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SKOPJE (Macedonia), November 14 (SeeNews) - Forty-one percent of Macedonian citizens believe the government knows who they are voting for in elections, according to a recent survey conducted by local think tank Macedonian Centre for European Training (MCET).
The survey respondents who share these fears believe there are cameras installed in the pens they use to tick their choice on ballot papers, the non-governmental organisation said in the survey made available to SeeNews. They also fear that their identity can be established if the ballot papers carry a serial number.
Such beliefs are far more widespread among ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, as well as among supporters of the opposition parties.
However, the share of Macedonians who believe the government has its ways to spy on them in elections has dropped slightly from 2014, when it stood at 52%.
The survey was conducted between October 11 and October 24 among 1,201 respondents.
According to 79.6% of the survey respondents, Macedonians fear that expressing freely their opinion could have negative consequences for them and their families.
More than half of those interviewed, or 56.5%, believe that the secret services eavesdrop on people who are criticial of the government.
Macedonia's government, led in the last eight years by conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, has intentionally created the perception of omnipresent control among the country's citizens, MCET said.
"This increases the cost of political participation and holding dissenting opinions," the survey authors commented.
In 2015 opposition leader Zoran Zaev accused the government of illegally wiretapping thousands of people but even before that fears that the private communication of many people had been very widespread.
Macedonians will go to the polls on December 11 in early general elections, which are part of an EU-brokered deal aimed at resolving a protracted political crisis in the country.
MCET, founded in 2002, supports Macedonia's bid to join the EU and the Europeanisation of society through professional training and counseling. Starting from 2007, MCET changed its focus from training institute to think-tank organisation, hoping to reduce the apparent lack of expertise in the field of public policy in the country.