parties and independent candidates’ lists, thus fragmenting the electorate. This was opposed by another participant who stated that the Open List system will actually contribute to decreasing the number of parties, because not everybody will have the courage to run for office in this model, where his popularity is accurately measured. In the Open List system, the D’Hondt method for allocation of mandates will be used as before, so this system will not contribute to increasing the number of parties.

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A doubt was expressed about the representation of minorities in an Open List system, on which it was answered that exactly with the Open List system the minorities will be most adequately represented, because the votes of a certain ethnic community will go precisely to the candidate who is a member of that community.

One of the participants proposed the Open List system to be a transitional phase to a more democratic system, the Free List system, where the citizens can vote for candidates from different candidates’ lists. This system is characteristic for the countries with high level of democracy, and undoubtedly it is an aim to which the further advancement of the election system should strive.

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In this debate also, most of the present representatives of the political parties supported the introduction of this system and indicated that it will contribute to increasing the quality of the elected representatives and increasing the voters’ turnout.

All in all, this debate was an excellent end to this series of debates. The following activity within the project “Advocating for Open List” will be a national conference, which will be attended by representatives from all spheres of the area of elections and election legislative, which will be organized soon.

The next to last debate within the framework of the campaign “Your choice to be a person” was held in Bitola on 29 February. Yet again we were witnesses to a full hall with citizens who largely supported the proposed Open List system and were interested in different aspects of its functioning.

One of the questions which were asked, and which was not raised before, referred to the focusing of the candidates for MPs, i.e. councilors on their reliable voters, while neglecting the neutral ones. The answer was that, on the contrary, the candidates will be more motivated to address the neutral voters also, in order to win more preferential, i.e. individual votes.

An opinion was also expressed that the Open List system will contribute to the inclusion in politics of credible and professional people who are not motivated to run in the current system.

It has to be mentioned that almost all present representatives of the political parties stated their support for the Open List system because of its obvious advantages, including the ones for the political parties.

As the campaign approaches to its end, the number of doubts about the introducing of this system reduces, while the support for it increases, from all participants in the political and electoral process.

The last debate in this phase of the campaign will be held in Gostivar.

On 8 February in Kumanovo, another successful debate was held within the framework of the campaign “Advocating for Open List”, the seventh of the whole cycle. The hall was full with citizens who were eager to obtain information about the different systems for electing their political officials. The debate was also attended by representatives from many political parties and they supported the introduction of Open List system.

What differentiated this debate from the previous ones, is that the citizens were interested to presented their attitudes and conclusions, besides being interested in asking questions. This gave a rather different tone to the event, i.e. a real discussion developed between the attendees and the speakers on the debate.

For example, one of the remarks was that the Open List system will contribute towards weakening of the position of the list carriers. The response to this was that in certain cases the party ordering of the candidates will be still valid, and that there are systems where the votes casted for the party list are automatically transferred to the list carrier, so that his/her position wouldn’t be jeopardized.

The closing of the political parties for people with authority was another remark, but actually the Open List system will motivate the party to include such people on its candidates’ list who will manage to attract more votes and by that to contribute to the total number of mandates won by the party.

From all the above mentioned, it can be concluded that we had another successful and fruitful debate, which raised questions about the different aspects of the Open List system and its eventual introduction in Republic of Macedonia.

The next debate is in Gostivar, on 15 February (Wednesday).

Today, 2 February is the Global Elections Day which is celebrated every first Thursday in February, starting from 2006. We celebrate this day by informing the public about the new achievements and challenges regarding democracy in Macedonia and worldwide.

The day before, on 1 February, another debate within the campaign “Advocating for Open List” was held in Strumica. The citizens of Strumica weren’t discouraged by the cold weather and participated in the debate in large numbers.

After the usual presentations by the representatives of the organizations implementing the project, Mr. Darko Aleksov, Mr. Dimitar Spasenoski, Mr. Hristijan Gjorgievski, as well as Mr. Naser Ziberi, ensued the most interesting part of every debate, the questions and the discussion.

The citizens asked several questions which were also raised on the previous debates, such as:

  • What are the legitimacy and the responsibility of the MPs living in one electoral district, but elected in another?
  • What if someone wanted to vote only for a candidate, and not for a candidates’ list as well?
  • Will the counting procedure take more time?
  • Having in mind the bigger number of voters in the larger settlements, will the candidates from those settlements be in a position to win more votes than the ones from the smaller settlements?
  • Will the Open List system produce intra-party competition?

