Only ten months after the entry of the “reform wing” in the structures of VMRO-DPMNE, they came to their exclusion from the party bodies. Kostadin Bogdanov, who was part of the Executive Committee, doubts that the entire process of the agreement with Greece, the vote in the Assembly and the subsequent purges is a well-planned scenario of the leadership. He regrets that there is no internal party democracy within VMRO-DPMNE, which will allow for different views from those of the leadership. In an interview with Nezavisen Vesnik/Independent newspaper, he says the party remains west-oriented, but that Moscow is using the name dispute for its own needs.
Mr. Bogdanov, you were dismissed on Monday from your post – member of VMRO-DPMNE’s Executive Committee. How did the process go, did they announce it to you, did you ever have the opportunity to express your views at the session of the Central Committee?
– My dismissal was not planned for the Monday theater show. The scenario until Sunday noon probably included only Mayor Mitko Jancev and former minister Nikola Todorov. But, under a series of circumstances, on Sunday, the day before the Central Committee meeting, I contacted President Hristijan Mickoski which was provoked by my statement on the Factor news website published that same day, and we jointly decided that it would be best for me to withdraw from the post member of the Executive Committee. So I did. My dismissal came up on the agenda unplanned on the meeting on Monday. From that perspective, I certainly knew about my dismissal when we agreed with the party president one day earlier.
The reformist wing is the key victim in these purges. Did it show that you were mistaken at the beginning of this year that democratic changes in the party were really possible?
-It turns out that way basically. Unfortunately, the reformist agenda did not win, and all those promises and new energy made at the beginning of the year, somehow over time, completely faded and lost their sense. It is simply difficult to get any leadership to reduce its own power through statutory changes in any party in our country. But it’s also hard to get a leadership to radically change long-standing narratives that have caused damage to the party, but kept feeding part of the membership. I have the impression that as a party we have failed to rebrand in the past 10-11 months, and the general public still thinks of us as an ultra-nationalist, anti-Western and anti-Albanian party with large mortgages from the past.
For years, the public has no idea what actually happens in the party’s bodies when it comes to discussing a certain important topic. Was there a real discussion about the events in the Parliament and the vote on the constitutional changes?
– Of course there was. We left room at the meetings of the IC and the Central Committee of each member to freely express their point of view and opinion about this issue. And of course there were different theses and views. But in our parties, you know how it is when it comes to dealing with such key topics, in the end always the position and opinion of the president are crucial.
Who lost, and who gained from this purge? Some say that there is no defeat, that it is a tampered conflict. Is that true or is it a conflict between two or more wings in the party?
– Absolutely not. It is not a matter of any sort of conflict between any wings in the party. It seemed like a well thought out and arranged scenario for a long time with some of the actors, about how to justify the party’s “defeat” in the Parliament. At the same time, the other part of the affected, which was not agreed and included in the script, was hidden under the veil of some betrayal, although the real motives for their exclusion or dismissal, I suppose, are something else. However, time will tell.
Mickoski said that everyone is free to share their opinion about the referendum, that it was part of democracy. It turns out that a great sacrifice should be made for one’s own opinion.
-It is another indication of the absence of intra-party democracy and respect for one’s different stance, something that is characteristic of all parties, without exception. But here comes the need to reform the election system by introducing open lists. MPs, before such crucial decisions, must have room for expressing their own conviction, not just being blindly obedient to the party’s stance. Especially not when such a party’s stance is built on the basis of a procedure decided by authorities or individuals with dubious legitimacy, since the same bodies are elected in a non-transparent or discretionary way.
What does it mean for the party when its views are identical to Moscow’s statements, while at the same time it says it is west-oriented? Has VMRO-DPMNE lost its connection with Western democracies and partners, and if so, is it important to anyone in the party?
– Of course it’s important. At least for the larger part of the membership. VMRO-DPMNE’s statute foresees Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic integration as a top priority for the party, and of course it is important for the party to have stable bridges with the sister parties of the EPP group and unconditional cooperation with the United States. Unfortunately, the impression remains that Moscow is using it for the benefit of the name dispute, which, on one hand, is a deeply sensitive issue for every individual, but on the other hand it is the only way out for a European and prosperous state. The sensitivity on this issue is perhaps most noticeable in our party tissue, hence the interest and success of the anti-NATO forces for direct influence on the positions and policies of VMRO-DPMNE. I find it sad, as a member of VMRO-DPMNE, to hear a statement from a senior US diplomat that he doesn’t have the time nor the will to meet with anyone from the leadership of the party during his official stay in the country. It’s such a sad fact that almost none of the diplomats didn’t honor us with their presence at the party’s celebration on Tuesday. I understand the need for a leadership to be in touch with its membership and their wishes, but a leadership is bound to lead and sincerely influence the political positions and thoughts of its members, not to hide behind them. Especially when it comes to essential and well-intentioned messages from our international friends.