Ivanov will boycott, then retire

His (and most likely his last) visit to the United States as President of Macedonia, Gjorge Ivanov, was used for sending messages for the boycott of the upcoming referendum on the name, a problem that hampered the realization of the country’s strategic priorities for more than two and a half decades. Ivanov’s address to the UN General Assembly is expected to be in a similar tone, which is a kind of irony given that negotiations on the name dispute all these years have been under the auspices of this world organization.

It is still uncertain whether Ivanov will be in Skopje at all on September 30th, or will monitor the development of the situation surrounding the referendum from the United States. However, it is certain that Ivanov has a little over half a year in office since his second term ends around May 10 next year, so the presidential election in Macedonia should be held in April.

After Ivanov expressed his opinion on the boycott of the referendum before our emigrants in the United States, speculations were raised in the domestic public that the Macedonian president, after the end of his mandate, will not remain in the country, but will go to Turkey to teach at one of the universities there. There is no official confirmation for this information yet, but in support of it, Ivanov is closely associated with ruling officials in Ankara, in particular with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose inauguration he attended last summer. Turkey was also one of the most frequent visiting destinations for Ivanov during his two presidential terms.

If such information proves to be inaccurate, Ivanov has two options after the end of his second mandate – to return to his professor’s job at the Faculty of Law in Skopje, where he taught political science before VMRO-DPMNE launched him into the state leadership, or to “retire” and take advantage of the benefits he is granted as a former president, benefits which his predecessor Branko Crvenkovski is using for five years now. Precisely this last one opened a debate recently in the public, in the sense that the state will continue to finance Ivanov in order to cause political damage to it. Moreover, that the number of former presidents on which budget money will be spent will continue to rise, which includes the family of late President Boris Trajkovski, for whose needs a huge palace was built on Vodno.

In recent years, there have been several initiatives to limit the former president’s rights, which were envisaged at the end of Kiro Gligorov’s term in 1999, and further strengthened after President Boris Trajkovski’s death in 2004, but they were dismissed in parliament. The bearer of these initiatives was former Democratic Union MP Pavle Trajanov, who is now a national coordinator in the Government. He still says that a restriction of the rights of former presidents is needed.

– I think that there is no need for former presidents to have such benefits, special budget and special offices, as well as a team of councilors. This is not a practice in any other country. It would be enough if a former president was given a salary in the amount of his income while in office, one office in parliament that he would use as needed, and would be served by the parliamentary administration and possibly able to use an official vehicle when he needed to go on a business trip and security according to assessment, that is, if it is assessed that his safety is in danger – says Trajanov.

When his mandate ends, Ivanov will be 58 years old, while his predecessor Crvenkovski “retired from politics” at the age of 51. The law regulating the rights of the former president envisages the right to: a pension in the amount of the salary received by the incumbent president of the state (that is, the current amount of about 105 thousand denars); office space and up to three professional associates; personal security, and an official vehicle operated by a driver. For this purpose, according to the estimates, about 250 thousand euros are allocated from the budget annually. Likewise, the President whose term of office has been terminated may, at his request, suspend the rights provided in this Law. According to that, after the end of the presidential term, Ivanov will also have at his disposal the option to put to rest the rights he is entitled to as a former president, as Crvenkovski did when, after the end of his presidency in 2009, he returned to the helm of SDSM.

In the past five years, as long as he has been using his benefits as a former president, Crvenkovski was almost completely absent from the public stage and did not have any political activities. He made an exception several weeks ago when he appeared in an open letter to the public, announcing that there were many reservations regarding the agreement with Greece, but that he would still vote “for” in the upcoming referendum because he thought that there was no alternative to Macedonia, except membership in NATO and the EU.

In contrast, Crvenkovski’s successor on the presidential throne – Ivanov called from the United States to announce to the Macedonian public that he would not vote on September 30th, sending subtle messages to the citizens to think about boycotting the referendum.

Representatives of the ruling headquarters assessed this move by Ivanov as an act of irresponsibility of the holder of the highest office in the country. Trajanov, however, believes that the destructiveness demonstrated by Ivanov in relation to the capitalist political processes that are currently taking place in the country is a good motive to think again about the need to limit the rights of the President of Macedonia after the end of his term.

Different experiences from the region

Rarely where the saying “once the president – always the president” applies

Former Croatian President Stipe Mesic was left with minimum privileges about two years ago and closed his cabinet after Tihomir Oreshkovic’s government suggested it, and parliament accepted to abolish the right to office, personal driver and official vehicle, so that the state budget would only cover his personal security.

The previous Croatian regulation allowed Mesic to permanently use state benefits, while the next presidents had been allowed to use those rights for a maximum of five years. It was an argument for the Croatian government to limit Mesic’s rights, since he had been using them for more than five years – a period in which he traveled and spent a considerable amount of budget funds.

In Serbia, the rights of former presidents are more limited in terms of the privileges that apply in Macedonia. Former Serbian presidents receive an honorary title former president of the republic, they are entitled to 80 percent of the presidential salary until they are employed or retired, an opportunity to return to their old job within three months, the right to an office, advisor and secretary, vehicle and personal driver for as long as the presidential term lasted, security for one year after the end of the mandate, diplomatic passport and access to archives while he was in office.

Aleksandra M. Mitevska