With local elections set for next month, 14 municipalities say they need financial assistance.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 27/02/13
Fourteen Macedonian municipalities are seeking financial assistance in order to hold local elections. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]
Macedonians will vote in local elections on March 24th, but many municipalities said they will not be able to open the polls without financial assistance from the government.
Officials told SETimes there is time to solve the financial issues and said they expect the elections to be held as planned. The cost to organise local elections in each municipality is about 50,000 euros.
"We can't cover our basic administrative costs," Aracinovo Mayor Bastri Bajrami told SETimes. "Our municipalities are poor and we should not be obligated to do this."
"We need financial aid so we can cover the costs of the elections," said Arsenco Janevski, mayor of Kriva Palanka, home to 20,000 people.
The government financed local elections until 2005, but changes in elections laws turned that responsibility over to municipalities. The state election committee and the government have provided financial aid for some municipalities since then.
With less than a month remaining before the elections, Skopje Mayor Koce Trajanovski, who serves as the president of the Association of the Units of Local Self Government, said there is time to resolve the issue.
"[The association] got notification from the government on time and from the state election committee for planning the elections. I believe that there will be a solution," Trajanovski said.
Saso Lazarevski, deputy minister for local government, told SETimes that the problems are in the municipalities with smaller incomes.
Municipality budgets are generated from taxes and the sale of state land -- they do not receive funds from the national government.
"The municipalities need to find a way to collect the taxes," Lazarevski said.
Tanja Karakamiseva, professor of political systems at the Law Faculty in Skopje, told SETimes that the problem lies in the lack of management skills.
"Maybe additional education is necessary and training of the municipalities' authorities, because they have a problem with revenue collection," Karakamiseva said, adding that he does not expect the state to allow the municipalities to forgo participation in the elections.
Gordana Siljanovska, a professor at the state university of Skopje told SETimes that ensuring that elections are held is essential.
"The municipalities should take care of the financial costs of the elections. … From the moment when someone decided and accepted to be a mayor, that person should take care of the budget in the year of elections, and to have money for their organisation," Siljanovska said.