New dilemmas were also raised on this debate:

  • Should there be a possibility for recalling the MPs (imperative mandate)?
  • Should compulsory voting be introduced?
  • How will the Open List system be applied in the election of MPs from abroad?

The questions were appropriately answered by the speakers, part of which you can find on this link:http://otvorenilisti.org/?p=837

As a conclusion, having in mind the attendance of the debate, as well as the questions and arguments raised, this debate was one the most successful within the campaign.

Only three debates left for this cycle of debates, and the next debate is in Kumanovo, on 8 February (Wednesday).

The debate in Veles, held on 22 December was the last debate in this year within the campaign “Your choice to be a person”. The weather circumstances contributed to the lower number of attending citizens, but nevertheless, a constructive and productive discussion was developed, as in the previous debates.

Along with the representatives from the three CSO’s which implement the project, Dr. Tanja Karakamisheva-Jovanovska was again part of the team of speakers. She elaborated on the need for increasing the level of intraparty democracy by introducing the Open List system. Additionally, she accentuated some of the advantages of this system, such as: the greater connection between the MPs and the citizens, presence of candidates from the whole country on the candidates’ lists, better candidates, increasing the level of intraparty democracy etc.

Like the rest debates, this debate also brought interesting questions, and part of them was raised for the first time:

  • Will the parties allow themselves to propose candidates who are popular and respected from the citizens fearing that later they will eventually divert from the party course?
  • What are the disadvantages of the Open List system?

Especially interesting was the answer of the second question. Namely there is a curiosity about this system because it brings new advantages for the citizens, without having additional disadvantages. Even some of the disadvantages can be regarded as advantages, such as the forming of fractions within the parties (increasing the level of intraparty democracy). This system has disadvantages if one looks through the prism of the political parties. If one looks through the prism of the citizens, there are no disadvantages for them.

This debate marked the end of the cycle of debates for this year, and the debates will continue after the New Year’s and Christmas’ holidays.

Happy holidays!

On 13 December 2011, in Prilep, the fourth debate within the campaign “Your choice to be a person” was held. As with the previous debates, this debate was also attended by many citizens who largely support the Open List system. This fact is reassured with every new debate which we organize.

The team of speakers was the same as on the debate in Ohrid. The speakers presented their views about different aspects of the Open List system, the communication between the MPs and the citizens and the opinions of the MPs and the public about the Open List system.

The most frequent concerns the citizens have are related to the application of the Open List system and its consequences. So was the case in this discussion, with some interesting questions coming up:

  • Will the encircling of the individual votes for candidates require more time during the voting and counting of the votes and by that will influence the turnout?
  • What are the chances for the candidates from smaller townships to be elected?
  • What happens when two candidates have the same number of individual votes?
  • How will the citizens know for whom they are voting, having in mind that only the ordinal numbers of the candidates will be present on the ballot?
  • Will the voters be allowed to vote only for the party or independent candidates list, without voting individually for the candidates?
  • How the Open List system will affect the relation between smaller and larger parties within coalitions?

The speakers answered all the questions and clarified all the dilemmas about the implementation of this system and its negative and positive sides. This marked the end of another successful debate within the campaign “Your choice to be a person”.

We continue tirelessly to explain the Open List system and its advantages to as many citizens as possible. The next ones are the citizens of Veles, where a debate will be held on 22 December 2011.

The third debate with citizens, held in Ohrid on the 1st of December 2011, proved to be a suitable forum for exchange of different opinions and attitudes regarding the proposal for improvement of the election system, between the advocates and promoters of the idea and the citizens, CSOs and political party’s representatives.

At the very beginning of the debate, during the Mr. Darko Aleksov`s speech about the project goals and the different modalities of the open list election system, the citizens showed vast interest regarding the practical implications of introduction of this system in Macedonia.

It seems that Mr. Naser Ziberi`s long-year practical experience as a former member of Parliament (MP) of R Macedonia, additionally enlightens the need for initiation of a wide discussion like this one, regarding the necessity of the election system improvement. Namely, his conclusions about the functioning of the election system up to day point out the strong dependency of the members of Parliament from the political parties’ leadership. This situation further on contributes towards the problem of non-authentic representations of citizens needs through the members of the Parliament. His conclusions were supported by the Institute for parliamentary democracy`s records gained from the monitoring of the work of the Constituency’s offices within the period of 4 years.

