Existing external oversight mechanisms, such as hearings, remain underused, but Macedonian MPs make good use of parliamentary questions, concludes the POINTPULSE report made by Analytica.
By Mateja Agatonović (BCSP) / Photo: The Parliament of Macedonia
Parliamentary police oversight in Macedonia is conducted by two Assembly committees: the Committee on Security and Defense in charge of security-related issues, and the Standing Inquiry Committee for Protection of Civil Freedoms and Rights, which is authorized to review citizens’ complaints.
Macedonian Parliament has tools to exercise control and oversight of the Government. The main mechanism for such control is the possibility of organizing oversight hearings in order to obtain information, which invited authorized representatives are under the obligation to attend. However, this mechanism remains underused.
Macedonia doesn’t have a separate parliamentary committee overseeing the work of the police. The Committee on Security and Defense is the parent committee in charge of all the issues related to security and defense, which also includes the work of the police.
The track record of this Committee does not suggest a parliamentary impact on improving police integrity. Its work mainly consists of discussing draft legislation on security and defense, as proposed by the Ministry of Interior or Ministry of Defense.
One of the more controversial laws adopted by the Parliament in the latest period was the Law amending the Law on Police, which allowed the police to use rubber bullets, stun guns and shock grenades during protests and riots. The law was adopted without the presence of the opposition MPs.
New police measures sparked an extensive public debate mainly because protests directed against the Government started to increase at the end 2014, at the time when the change to the Police Law was first announced. However, the absence of the opposition parties from the Parliament at the time hindered the work of the Parliament in terms of quality of the debate.
There is a Standing Inquiry Committee for Protection of Civil Freedoms and Rights, but only “on paper”. It is responsible for considering issues concerning civil rights and freedoms. This also includes the possibility of citizens submitting complaints to the Committee when they believe their rights have been infringed upon.
While the Committee does not have investigatory or judicial powers, its findings could serve as grounds for instigating a procedure for the accountability of public office holders. However, this Committee has failed to establish itself as a guardian of citizens’ rights and freedoms. Not a single committee meeting has been recorded during its former mandate.
Additional factor hampering the oversight and the work of the Parliament was the political instability and the political crisis which ultimately resulted in early parliamentary elections.
These elections were initially scheduled for 24 April 2016 and were postponed twice (to 5 June and finally 11 December). After the elections, tensions that ultimately resulted in violence in the Assembly Palace kept the Parliament from working until the first half of 2017. In such conditions, the Parliament couldn’t be expected to fully perform its mandate and provide substantial control of the executive.
Another mechanism, which is providing some results, is the possibility of posing parliamentary questions on a monthly basis. MPs regularly use this opportunity to pose questions to the Minister of Interior regarding certain aspects of the work of the police.
Both Committees have limited support staff and no separate budgets that could be used for obtaining additional expertise in certain areas. This is important considering that the Committee on Security and Defense covers a wide range of areas: from military missions, through the public order, to migration.
The Parliamentarian Institute as the internal research unit is a solid source of knowledge and analysis which could be used by the Committee or individual MPs.