Last week, the OSCE Mission to Skopje organized an event for the upcoming holiday season, and many attended. As I made my way through the crowd, I accidentally ran into the former Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, accompanied by one of the MPs from VMRO-DPMNE. Of course, we greeted each other and shook hands. “How are you, Mr. Gruevski?”, I asked. “Let’s say I’m fine”, he replied, “Everything will be okay”, I said, even though, to be honest, I didn’t really mean it. The man looked pretty tired, frightened, older, skinnier and kind of exhausted.
This was the first time that I ran into Gruevski after his loss of power. Hi wasn’t his old self, the one we were used of seeing before, the confident man with that constant cynical smile on his face. As our people say, a real thug!
After I crossed ways with Gruevski, I suddenly had some mixed feelings about him. Was I feeling sorry for the person, or was I subconsciously gloating. I don’t know, I was probably sorry for him more, as one of the most controversial actors in the contemporary Macedonian politics, who missed his chance to become an icon of Macedonian success. He entered politics as an expert in economy, and exited as the “little Dictator”.
There’s an old Albanian saying – “The mind as a winner, the mind as an embarrassment”, which basically means that it is up to your own mind whether you will be successful or a loser in life. Although Gruevski blamed everyone except himself for his infamous fall, I’m sure he’s aware of his responsibility in the fall of VMRO-DPMNE. And not just that, by creating a violent scenario and forcibly trying to stay in power, he brought the country on the verge of civil war.
What are Gruevski’s biggest mistakes in his infamous fall from power? From a formal aspect, he could be considered a successful politician. Being a Prime Minister for eleven years in a Balkan country with a colorful structure and population, as well as interesting neighbors, is not something that should be taken for granted. However, Gruevski's government caused so much damage to the country that we’ll have to deal with those consequences for a very long time.
Still, I don’t intend to discuss Gruevski’s harmful politics, but his bad decisions that caused his fall and made him an example for the new government on how not to behave if they want to rule responsibly in Macedonia.
Gruevski, during his ruling, made many unnecessary archenemies due to his own caprices, in order to represent himself as a great Macedonian. It probably slipped his mind that underestimating your enemies is the greatest mistake a leader can make, a mistake that could cost him his life.
Gruevski’s imaginary foes, in the end, had become his real foes, who, with one joint action pulled the rug under him. There couldn’t have been any other scenario, except for him falling face first.
But, what was my point? If you analyze Gruevski’s ruling very closely, you can definitely conclude that his long stay as the head of power is not due to his capability and political skills, but the dismantled Macedonian opposition and Albanian political parties, as well as the international factor’s indifference.
Gruevski, as a leader of a political party, definitely showed that he does not know how to build trust, respect and collaboration with the membership of VMRO-DPMNE, the Macedonian opposition, the Albanians and the international factor.
First, he destroyed his relations with the Albanians from the very start, in 2006. He formed his government with Menduh Thaçi’s DPA, leaving DUI’s commanders in opposition. This decision was not that bad, because it was necessary to publicly uncover DUI’s real face, where all the greatest creators of the Albanian idea were gathered. Not many Albanians were aware at the time that DUI’s leadership was made of common police informants, who constantly informed the Yugoslavian secret services and others about the Albanian emigration.
But, Gruevski’s mistake was that he did not know where to draw the line. The compared all Albanians to DUI. He thought that if he used tricks from the secret police, he could paralyze DUI’s leadership and have all Albanian population in his pocket. This was his error in strategy. Those same Albanians, who Gruevski thought can be controlled through DUI, became the crucial players in diminishing VMRO-DPMNE’s power in the Parliament. This came to a big surprise to Gruevski that lead to his incapability to form a government in the December election in 2016, when 49 MPs from SDSM were making way for it to be detoured. In the end, Gruevski paid the price for creating the perception of himself as a hater of Albanians in the Macedonian public eye.
His second grand error was destroying relations with the Macedonian opposition. He created a regime that, through election, would never let the opposition the chance to win. He was wrong.
Gruevski never realized that when he defeated Crvenkovski in 2011 by manipulating the election results, for which he had consent from the international community, he ended his slogan "Branko is guilty of everything" because he helped sprout a real opposition spirit in the Social Democratic Union. Zoran Zaev appeared, whom Gruevski apparently thought he could manipulate at his will. He fooled himself again.
He didn’t realize Zoran Zaev was not just a typical puppet from SDSM. His success is due to his discontinuity in politics of the heirs from the Communist Union. He accepted a direct confrontation with Gruevski, and opened up to the Albanian voters. The opposition, Macedonian and Albanian, had a long quest for a courageous leader, who was ready to confront Gruevski. Zaev’s risk was worth it.
His readiness to confront him and opening up to Albanian voters was the right strategy for winning power for SDSM.
It could’ve been possible for Gruevski to manage his bad politics toward Albanians and the Macedonian opposition, if he hadn’t destroyed his relations with the international factor as well. This was the last drop. He tried to find salvation from his errors and asked for help from the Russians, the Chinese, and Erdogan, which ended tragically for Gruevski. He overestimated himself once again and underestimated Macedonia’s friends, the USA and the European Union.
When you’re incapable to make the right evaluation, you make bad decisions, and those decisions lead you to ruin. Gruevski's defeat was inevitable. He was finally finished by his own voters. They kicked him hard in the last local election.
This is how the political career of a politician ends infamously. May the new guys learn from his mistakes.