The departure of the dictator who wiretapped himself

The departure of the dictator who wiretapped himself
Gjorgji Spasov, political analyst

Macedonian general elections were held on December 11, exactly one year ago.

Today, we need to remind ourselves that, after everything that has happened, until the very last day of the election, no one knew with certainty what the election result would be. And after "the night of the long knives" before the SEC and the re-election in Tearce, our dictator Gruevski declared his party a winner. At that point, nothing already guaranteed that the regime, which had abolished all assumptions for a peaceful change of power, would go down in history.

President Ivanov hastened to assign Gruevski's mandate to a new government, giving him 20 days to secure a parliamentary majority, at a time when he had all the power in his hands. After failing, he and Ivanov entered a strong campaign against the "Tirana Platform" of the Albanian ethnic parties and blackmailed the leader of the second largest party in the Parliament, Zoran Zaev, not only to prove that he had secured a parliamentary majority to get a mandate, but also give written assurances that he will not implement the "Tirana Platform". They did all this in the hope that they would prevent the formation of a new government and would force the holding of new general election.

After failing to do so, they blocked the work of the Assembly. They did not allow the parliamentary majority to be legally constituted and a President of the Assembly to be elected. And when they didn’t succeed, after a nationalistic campaign during which forced their "mercenaries" to protest in front of the Parliament on April 27, they tried to prevent the peaceful change of power in the country with a murder attempt and a public lynch of leaders of the new parliamentary majority in the Assembly. This public lynch of opposition leaders in front of television cameras, according to all indications, was supposed to give Ivanov a reason for introducing a state of emergency in the country.

Finally, on May 31, or six months after the election, SDSM and its coalition partners managed to form a government.

It would be a big simplification of the claim that the Macedonian model of demolition of dictatorship is just another kind of colored revolution, like the ones we witnessed when the regime of Milosevic in Serbia, Yanukovych in Ukraine and many other countries collapsed.

Gruevski's regime grew into a kind of sophisticated dictatorship, in which mass violence is not applied if it is not necessary. Equipped with the legitimacy gained in the election, which recognized the opposition until 2014, with recommendations for launching EU membership talks, such a dictatorship had the luxury to systematically abolish all assumptions for a peaceful change of power in the country, and turn Macedonia into an electoral autocracy, in an electoral system without a choice.

But, unlike the sophisticated dictatorships in the world, in which there is moderate division of power and control of security services, the governmental group around Gruevski in Macedonia between 2008-2015 managed, through the illegal wiretapping of telephone calls, to really provide complete control the opposition, the judiciary, the freedom of speech and the life of all citizens in the country. The paranoia of possible loss of power went so far that the wiretapping network included the Prime Minister's closest associates with whom he had talks about the most delicate and dirty deals of the family of power.

Realistically, at the beginning of 2015 in Macedonia in such conditions, until the appearance of the affair with illegally wiretapped conversations, there was almost no hope that such a system of governance could be changed in elections.

Although many of us today attach importance and merit to ourselves for the fall of the regime, this would not have happened if three key assumptions did not occur, according to me.

First. It was the courage of several people employed in the UBK (Administration for Security and Counter Intelligence), who decided that the long-standing abuse of the secret services for mass illegal wiretapping in Macedonia made it accessible to the opposition leader Zoran Zaev, and through him to the entire Macedonian and world public. These heroes (Gjorgji Lazarevski and Zvonko Kostovski), who with this act risked their service, freedom, even life, in conditions of such a regime, managed not only to provide evidence of mass wiretapping, but also to record illegal wiretaps through which the government itself reveals its crime, mass corruption, abuses and sadistic character.

Second. The courage of those people and their helpers, such as Verusevski and others, would not have been of great help if not for the courage of SDSM leader Zoran Zaev, who was under threat of arrest for coup and physical liquidation, reveals the truth about the regime's criminals by holding a series of press conferences called by the project: "The Truth About Macedonia". From those thematic, systematized press conferences, the recorded conversations between the prime minister and his ministers and associates exploded as "bombs". Offering those "bombs" as key evidence of massive abuse of power during elections, Zaev not only sparked mass revolts against massive violations of human rights and abuse of power, but also received international support for holding new elections in considerably more equal conditions for the opposition.

And in the end. Zaev's bravery could have been insufficient to change the electoral mood in Macedonia and to "demolish the regime with a pen" if the international community, above all the United States and the EU, decided not to use their power, forcing the dictator to withdraw from the prime minister’s position before holding the new election, and allow, through the formation of a kind of technical government, the opposition to have some control over the electoral process.

Macedonia in this process, which started with not recognizing the election results in 2014 by SDSM, has actually matured and changed in a real political way.

After the publication of "The Truth About Macedonia," a new political entity began to be created, as the leader of SDSM managed to put the party at the center of one strong multiethnic protest movement, which was born on the basis of three key ideas for "returning the country to normality".

The first of those ideas, or goals, was that ‘without justice, there can be no peace in the country’. The protest slogan "No justice - no peace" united all citizens, who in one way or another, felt the injustice of Gruevski’s regime, or were not in his privileged clientele circle. Citizens began to organize protests through social networks, to go out on the streets and seek justice and fair elections, as well as responsibility and punishments for those, who by the corruption and abuse of power, stole the elections and gained power.

The second idea, created by that new political entity around SDSM, was the "For Life in Macedonia" program.

Returning the party to its civil concept, Zaev and the new political leadership rejected the previous flirting with Macedonian nationalism and began promoting the civic concept for Macedonia. Intellectuals of Albanian nationality entered the leadership of SDSM. Before the election on December 11, 2016, SDSM already had 13 thousand members of Albanian nationality and was already the first party that could be called ‘multiethnic’. Public opinion surveys showed that 80% of Albanians had complete confidence in Zaev and that 20% of them would vote for SDSM in the election. The new SDSM party also rejected bargaining with the financial oligarchy and the privatization tycoons and started to return SDSM to the original principles of social democracy for political, as well as social equality and equality, for the return of the middle class, the justice of the oppressed, higher salaries and for decent living in Macedonia and creating conditions, so young people wouldn’t have to leave the country due to poverty. He spoke about implementing a progressive tax, reducing social differences and preventing corruption.

And the third idea of that new political entity around SDSM was that changes were required for the things Gruevski's regime did, that they would never be repeated. Among these things were: the political instrumentalization of history that created bigger conflicts with our neighbors and distanced us from EU and NATO membership, and the permanent invention of domestic and foreign enemies in order to keep the country in a political division and isolation. This political concept of SDSM helped him win the election and later form a government. But Gruevski's regime kept many other instruments of power in his hands and was finally defeated in the October 15 local election. That defeat could finally force the dictator, who practically wiretapped himself, to leave his party's leadership position, but also leave politics and go into history by the end of this dramatic 2017.

The transition from dictatorship to democracy is not, and will not be an easy process for the narrow parliamentary majority of SDSM. And there should be understanding for that. However, SDSM must always bear in mind that the masses in Macedonia and the media, in this difficult period of 11 years, have been trained to crash regimes and are not willing to tolerate similar weaknesses and abuses they fought against for so long.

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