Freedom House issued a damning report on Macedonia, as part of their annual overview of democracy in Europe. Macedonia is marked as a transitional or hybrid regime, with a reduction in its points from 3.25 to 3.

The main reasons for the disappointing drop in Macedonia’s democracy rating is the “slew of high-level corruption and organized crime allegations”, the decision of the ruling majority to change the criminal code in a way that made it impossible to prosecute some major corruption cases and the chaotic dismissal and restoration of the head of the Judicial Council that was followed with allegations of political interference.

Corruption remains a major concern for both the public and other international actors, notably the EU and the United States, which both consistently criticize North Macedonia for failing to effectively tackle the problem. The US government has barred several politicians and businessmen from entering the United States over corruption allegations, including Struga Mayor Ramiz Merko and former deputy prime minister Kocho Angjushev, who served in Zoran Zaev’s government. In 2023, a slew of high-level corruption and organized crime allegations took center stage in public discourse. Fresh revelations about the deadly 2021 fire that destroyed a temporary COVID-19 hospital in Tetovo and allegations of high-level corruption involving the State Oncology Clinic generated public outrage. Police raided the oncology clinic due to allegations that an organized employee network stole expensive treatments and traded them on neighboring countries’ black markets. Furthermore, in September, the government moved quickly to unexpectedly introduce amendments to the Criminal Code that reduced penalties for abuse of office and participating in a criminal enterprise, as well as shortening the statutes of limitations for these offenses. The parliament quickly passed the legislation using a streamlined procedure under the banner of harmonization with EU legislation. This move also elicited widespread public outrage, Freedom House notes in its key paragraph.

Extensive paragraphs on the judiciary and corruption list all the allegations of political interference in the work of the courts and prosecutors, the effective amnesty in 14 court cases covering 80 defendants including current and former officials from the two main political parties, and macabre corruption cases such as the alleged theft of cancer drugs at the Skopje Oncology Clinic.