VMRO-DPMNE in a statement, alluding to the fact that they would not mind much if Gruevski’s mandate is revoked, quite pompously announced their conclusion that the law was equal for all. The mantra sounds a bit ironic while Gruevski remains the honorary president of the party, especially given the fact that the fervor the opposition attacked Pavle Bogoevski with is not exactly the same as the one with which they would apply those same principles in their own ranks.
Still, an attempt to distance itself from Gruevski can be seen, which is certainly a step in the right direction for VMRO-DPMNE. This, as a political strategy and a re-branding announcement, is an opportune move, but did it have to happen with that much “rubbing” about principle and honesty. Ok guys, it’s okay, can we please get rid of the fanfare. The equality you speak of, quite unnaturally, can not be a substitute for common sense – you do not treat everyone equally, nor is it possible to any kind of “equalization” now.
SDSM also showed us a similar lesson in equality this weekend – that some are, however, more equal than others. Although in the spirit of party “coordination”, some fundamental changes in the ruling party were made, that pacifism, in my opinion, is transitory and Zaev should expect additional resistance. The main dilemmas in this project of the Prime Minister are whether the situation for the government was so dramatic for such a move to be really necessary, that is, whether it could have achieved the same effect with less shifts, and thus with a lower political price. The second dilemma is whether the decisiveness with which party personnel was dismissed will result in a new system of working, where the delivery will be more important than eligibility and, of course, will these changes eventually be translated into more serious government reform, in the SDSM, but also in the whole coalition.
Those who say that the real measure of Zaev’s seriousness in the changes will be the government, and not the party shifts, are right for two reasons: first, the party is the easier part of the change project, where he is the only and sovereign “ruler”, while government changes are infinitely heavier, require more serious negotiations, and include political calculations and coalition combinations. Secondly, the changes in the government (with the second and third echelon) affect the life of the voters more and more importantly, thus representing a more important part of the overall equation.
Why did Zaev need such a radical move? In the course of this mandate, partly because of the prejudices towards SDSM, partly because of the high expectations that after solving the name issue, we will be instantly “teleported” into the future where Macedonia is a fortunate and advanced society, a serious discrepancy between the social reality and the ideas of the electorate formed, which was expressed to the extent that it was possible for voters to abandon the reform project, without a clear explanation, but coming from intolerance, spite and dissatisfaction. The price that our society paid for the Euro-Atlantic integration is high and the electorate rightly expected a high and fast reward. The lack of the same rapid gratification made the electorate extremely frustrated, generally dissatisfied (not with the direction, but with the speed) of the development of the situation. It threatened to turn into general apathy and a stereotypical perception of Zaev, after which no move could be “reset”. So, what was needed was a project with so-called high cognitive dissonance, something that at the same time will show that the prime minister is serious in the intention of change and will provide him with new attention and a new opportunity for public impression. This move in the party now creates Zaev’s new political capital, and thus, the changes that will follow in the government will have a greater effect.
Additionally, and no less important, these moves also install the notion that Zaev is not always completely zen, which is the impression one gets at first glance. Apparently, Zaev’s opponents underestimate him at their own risk. This, truth be told, slightly authoritarian move, will now provide Zaev with a little more discipline among those who will stay and the new ones to come. Now the pressure will be transferred to “Ilindenska”, where, if we make an analogy from “Bihacka”, no one is safe. I personally think that Zaev will benefit most from making a total reset in the government, just like he did in the party, at least as a symbolic gesture. But, this is still, nominally, a party decision.
In the end, the move has additional benefits that I think will be healthy for the Macedonian political environment. Zaev’s move, with the purge in the party, will now be a benchmark for other parties. For DUI, which is part of the government coalition, this will be an additional pressure for change and will disable them to ignore the message from the electorate (which is even more valid for them than it was for SDSM), especially now when SDSM “put their best foot forward”. For VMRO-DPMNE, this will also be an incentive for reforms and re-branding (I hope that the stance on Gruevski’s situation is an indication precisely for this), because without a vital opposition even the best government becomes arrogant and corrupt. Thus, the opposition can now be encouraged and make the necessary shifts to the new geopolitical narrative for the Balkans, which would refresh both ideology and human resources potential. Hristijan Mickoski can now follow Zaev’s example and make more serious airing in the party if he wants to have a competitive political product. If the opposition does not change anything, but digs into the old trenches left by Gruevski, it will remain there.