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Quick Reads + Macedonia

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Latest stories from Quick Reads + Macedonia

Macedonia 2014 Elections Quick Reference Guide

April 2014 is election season in Macedonia. On Sunday, April 13, Macedonians began casting votes for a new president and a new parliament.

As is the case with the electoral process in many countries in the age of the Internet, much of the information related to these elections will be readily available online. Global Voices has collected a list of some of the resources Internet users can use to follow the elections in Macedonia, as well as a quick calendar of the voting dates.

Macedonia elections 2014. Photo by Global Voices. CC-BY.

Voter with a branded thumb holding election information leaflet issued by SEC. CC-BY.

Macedonia 2014 elections calendar:

Day Activity
April 12, Saturday Electoral silence begins
April 13, Sunday First Round of Presidential Elections
April 26, Saturday Electoral silence begins
April 27, Sunday Second Round of Presidential Elections
Early Parliamentary Elections

Key websites to follow:

Twitter hashtags:

Websites and Twitter accounts of the presidential candidates and their political parties (numbers reflect the order of candidates on the ballot):

  1. Gjorge Ivanov from VMRO-DPMNE (@timmakedonija, #Иванов – affirmative, and #Хорхе i.e. Jorge – critical).
    Slogan: “The State Above Everything Else.”
  2. Iljaz Halimi from DPA (@gurrapdsh).
    Slogan: “For an [ethnic] Albanian President.”
  3. Stevo Pendarovski from SDSM (@spendarovski, #Стево i.e. Stevo – affirmative, and #промени – changes).
    Slogan: “Macedonia Deserves a President. Stevo, my President.”
  4. Zoran Popovski from GROM (@PopovskiZ).
    Slogan: “Bravely for Macedonia. A brave man – a proud state.”

Komunikacii blog has published a concise and interesting analysis of the slogans [mk], while a Balkanist article “Elections in Macedonia: The Land of Promises” neatly sums up some of the major issues.

The early parliamentary elections in Macedonia have the same general cast as in 2011.

Suspected Government #SelfieMacedonia Campaign Backfires

A Facebook campaign with the hashtag #SelfieMacedonia was launched in March 2014 and Macedonian social media users now suspect that the country's government is behind it all.

Bouts of young social media users from Macedonia, individually or in groups, have been taking photos of themselves, typically called “selfies”, and sharing them on Facebook with the hashtag. None of this would be unusual were it not for the peculiar fact that national monuments and buildings constructed ​​by the current government are in most of these photos.

The Youth Force Union, a youth group of the ruling party in Macedonia, began taking these “selfie” photos that sometimes include the ruling party’s flag and logo. The hashtag aroused great interest and many users began commenting these features on social networks, indicating suspicion that the campaign is being staged by the ruling party’s headquarters.

In response to the “selfies” with the monuments and political symbols, an even greater number of photo-montage images can be found on Facebook now, some depicting government officials attending current events.

A widely circulated photoshopped image showing a Macedonian government official and US President Obama, part of the response of Macedonian social media users to the #SelfieMacedonia campaign.

A widely circulated photoshopped image showing a Macedonian government official and US President Obama, part of the response of Macedonian social media users to the #SelfieMacedonia campaign.

A1on.mk commented on the campaign in a recent article and included several of these images.

Macedonian Government to Introduce Internet Filtering

Airborne blog commented on the Macedonian government's plan to set up a new company to provide online betting and other gambling to residents of Macedonia:

The plan will involve “disabling of betting/gambling online games on foreign web sites”. This blockade is set to last two years beginning in March 2014.

Citing benefits for “the [Macedonian] state and society”, blocking of the sites will be carried out by the Agency for Electronic Communications and the Ministry for Information Society.

Given the extremely poor record of the Macedonian government on media freedom and previous unsuccessful attempts to legislate liability for Internet access providers for content published via their services, it's not too difficult to imagine a more broad use of the blocking mechanism once it is set up.

At this point, raising concern about the proposed plan for blocking access to site is the least we can do. The communities from the Internet should rally again.

The blocking mechanism is set to take effect sometime in March [mk], following a change in the Law on Games of Chance [mk] adopted on December 28, 2013.

The State Lottery operates under the motto “It's for good” and holds monopoly on most kinds of gambling, while it also administers other government lottery schemes.

Activists Add Female Heroines to Wikipedia in Macedonian

The informal citizens’ group “Fight Like a Woman”, (@borisezenski), organized a mini marathon with the purpose of adding articles about notable women from Macedonia to Wikipedia in Macedonian to raise awareness about women's rights and gender equality.

The campaign involved activists working within the site of International Women's Day celebrations titled “Firstborn, and a girl” [mk] (wordplay on a popular Balkan saying expounding the importance of firstborn male children, usually expressed as “Firstborn, and a boy!”), and from home, coordinated using the hashtags #ЖенскаАрхива (Female Archive) and #WikiFem.

A Facebook photo of the initial Female Archive team, whose description displays links to the new articles, garnered hundreds of likes/shares.

