Nikola Gruevski with his Coalition for Better Macedonia failed to retain power in 2016. By the end of April 2017, he was trying to forcibly halt the change of power, but it still happened, and the changes began.
Spreading fear of the “Tirana Platform” has not wavered the new government in adopting the Law on Languages. Spreading fear of losing identity did not persuade the new government to sign good neighborly agreements with Bulgaria and Greece, and to open Macedonia’s path to NATO and EU membership. And allegations of some “SDSM Albanianization” did not change Zoran Zaev’s mind from including Albanians on their lists of MPs, ministers and mayors, to make and have an election coalition with Albanian parties during the October 2017 local elections, and have a joint candidate for head of the state. In doing so, he demonstrated a new model of social cohesion within the country and with the country’s neighbors.
In the period after the change of power, the Special Prosecutor’s Office began to function, and after the first verdict against Gruevski, he fled the country and named his associate and faithful follower Hristijan Mickoski as his successor.
Mickoski has kept the figures symbolizing Gruevski’s regime, the “eternal youth” Vlatko Gjorcev, Ilija Dimovski, Antonio Milososki around him, and all of them together, in all the previous election cycles, starting from the local elections up to the referendum, as well as to the presidential elections, were trying to prove that the change of power in Macedonia in 2016 was, according to them, “the darkest period in its development”. Zaev, unlike them, led “anti-national and anti-state policies”. The constitution and laws were not respected, as in the previous period, prosecutors and the judiciary implemented “political persecution”, the economy collapsed and the government organized crime and corruption, instead of preventing them like Gruevski prevented them. Hence, they all decided in the upcoming elections to come up with a new name for the coalition and call the “For Better Macedonia” coalition a Coalition “For the Renewal of Macedonia” (probably from Gruevski’s time of rule), which in fact means a coalition for renewal of Gruevism.
Contrary to their understanding of the period they want to renew, the term Gruevism denotes the regime of Nikola Gruevski who systematically carried out “patriotic robbery” for 11 years, shared “revolutionary justice” through the jokers in the Republican Judicial Council and the “Swarovski Judiciary” , corrupted and controlled the media, politically manipulated history and with its own “quasi-patriotism” of “we are the people”, “we are Macedonia”, “we are not giving our name” divided the Macedonian national core of “Patriots” and “Traitors”, widened the gap with its neighbors and distanced the country from its increasingly possible accession to NATO and the EU.
Zaev’s government, having saved his life on the bloody Thursday of the “renewers”, tried, within the short time available, to repair some of the damage already done, and with rather courageous steps and taking great political risk in the face of unprepared public opinion in the country, led Macedonia to join NATO and possibly get a date for launching EU accession talks. Prime Ministers Zaev and Tsipras have become an example to the world of courage in resolving decades-long identity dispute in the Balkans, and now the Republic of North Macedonia started to be cited as an example of a Balkan country that has shown the ability to move beyond the decades-long “status quo” in the Euro-Atlantic integrations by finding solutions to complicated neighborly relations, and a country that is Europeanizing from within. To achieve this and secure a two-thirds majority for the changes, Zaev had to compromise with part of the country’s opposition and consciously through amnesty, taking care of the country’s higher goals, sacrificing part of justice, leaving many things unresolved within the country.
And just as he was expecting the grand prize from the European Union for his hard work, France, for its own personal reasons, refused to agree to a date for launching accession talks with the European Union.
Following that decision, just like Greece’s veto at the 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit, a sense of “European deception” has been created in the country. This is in favor of national opposition populists, who have always called for caution from the “Babylonian harlot” and were prepared to prove they were right when they opposed the signing of the Prespa Agreement with Greece, that “the naiveté of the government” endangered the national positions of the country, and that only with fresh and snap elections to overthrow the government can partially repair the damage already done.
In such conditions, Prime Minister Zaev himself, quite disappointed with the EU decision, without much clear motives, agreed to early elections for “the people to decide in which direction Macedonia should go”.
Unlike him, who thinks that there are serious differences between the government and the opposition as to which direction the country should go, President Stevo Pendarovski, from talking to leaders of all political parties, shortly before setting a date for new early parliamentary elections, have concluded that the leaders of all political parties in Macedonia are demonstrating “state capacity”. All of them, in his opinion, are in favor of the country’s accession to NATO and the EU, and that this strategic goal of the country has no alternative to either of them.
From his words, one could conclude that whoever wins the next election, the process of our integration into NATO and the EU will not question any relevant political entity in the country. It seems, however, that it is only verbal.
Proof of this is the fact that just two days after that meeting, and of that statement, Chairman of VMRO-DPMNE Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee Antonio Miloshoski had already announced his ideas for annulment of the Prespa Agreement, whose signing removed the biggest obstacle to Macedonia’s integration into NATO and the EU. He said in an interview with the German daily paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that “there are ways to restore the country’s previous constitutional name “Macedonia”. With this “state-building capacity” of opposition leaders that have remained in their posts besides ordering lustration to remove “politically untrustworthy judges” and committing crimes, it becomes quite clear for the kind of values the opposition is striving. And if it succeeds, that renewal will almost certainly lead to the loss of NATO membership and the abandonment of the EU accession process.
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is convinced that he will receive the support of the citizens for continuing the changes he received in the local elections, the referendum and the presidential elections in April next year. Therefore, as a person who is confident of winning such elections, despite having a secure parliamentary majority and term by December of next year, he has offered and accepted to call for early parliamentary elections “to make Europe wake up” and to have a “clean term”.
However, one should remember that elections in a state of frustration and deceit on the part of the nation, of heightened Euro-skepticism, and of strong nationalism and sovereignty by the opposition, can put a number of benefits from the current government’s decisions into question. The SDSM coalition, which has already started its campaign with the slogan “On the right path”, will be subject to strong pressure due to “turning away from that path”, primarily in the area of domestic politics with the “Racket” affair and other affairs opened by the opposition in times of “freedom from responsibility for spreading fake news”. It will be held accountable in particular for failing to deliver the expected justice for the stolen million euros of the “Skopje 2014” project, from tender procedures, mass abuses of power in Gruevski’s time of rule, illegal wiretapping, stolen elections, unfair lustration, and most of all, that it allowed the biggest criminals to accuse it of crime, and people without having to point to its “immoral behavior”.
Alexis Tsipras’s election defeat in Greece did not lead to a significant disruption to the country’s democratic processes and political orientation, as Greece has long been a stable democracy. The possible loss of elections by Prime Minister Zaev and the victory of the Coalition for Renewal of Gruevism can lead to a serious return of the country back to a loss of international standing and support. Whether it will be possible to maintain a progressive majority in the country in the next election, despite the huge international support it has, is a difficult question for the time-being.
Prime Minister Zaev rightfully says that “If we are capable, we will thrive”. And that is exactly the question the citizens will answer in the elections. They will decide: “Are we capable, who are capable for and what are they capable of?
Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik