Aleksandra M. Mitevska
One can only assume where the cabinet of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev will be located in the upcoming period – the old address on Ilinden Street number 2, or the new building of the Ministry of Finance. Therefore, there is no longer a need for assumptions about the scope of the reshuffle of the government cabinet, which the prime minister announced very determinedly just over two months ago. But later he made a series of moves to amortize and relativize the potential of the so-called “sweep”, which at one moment achieved the goal that was bought in some store in Skopje’s Karposh, thus providing greater mobilization of the electorate in the second round of the presidential elections.
If it wasn’t for the surprise with the Prime Minister’s “shift” into a Finance Minister, or his take-over of the finance minister’s position, it could have been easily said that this greatly announced reshuffle was mainly reduced to cosmetics. In particular, the departure of Dragan Tevdovski from the ministerial position is not a big surprise, since his name was frequently mentioned whenever possible staffing changes in the government cabinet were mentioned. That this will finally turn into reality has become very clear a week ago, when Tevdovski’s name was on the list of the new composition of the executive board of SDSM. And given the tendency to de-accumulate functions, that is, to separate the party from the state or local functions that Zaev demonstrated in the last few weeks – probably in an attempt to alleviate the hit of the “sweep” at least for his party members. In fact, this is why Ljupcho Nikolovski gave up the position of Minister of Agriculture in order to become the Secretary General of SDSM, and the same principle was applied to the new organizational secretary and director of the party’s Center for Analytics.
It can be said that SDSM has drawn the “short straw” of this government reshuffle, although the ministers of the main ruling party were in fact not recognized as the weakest link in the functioning of the government. Therefore, DUI has exceeded expectations in view of the current performance of its staff in the executive branch. The only “sacrifice” that the second party in the coalition made is the expected dismissal of the “eternally absent” Hazbi Lika. Therefore, DUI received a new portfolio, or, to be clearer, a new Ministry (of political system and inter-community relations)) which the indefensible Sadula Duraku will take over (the first minister who openly admitted that he was not interested with the citizens’ needs), although his performance as Minister of Environment is at least twice lower than Tevdovski’s performance as Finance Minister.
Considering, for instance, that only a few weeks ago Zaev boasted that the growth rate of gross domestic product in the first quarter of the year was 4.1 percent, and that the unemployment rate dropped to 17.8 percent, the question is which criteria were decisive for the replacement of the Minister of Finance. Tevdovski was one of the main creators of SDSM’s election programme for the latest parliamentary elections in 2016, whose economic part, in certain circles, was seen as left-wing. However, the SDSM-led government in the past period carried out a large part of the main points in that programme, referring precisely to the ideological matrix of the party, although the conceptual differences between the creator of the SDSM programme and the Vice Prime Minister for European Affairs Kocho Angjushev, as a representative of the business sector or of the larger capital in the country. This was especially evident in the introduction of the progressive tax, as an idea which has been a key point in the SDSM programmes for years.
That’s why the replacement of Tevdovski can be interpreted as the current victory of Angjushev in that ideological-conceptual conflict within the government. In doing so, it is reasonable to impose a dilemma in which the direction will “the new Minister of Finance” continue to push the financial flows. That is, will the Prime Minister and leader of the ruling SDSM continue to adhere to the main points of the election programme, on which basis he won the elections, or will he put the “leftist behavior” aside?
However, Zaev is now taking over even greater responsibility and many new duties, in addition to the ones he already has, with the temporary takeover of the ministerial position in Finance. As his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras did, when he took over the responsibility a while ago to push the Prespa Agreement to its completion as head of diplomacy, following the resignation of Nikos Kotzias. Accountability is all the more greater when it comes at a time when Zaev had announced 2019 (which has already six months left) as a year dedicated to economy, and, after closing the most delicate bilateral issues, to foreign politics.
If we analyze the submitted reshuffle list of names, the average score would be that, with the exception of the dismissal in the finance ministry, it was mainly reduced to filling out positions that were emptied in the meantime, or were left vacant due to the rotation of linear staffing or parties. In the part of the rotations, the case with the Ministry of Local Self-Government, where the second minister is on the reshuffle list, is remarkable – Sulejal Fazliu of the NDP, as a party for whose staff Liberal Democrat Zoran Sapuric should now leave the post of minister without a portfolio. Thus, for now, the government is now left with one minister less and one deputy prime minister less, given the dismissals of Tevdovski and Lika.
In turn, the leader of a smaller party from the ruling coalition – Goran Milievski from the LDP enters Zoran Zaev’s cabinet. Unlike before, when the leaders of the smaller ruling parties were mainly were clinging, and are clinging to the more secure and more comfortable positions in the legislative power, Milevski is now entering the government as a minister of local self-government. It is yet to be seen how he will deal with his new role. However, the move is a good signal that all parties in power should take some responsibility for the functioning of the government, and not just the central one.