Macedonians are in the dark about the likely result of the June 5 general election because the heavily politicized polling agencies are making startlingly different predictions.
By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Most recent opinion polls in Macedonia agree that the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party of Nikola Gruevski and its junior ethnic Albanian partner, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, are going to do best on June 5.
However, the discrepancy between different surveys is so big that no one knows by how much they are going to win.
VMRO-DPMNE is tipped to win anything from 42 to 58 of the 123 seats in parliament in the election, depending on which survey is consulted.
On the other hand, different polls give the main opposition Social Democrats, led by Branko Crvenkovski, anything from 29 to 42 seats.
“The opinion polls in Macedonia that survey people’s political views are not done out of public interest but are strictly controlled by the political parties,” explains Klime Babunski, communications professor at Skopje’s Sts Cyril and Methodius university.
For example, in the survey published this week by the local Dimitrija Cupovski research institute, the ruling party stands to win 58 seats and the opposition 29.
This is very different from the results of a recent survey carried out by the local Libertas institute, which forecasts that the ruling party would win only two seats more than the Social Democrats – 42 as opposed to 40.
Babunski says the logic of the political centres that order polls from agencies is to portray themselves as the strongest option, thus luring undecided “swing” voters into their camps.
“They hope the average citizen will lean towards joining the winning side,” Babunski explains.
Vladimir Misev, the head of the Skopje-based think tank, the Institute for Democracy, says the big discrepancies “may also be result of the different methodologies that the polling agencies apply”, and that “data can be manipulated this way”.
Comparison of recent opinion polls shows that what the different surveys have in common is a high percentage of undecided respondents. Numbers vary from 45 to 47 per cent.
“A lot of these polls are done via the phone and people often do not trust the surveyors. It is only natural that many people say on the phone that they are undecided,” Misev said.