Macedonian political crisis

Nikola Popovski

The Macedonian political crisis is not acute, nor it is a process, it is probably a state and a condition that threatens to be “a new normality”. No matter how optimistic you are, and looking on possible perspectives through pink glasses, it all seems to be in vain. When a political crisis is approaching its end in our country and it is to be resolved, it is actually just a new political crisis resurfacing, which is becoming bigger and harder than the previous one, and it falls as an avalanche on Macedonia.

I think the number of people who are optimistic, even moderate optimists, is rapidly decreasing. Even those who publicly behave so, deep inside are worried that there is no room for optimism. Reality destroys and denies at every step. It does not mean that pessimism becomes the main and unique characteristic of our society, but it neither leaves us, nor gives us the wrong signals. Mistakes and improvisations are all around us. One of my acquaintances publicly announced, saying: “Everything in Macedonia is one big improvisation”.

The current, and very painful, political and social crisis in the existing acute form appeared sometime in the beginning of 2015, although its roots are somewhat deep in 2007-2008 as a result of the opinion of the majority of citizens at the time that Macedonia needs governance based on improvisations and quick results that are even more unrealistic. This led to sobering up even after 2015, with an escalation in 2016, and especially 2017, followed by the tense 2018, when the Prespa Agreement happened. That agreement was intended to clear the crisis in and around Macedonia, but the fact that, after its signing, it definitely pushed Macedonia in an even greater crisis, perhaps it should have been expected.

A way out? The naïve think that it is within reach and just around the corner. I am convinced that it is not so. I repeat – the political crisis in Macedonia became a state of normality. Suppose that what is now very likely to happen – the constitutional amendments will not receive sufficient support and thus the Prespa Agreement, on which the current government rested all hope and the entire political construction of Macedonia in the present and the future. An interim solution, as well as all previous attempts to overcome the situation of a political crisis, is holding a new parliamentary election – who knows which one before the expiration of the four-year term of the elected Parliament. If my memory serves me right, the last parliamentary election that did not end with a snap election was the one in 1998. 20 years ago.

The new snap election should give a minimum of two responses. One is on the question of whether the political parties that are in favor of the Prespa Agreement are backed by a two-thirds majority of voters, or that those who oppose the agreement have the majority. It is easier for the latter. It is enough for them to win only a third of the votes for them to yet again, and probably forever, block the agreement and the constitutional change of the name of the state. The second answer would be the state of the citizens’ confidence towards political parties and their leaders after the turbulent events of April 2017 and July 2018.

I think the results will not encourage anyone. Cemented voter division prevents anyone from getting a two-thirds majority. In the referendum, about 600,000 citizens voted in favor of accepting the agreement with Greece. The opposition disputes these results, especially in the municipalities where the majority of Albanians live and where the turnout in the last two hours of the vote has increased sharply and unrealistically. The result is different for them. How many of them are willing to give support and the parties that support the agreement is unknown. It is unknown how many of those who did not come out for various reasons or consciously boycotted the referendum are ready to vote for the current opposition.

In the obviously more mature political scene of Greece, the Prespa Agreement has already taken its first victim – the minister who created the agreement on their part. A party that has a much smaller impact on itself than the implementation of the agreement. Nikos Kotzias said he did not have enough support and protection from his own people, and so he left. On our side, on whose back the whole implementation of the contract should fall, is the other way around. Nikola assessed that in a struggle in which it is ‘unknown who does what’ should threaten everyone, especially his superiors, calling them “leaders”.

The authorities, especially the ruling party, will have a lot of trouble repeating the success of the local elections in 2017. It is no secret or dilemma that the disappointment with them is present and it is two-layered. One is of those who are independent voters and easily fluctuate to abstinence or some other solution from a possible political offer, and the latter, though numerically less important, but more important essentially, is that of its sympathizers and members who regretted it or are completely disappointed.
Their dissatisfaction can cost the government a lot, and objectively they were the ones who expected more, but on various grounds and criteria they “got” less. Perhaps the least. An additional burden on the ruling party are the rather modest performances of domination in the municipalities where more talk is about inconsistency, ignorance and powerlessness, and even the continuation of “stories from the previous rule of runaway mayors” of the then central and municipal authorities, than of some kind result.
A serious issue for the ruling party would be the opportunity to attract voters from the Albanian community again, and it was precisely they in the recent elections that brought them closer to the result of the then-ruling party. Without these votes, the risk of losing would be increased. There are other challenges as well.
The opposition party has a lot more problems. It is faced with chronic political disorientation, possible additional internal extremism, very serious and fairly possible international isolation, with the gradual and complicated completion of a series of trials against their most prominent members that can bring financial problems to the party, with loss of the already reduced reputation due to a series of corruptive and violent scandals, from which it is not persistently restrained, with open intra-party disagreements and reduced coalition capacity to attract other parties.

In such circumstances, the attempt to temporarily stop the crisis can turn into a new agony, from which new, modest hopes will only reemerge after several years. While the world irreversibly moves along its established path.

Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik