Robert Nesimi, publicist
It’s conventional and generally acceptable to say that the general election in December shocked the political scene, due to the end of the ten-year domination of VMRO and the shift of power. In fact, the real shock was the emergence and success of the two new Albanian entities, the “Alliance for the Albanians” and the “BESA Movement”, a phenomenon that ended the already predictable games of the so-called “Big Four” VMRO-SDSM-DUI-DPA that was forced to create unusual coalitions in the newly created state in the local election. It is about several coalitions, mostly secret and unprincipled rather than public and principled, as they preferred to present themselves. Namely, in the public (and especially the Macedonian media sphere), SDSM and DUI managed to create a picture of a successful civil and interethnic pre-election coalition in order to portray the other public coalition Alliance for the Albanians-BESA as an opportunist, nationalist and retrograde, which was allegedly in a secret alliance with VMRO. As you witnessed in the election, there were other coalitions, a in secret alliance of the “big four” that worked against the two new parties.
But let’s start from the beginning. The first move in the local election was made by SDSM-DUI, by not including SDSM in several Albanian municipalities, even in the places where it was the primary party in the parliamentary election. Later this was corrected with a public support from SDSM and Zaev’s campaign for DUI candidates. Of course, this is not disputable because each party reserves the right to make a coalition of its own choice. But attempts to portray such a coalition as progressive and guided by principles immediately lost its credibility on two counts.
First, it was hypocritical that this particular coalition was presented as a continuation of the central level coalition, because SDSM-DUI joined together against the third coalition partner, the Alliance, without whose sacrifice VMRO would still be in power and Zaev in prison. Secondly, this coalition was justified in response to the alleged secret coalition of BESA with VMRO, probably to gain from the current Albanian antipathy to VMRO. What’s worse, such insinuations continued even after BESA denied such a coalition (and this was proven on the very day of election), from the very top of the government, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Internal Affairs. The question arises whether the Prime Minister and the Minister of Internal Affairs had secret information about such co-operation and used it for political gain, which would be abuse of official duty, or simply political propaganda that would seem more convincing since it comes from high state positions. However, this proves the utterly hypocritical and opportunistic association of SDSM and DUI, regardless of the high rhetoric of their coalition. And SDSM’s explanation that they needed DUI to get more votes is no excuse in this matter; it was clear that VMRO was not going to get votes from the Albanian population, no matter which party joins the coalition.
The second public coalition, Alliance-BESA, appeared in the second round as a response to the first, in the municipalities of Western Macedonia. Politically and ethically, this was the most appropriate coalition in the political history of Macedonia. Both parties measured their strengths in the first round, and the electorate didn’t want them to compete in the second round, enabling them to win all municipalities where they competed. Politically, the two parties are new with no conflicting mutual history, crucial to the VMRO-DUI regime, in long previous negotiations, demanded by their membership, as well as almost the entire independent Albanian public. This is why accusations of being unprincipled are not justified because one party is in power and the other in opposition; remember the VMRO-SDSM coalition from 2013, just three months after the SDSM MPs were forcefully taken out of parliament by VMRO! If not characterizing it as a nationalist and opportunist, it would’ve been unusual if this coalition did not happen. The fact that any coalition of two Albanian parties would instantly look nationalistic, says more about their worldview than actual reality.
But which ones were the real coalitions, and what happened on the second Election Day? While the Macedonian public was understandably preoccupied with VMRO’s debacle, other coalitions functioned in the Albanian municipalities. First, the election results showed that SDSM voters flawlessly gave their votes to DUI candidates and that there was not separation between the “conscious citizenship of SDSM” and “VMRO’s sheeple”. Second, before completely disappearing from the scene, the forgotten DPA made its last political “catch” and practically handed Tetovo and Tearce to Dui, and saved their former archenemy from a complete debacle in Polosko. Third and most importantly, VMRO gave its votes to DUI in Struga, and voted for both parties in other municipalities. And this was enough for the DUI. The fact that in the second round its fate was completely in the hands of VMRO is mathematically indisputable; VMRO could have leveled DUI, but still decided not to, despite its “disloyalty” after the general election.
Bearing in mind all these games and the result from the election, the real big picture is far from the one SDSM-DUI’s PR services are trying to portray about an alleged victory in a progressive and multiethnic Macedonia versus the retrograde and nationalist forces. In reality, the “Big Four” continued to cooperate quietly when necessary, and continues to cooperate after the local election. Regarding this, the “extortion” of VMRO councilors for the majority for the coalition SDSM-DUI in Struga and Gostivar is not unusual, which is expected to continue in Tetovo and Chair; nor the unrest in the government coalition and the intention to replace Thaci with Sela, replace Amdi Bajram, some of the socialists or member of VMRO. Far from the public and principled coalitions, the secret and unprincipled coalitions still exist in Macedonia. The battle between the “old” and “new’, between “status-quo” and changes, was and still is present. This time, it’s easily absorbed because it’s about two Albanian parties, but it will surely be directed against any new force that appears and demands change.