By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
As the country prepares for the June 5 elections, the police guarding the polling stations are getting lessons in good manners. Frowning, smoking and drinking beer in cafes is undesirable.
Keeping a polite face with a smile on it is mandatory for each of the nearly 7,000 police who will be dispersed across Macedonia on polling day to safeguard a free and peaceful vote.
“Showing anger, boredom or frustration is undesirable”, reads the manual of instructions that police officers received this week as part of their training. “It is important for voters to see that the police officer is positive and that he is there to support the voting process”.
The police conduct manual was a joint venture between the police and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, which will be monitoring the elections.
“Sitting in a café with colleagues, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer, talking and smiling loudly, looking too busy – all this can create a wrong image that the police officer should not be disturbed and can thus deter people from approaching him,” the manual notes.
Wearing clean and orderly uniforms on election day is also mandatory.
Policemen received similar manuals during past elections, though they did not prevent various irregularities, sometimes caused by police officers, from happening.
In the last general election in 2008, 26 policemen were found guilty of taking part in various irregularities, from preventing the voting process to stuffing ballot boxes and even unlawful use of firearms.
Four were expelled from the force and the others were either fined or downgraded.
The law prohibits police from being present inside polling stations. However, a police patrol can usually be found guarding the surroundings of the polling station, ready to intervene if needed.
They can intervene inside polling stations only if summoned by the local electoral boards that carry out the voting process.