A few days ago a strong majority in Parliament voted a Law for amnesty for the events of 27 April 2017. This law will amnesty most of participants in that most violent day in the political history of Macedonia. This act is now presented in an Orwellian way by the government as “national reconciliation”, that is necessary when important decisions are being taken for the future of the country. It was also welcomed by the European Union, which in a way gives the government an alibi to say that the amnesty for violence is not against European values, but in the contrary helps the country get closer to those values.
Judging by the reaction throughout social networks this act is plainly disgusting for the public, especially by the fiercest fighters against the previous regime which is not now part of government. This is quite understandable, as it expected that once the regime is gone Macedonia would turn a new page toward becoming a normal country, where the rule of law would prevail above all. It now seems that those expectations were premature and that many things remain the same, including the amnesty for violence in Parliament. It is important to recall that this kind of amnesty is neither the first, and since it seems that we refuse to learn anything from the past, it won’t be the last.
The first major incident in Parliament happened in 2007. The heated debate between MPs of DUI and DPA ended with fist-fights. At first this may not seem to be a big deal; after all these kinds of fist-fights in Parliament happen often around the world. But the key word here is “between members of Parliament”, which after all are representatives of the people. It becomes alarming for a democracy when the violence over members of Parliament is carried out by third parties, which symbolically looks as if another institution or group of people is beating up the people. And this is what happened in 2007. The fight between MPs continued through the halls of Parliament, and they were joined by large groups of other dignitaries of DUI and DPA. Thus some functionaries of DPA attacked Azis Pollozhani, a member of Parliament from DUI. On the other side a victim of violence by DUI functionaries was the journalist Lirim Dullovi.
To reach “reconciliation” Parliament formed a Commission, which should have found out what really happened and who was guilty of instigating these unfortunate events inside its building. As is usual for all commissions, this particular commission failed to unravel anything or reach any conclusions. The functionaries of DUI and DPA reconciled among themselves, and left violence in the hands of low-level activists in parliamentary elections 2008. To this date nobody has been held accountable for this violence inside the Parliament, and the proportions of that incident have now been forgotten, which will eventually happen to the events of 27 April.
The second big incident in Parliament happened in December 2012, during the debate for the government budget of 2013. Impatient with the long presentations and ostensible delaying of the process by SDSM MPs, certain structures within the VMRO-DUI government decided to solve the problem through other means. Parts of Parliament’s security, reinforced with police structures from outside, violently threw the SDSM MPs out of the Parliament. Left in peace, the members of Parliament from the VMRO-DUI coalition then proceeded to vote the 2013 budget as they pleased.
This incident marked the start of a prolonged political crisis which culminated with the decision of SDSM to boycot that years local elections. The international community, most of all EU, steped in to try and resolve the deadlock. Under their guidance a deal was reached whereby SDSM would participate in elections, while to investigate the events another Parliament commission was formed. After a few months that commission came up with an agreement, but it was immediately after its signing that VMRO dubbed it a “Paloma agreement”. Eventually it turned out that the agreement was really that, since it produced no tangible results. To this date nobody has been held accountable for this violence inside the Parliament, and the proportions of that incident have now been forgotten, which will eventually happen to the events of 27 April.
The events of 27 April are of course still fresh in our minds and it is clear that they were drastically bigger and more violent than the previous two. This was no more a matter of fist-fights and throwing out of MPs from Parliament, but a matter of organized violence as well as an attempt to murder the MP Ziadin Sela. And precisely due to this level of violence, the events of 27 April should have never been treated in the same way as the previous ones. It was the right time to say “never again”, to draw a red line, and leave no doubt as to the accountability of those thugs before the law.
As things stand now, this act of amnesty may be legal, but it can never be accepted as politically or morally legitimate. By what right can someone come before the voters of district 6 and forgive the people that tried to murder their representative? Coming after the previous two quiet amnesties, today’s amnesty will only result will a further loss in the already distrusted rule of law, and will probably motivate others to enter Parliament and beat up MPs in the future, because amnesty is slowly but surely becoming the norm.
Even more frustrating is the fact that the government is trying to sell this amnesty as reconciliation, a normal, even positive thing, when even little kids know what it really is: a direct way to buy MPs to vote for the constitutional amendments. Even the official support received by the EU is not helpful here, as it is now clear that for the EU rule of law has taken a backseat to the name change process.
In any case this last act of amnesty is just a continuation of the same old game that is being repeated many times. It is also almost a guarantee that these things will happen again in the future, when in some other circumstances somebody will again open the doors of Parliament to let some thugs in, who will proceed to beat up and kill MPs, and then get a “reconciliation” or amnesty. As it happened with the events of 2007 and 2012, these still fresh events of April 27th will be forgotten. What won’t be forgotten is the fact that in Macedonia you won’t be held accountable for these kinds of acts.