Photo shows Paula KeaveneyEdge Hill’s Programme Leader for Politics, Paula Keaveney is no stranger to UK elections.

But she is just back from a political task further afield as she joined an international team of election experts to observe the Presidential elections in North Macedonia.

As part of ensuring that democracy works, there is a system across Europe of election observations. Run through bodies such as the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) this involves international missions which report on every aspect of an election, from the campaigning and funding, through polling day and on to results.

photos shows ballet box

Ballot boxes from North Macedonia’s Presidential elections

Participants spend time in polling stations, at counts and at other events.  They talk to officials, party workers, organisations and voters.  They make judgements about fairness, transparency and efficiency.

The work helps the host country ensure that systems work as well as providing recommendations for future changes.

Observers have to be individuals with considerable election expertise.  This can come from being a candidate or campaigner or from actually administering the polls.  What matters is a knowledge of how systems can work and should work and what the key issues might be.

As part of this mission Paula travelled to Skopje in North Macedonia where she joined nearly 200 others from across Europe and beyond.  She then spent time observing and reporting in Krusevo, a town and group of villages in the mountainous south of the country.

Paula said: “This was a great chance to see how other election systems operate, but also to contribute to supporting democratic systems in Europe.”

The initial report from the mission shows a largely smooth polling day with attention to rules.  In some remote places there were polling stations for as few as 10 people and the system also allows for voting in prisons and in residential care.

She added: “What is fascinating here is that some aspects of election debate which are hugely controversial in the UK, such as the prospect of prisoners voting, are taken for granted in North Macedonia”

Edge Hill’s politics courses include an optional module on Voting and Elections, and comparing the UK and US practices with other countries will help students better understand the issues.

Paula will be returning to North Macedonia shortly as, as is common in some European systems, there is a second round to this Presidential contest.

North Macedonia is the new name of the country which until recently was referred to as the Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia.  The name change comes after a long running dispute with Greece about the use of the word.  Last year the Prespa agreement, between Greece and the FYROM, established the new title of North Macedonia.

Information about the preliminary report from the Presidential election is can be read here.

Find out more about studying politics at Edge Hill University here.