In that direction, Mr. Dimitar Spasenoski emphasized the true representative democracy is mostly practiced by those members of Parliament who are elected in the election districts that they come from. The fact that these members of Parliament are truly closer to their constituencies additionally complements the general impression that the election system should be improved precisely in direction to empower the citizens in the election of their representatives.

There is one more reason in favor of the open list system. Mr. Hristijan Gjorgievski presented the National Democratic Institute results from the conducted poll about the last parliamentary composition MPs’ opinion about the open list system. That is to say, that 56% of the MPs reckoned that the open list system would contribute towards election of members of Parliament that will be more dedicated to the citizen’s interests.

After the presentation of all these facts, arguments and conclusions was finished, a discussion for citizens’ questions and opinions was opened. Their questions were mainly aimed towards the practical aspects of the application of this kind of a system:

  • What are the mechanisms that will protect the right of running for candidates of the less represented sex?
  • Is this change going to complicate the voting process cast by the citizens?
  • Is this proposed model going to produce inter-party conflicts between the party members?
  • Is there a democratic capacity in R Macedonia to apply this kind of a democratic way of election of citizens’ representatives?

All citizens` questions and dilemmas received proper answers. The panelists made efforts with aim the biggest skeptics about this system to be tempted to join the supporters of the open lists system. This debate, too, finished with positive impressions and hope that the proposed model will become reality in the near future, which will additionally open space for new, fresh and constructive ideas for future development of Macedonia`s election system.

The campaign for improvement of the election system does not stop. It continues further on, to reach all parts of the state and present the opportunity to all citizens for increasing of their power in the process of election of their political representatives.

On the 13th of December, the citizens of Prilep will be provided with opportunity to get acquainted with the proposition for improvement of the election system and as supporters, we will also try to answer their questions and dilemmas.

The second debate of the campaign “Your choice to be a person” was held on 24 November, in Tetovo. The debate attracted the attention of the citizens of Tetovo who were present in large number.

At the beginning, Mr. Darko Aleksov presented the goals and the activities of the project, together with the current election system and the Open List system. Educative videos which explain the characteristics of both systems were also projected.

After that, Dr. Tanja Karakamisheva-Jovanovska elaborated on the different variants/modalities of the Open List system and concluded that the Open List system will represent a step ahead towards increasing the level of democracy in Macedonia.

This time, the team of speakers was strengthened with Mr. Naser Ziberi who enriched the debate with his practical experience as Member of the Parliament of Republic of Macedonia. Namely, he said the Open List system will provide greater independence of the legislative power from the executive power, by which the Parliament again will be a place for quality discussions.

On this debate, the Institute for Parliamentary Democracy was represented by Mr. Gezim Jashari who presented the results from the work of the offices for communication between the MPs and the citizens. These results show that the MPs elected in the place where they live have greater communication with the citizens and they are more dedicated to advocating for their interests. One of the expected positive outcomes from the Open List system is that it will contribute to electing MPs from the places where they live, by which these positive trends will continue.

Hristijan Gjorgievski from NDI presented the results from the survey about the opinion of the MPs and the public about the Open List system, with the majority of MPs and the public supporting this system.

The discussion which followed was productive and it revolved around the different aspects of the functioning of the Open List system. One of the conclusions was that the Open List system will contribute to electing MPs who will authentically represent the interest of the citizens. Several questions about the application of the proposed system were also raised, such as:

  • How many individual candidates can be voted for within the Open List system?

Depending of the chosen system, the number can range from 1, to the total number of elected MPs in the electoral district – 20.

  • Is the number of invalid ballots going to be increased?

This depends on the chosen system (whether the voting for candidates will be obligatory or not) and on the education of citizens which is carried out by the election administration before the start of every election process. The most important thing is not to underestimate the voters’ ability to exercise their right to vote even in the most complex election systems. The same goes for the election administration

This marked the end of another successful debate, and the campaign continues on 1 December, to hear the opinions from the citizens of Ohrid.