A Facebook photo of the basic Female Archive team, whose description displays links to the new articles, garnered hundreds of likes/shares.

The activists who were, as they put it, “defying oblivion”, managed to create 40 articles during the short campaign, with short biographies of important women, from early 20th century feminists and human rights activists to World War 2 freedom fighters, contemporary academics and artists.

Macedonian Students Campaign Against Unlivable Conditions in Dormitories

Macedonian students demanding better life conditions in public university dormitories published a blog entitled “Operacija studentski” [mk] (“Operation Dorm”) displaying photos of everyday life in the facilities and urging students to contribute. Many of the photos show highly inadequate living conditions in the student dormitories.

The blog and photos have gained much visibility on social networks, as many social media users react to the inactivity of the official student organizations sanctioned by the state. Prompted by “Operation Dorm”, many other students have also taken to social networks to post photos of the horrible living conditions in some of the state university dormitories. Since these dormitories are the only ones in the country, the competition to gain beds in them is fierce and mired with suspicions of corruption.

Dormitory reception with signs "There's no hot water, we are fixing the problem" and "Go to your boyfriends' places to take a bath."

Dormitory reception with signs “There's no hot water, we are fixing the problem” and “Go to your boyfriends’ places to take a bath.” Photo by Operacija studentski.

The following video from A1on article [mk] about the dorms also displays the situation.

Sharing on social networks increased after posting of an imgur English-language photo gallery. This also spawned parodies, such as “an image of Alexander the Great appeared in the mold” [mk] (referring to recent development promoted by politicians), “Hollywood will rent the site to film horror movies” [mk], a comparison with Norwegian prison, and articles in foreign media [hr].

New Macedonian Public Service Campaign Calls Drug Users “Mules”

Over the last seven years, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia has spent undisclosed amounts of taxpayers money to produce and air public service campaigns against drug use and drug trafficking. A new campaign has been launched by the government, calling drug users “mules”.

Artist Ines Efremova tweeted:

The slogan of the new campaign against drugs is: “Stay clean! Don't be a mule!!! The decision is yours!”
I have nothing to add.

While the term “mule” has been used internationally in the context of smuggling, signifying a person carrying concealed drugs over a border, in this context it only has the pejorative meaning of stubborn and stupid draft animal.

According to the official announcement [mk] of the Macedonian Ministry of Interior, the campaign's “goal is to raise awareness among high school students about the fight against narco-trafficking, and to act preventively and educationally over the young population.” The campaign will consist of presentations conducted by customs officers.

One of the previous campaigns was against the use of illegal drugs, titled “My life is my movie”, and was comprised of several film-like commercials (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), with an initial cost of 592,000 euro (800,000 dollars). According to a 2010 article [mk] in Dnevnik daily, the number of registered illicit drug users actually increased after the campaign.

Macedonia's Strumica Carnival Continues 350-Year Tradition

The Strumica Carnival took place in Macedonia from March 1-3, 2014. This traditional celebration [mk] was first mentioned as early as 1670 by Ottoman travel writer Evliya Çelebi and this year was featured by NBC News in a report about twelve similar events around the world.

Members of a Strumica carnival group named "Recycled Baroque."  Photo: Vanco Dzambaski (CC BY-NC-SA)

Members of a Strumica carnival group named “Recycled Baroque.” Photo: Vanco Dzambaski (CC BY-NC-SA)

Photo-activist Vanco Dzambaski shared his photo gallery from this year's Carnival events on Flickr.

Macedonian Twitter Community Organizes Second Annual Blood Drive

A group of Macedonian Twitter users are organizing a blood drive on March 17, 2014, in Skopje. This is the second action event of this kind – the first took place on September 13, 2013.

Last time 102 people came to donate blood, of which 75 were allowed [to give blood]. Let's have twice as much this time!

Mobilization for the event is taking place on Twitter through hashtags #крводарители and @krvodariteli – meaning “blood donors,” as well as through a Facebook event page, Three influential websites, and various bloggers who are supporting the action by spreading word and distributing the event banner, whose design is also a donation by @banekoma.

Banner announcing the Blood Drive in Skopje, organized by the Twitter community.

Banner announcing the Blood Drive in Skopje, organized by the Twitter community. The event will take place in Dare Dzambaz on March 17, from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm.

A Historian's Pessimistic Farewell to Macedonia

Historian, analyst and blogger Harald Schenker, who has lived in Macedonia since 1999 and is now moving to Switzerland, created social network buzz with his farewell post, addressed to a “failing Macedonia”, in which he provides a diagnosis for the country's demise and a plea for rebuilding Macedonian society. The article now has over 900 likes on Facebook and has been shared on Twitter over 80 times.

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Macedonia: Ohrid's Hidden Medieval Masks

A traveling blogger and communications specialist in the tourism industry, Tricia A. Mitchell, tells of her curious find in Macedonia's UNESCO registered Ohrid old town.

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