Election disputes are inherent to elections. Challenging an election, its conduct or its results, should however not be perceived as a reflection of weakness in the system, but as proof of the strength, vitality, and openness of the political system. Therefore the increase in the variety and number of election-related disputes results partly from an increase in public understanding of the redress process. This trend is, however, particularly challenging where the legal systems and electoral administration are still developing, or going through some changes, as it is in the case of Macedonia.
In the scope of the Leadership Academy for the Youth Wings of the biggest four political parties – governing and opposition, OSCE Mission to Skopje funded and organized a customized BRIDGE Electoral Dispute Resolution workshop. The workshop was conducted in Popova Shapka, Macedonia, from 11th until 13th December 2015.
The accrediting facilitators, Ljupka Guguchevska and Zage Filipovski, have been working on customizing the modular activities to fit the context and suit the participants’ needs. Sessions on good political leadership have been added, since the participants are expected to be future political leaders in Macedonia.
The purpose of this particular workshop was to strengthen the capacities of the Youth Wings of the political parties in Macedonia to face the challenges of the modern political leadership, especially during elections, when a level play field is a must for free and fair elections. In the dawn of the early parliamentary elections scheduled for April 2016, Youth Wings should be prepared for the challenges they might face after the political crisis in the country.
Through the sessions of individual work, work in pairs, small groups work and whole group activities, participants experienced various aspects of the topic and practiced the skills they were objected to gain during the course. On the final day of the training, the participants, divided in two teams consisted of gender, ethnic, and political mix of members, practiced the alternative EDR mechanisms that could be used during a particular case of major dispute in elections in Macedonia. Participants practiced alternative EDR mechanisms that in theory are classified as unilateral, where the will of one of the parties in dispute is sufficient to resolve it or consider it concluded; bilateral, when the parties involved needed to be in agreement before the dispute can be considered resolved; and those that require third-party intervention by a party other than an organ of state. Participant found this exercise extremely useful, having in mind the fact that in the country currently such processes are occurring.
This particular group of participants were already familiar with the BRIDGE methodology. All of them highly appreciate the positive learning environment that facilitators created, the encouragement for participation and discussion, the appreciation for diversities of background and opinions throughout the course, and the quality and usefulness of materials. Their evaluation and comments were very positive, stating that they would gladly recommend BRIDGE to their colleagues, and that they are looking forward to the next BRIDGE workshop in Macedonia.