The campaign for the project “Advocating for Open Lists” has begun two weeks ago with a debate in Shtip, and it continues today with a public debate in Tetovo, which will be held in the municipal hall at 18:00 o’clock.

The speakers on the debate are: Dr. Tanja Karakamisheva-Jovanovska, Mr. Darko Aleksov from MOST, Mr. Naser Ziberi, former Member of the Parliament, Mr. Gezim Jashari from IPD and Hristijan Gjorgievski from NDI.

The purpose of the debate is to inform the citizens about other ways of electing the political representatives. The opinions of all attendants will be respected in order to have constructive and well grounded discussion about the pros and cons of the Open List system.

The debate is open to the public, and all interested citizens are welcomed for active participation in it.

On 20 November 2011, in Ohrid, a lecture about the Open List system was held within the framework of the Political Academy for Social Democracy, organized by Progress – Institute for Social Democracy, in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and Olof Palme International Center.

Some of the topics of the lecture included the characteristics of the both systems (closed and open list), statistical data about the countries which use the Open List system and practical application of this system in some of those countries.

A dynamic debate among the attendants developed about the following dilemma: if we are about to introduce the Open List system, do we have to consider the interest of the political parties or we should aim at greater freedom of choice for the citizens. The ways by which the future MPs secure place at the candidates’ lists and the factors influencing that selection were also discussed. The relation MP-electorate was debated, along with the question whether the MPS are elected in the electoral district where they live and the joint conclusion was that if there would be an Open List system the candidates who have closer relations with the electorate electing them will have greater chances to become MPs. Also, it was concluded that the Open List system will foster debate inside the parties in order to select the best candidates for MPs. A question was raised about the reserved places for the less represented gender on the candidates’ lists and it was explained that there is a method which is applied in the Open List system which guarantees the same level of representation of both genders as in the Closed List system.

At the end it was concluded that no matter what the political parties think about the Open List system, it can be said that this system will be more accepted by the citizens.

The tour of the campaign “Advocating for Open Lists” continues tirelessly with a public debate in Tetovo, on Thursday, 24 November.

The public debate held in Shtip on 11 November 2011 was the first of a series of debates which will be held throughout the country in order to inform the citizens about the concept and the advantages of the Open List Proportional Representation system.

At the beginning, Mr. Darko Aleksov from the Citizens Association MOST presented the actual election system as well as the Open List PR system, while Dr. Tanja Karakamisheva-Jovanovska elaborated the need for introducing Open List PR system.

Mr. Dimitar Spasenoski from the Institute for Parliamentary Democracy (IPD) presented the data obtained from the work of the parliamentary offices for communication between the MPs and the citizens, and Mr. Hristijan Gjorgjievski from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) presented the results from the public opinion survey about the attitudes of different groups towards Open List PR system which was conducted in the period 1-19 March, 2010.

The debate was attended by representatives from local branches of political parties, local CSOs as well as interested citizens.

The presentation of the proposed change of the electoral system raised great interest among the attendants. They were asking about different aspects about the functioning of the Open List PR system such as:

  • The application of the system on local level and its influence on way of election the municipal councilors;
  • Is the system applied in the neighboring countries and where?
  • How the legal obligation about the reserved places for the less represented gender on the candidates’ lists will be applied?

The conclusion was that the proposed system will represent natural enhancement of the election system quality, especially because of the power that citizens would have to directly influence the election of their representatives.

The debates continue with the aim to inform as much as possible number of citizens about the advantages of the Open List PR system.

The goal of the Project “Advocating for open lists” is to stimulate debate on national and regional level about the advantages that the election system with open lists offers to the citizens, as well as about the possibility of introducing such system in Republic of Macedonia. In this direction, the first regional debate will take place on the 11th of November 2011, at 17:00 o`clock, in the city hall of the municipality of Stip. This event will initiate the series of regional debates that will be conducted in the period between November 2011 and March 2012.

The speakers at the debate will be prof. d-r Tanja Karakamisheva, Darko Aleksov from CA MOST, Dimitar Spasenoski from IPD and Hristijan Gjorgievski from NDI.

The debate is open to the public and all interested citizens can attend and participate. The citizens will have the opportunity to directly ask questions and receive answers regarding all aspects of the functioning of the election system with open lists.

How much do you know about the open lists concept and the advantages that it offers?