The illegal power of political leaders

One of the most commonly heard words nowadays is the term “leaders’ meeting”. The media yet again diverts the attention of the public to our leaders. My view of them is guided by the question of the sources of their power. Where does the power of the Macedonian political elites, leaders and leadership come from? Photographs from the last, but also from the previous leadership meetings, inevitably face me with the question of how there is not one among them that has not been linked to a corruption affair? Based on previous analyzes, I hereby share the claim that the power of the Macedonian political elite is mainly derived from illegal sources – it is unconstitutional, illegal.

Firstly, the question arises as to how such power persists, how is it reproduced in conditions of a formal democratic political system and, supposedly, the rule of law? If it’s unlawful, then why isn’t it punished and destroyed? The answer to this question has two key arguments. One comes from the term “captured state”, and the second one from the sociological explanation (of C. Wright Mills) that such power is institutionalized. So, although it is illegal, it is not socially treated as criminal, but as admissible, that is, normal. Although it is illegal, it is publicly endorsed power.

The majority of citizens – both scholars and ignorant – admire them, elevate them, vote for them, and elect people with a lot of wealth and power. They do not ask where this power comes from or how they came to such power. Them having it means they are very resourceful, that is, very smart. They therefore deserve to be in power, for example, Donald Trump in the United States, or Gruevski and Zaev in the Republic of Macedonia.
In what do we recognize the illegality of political power? First, by places; and secondly, the way in which the key political decisions are made. Both the places and ways of political decision-making are characterized by their extra-formal institutional and, therefore, illegitimacy. Regarding the topography of political decision-making, in the past two and a half decades of independence, several non-institutional political places have emerged: the MP’s Club as the number one spot, the residence or the building of the EU embassy or the US, as the number two and , thirdly, the offices of the political parties, but not in the parliament, but in the buildings of the parties themselves, then overrated restaurants, on the Internet and with the help of mutual confidential persons, so-called “People for making connection” etc.

Regarding the technology of non-institutional and illegal decision-making, the main public, semi-public and secret contracts are singled out as the main ways. Both of them often contain important elements that the public finds “on the piece” and always unofficially through the media. Both public and semi-public contracts in an institutional procedure entered only after long-lasting controversy in the public. But besides such public or semi-public agreements, there are those who were, or still are secret – for some we know, and for others we can only guess they exist. These are agreements reached “tête-à-tête” between the leaders of the main political parties or the leaders of individual cliques in those parties. We find out about some of them through memoirs or other forms of testimony of participants in those agreements.
The public found out about another such agreement (wanted but unimplemented) through the ‘Coup’ affair that shakes Macedonian politics, the economy and the state to this day, causing one of the greatest crises in the country. This affair clearly illustrates the phenomenology of illegal power. In this case, as in the other aforementioned, political elites in power or in opposition have more power compared to the power that emanates from their institutional powers. What moves or blocks public institutions are not the powers that they, or their officials, have on the basis of legally prescribed powers and competences. Where does this moving superior or hegemonic power of the politicians, with which they are grabbing public institutions, emerge from?
From a formally legal point of view, the power of ruling politicians derives from their position in the system of state and local government. The power, however, of politicians in opposition arises from the institutionalization of opposition in conditions of representative democracy. However, in the above examples, this is a non-institutional or illegal power.
If the prime minister’s actions in the ‘Coup’ affair and the then-leader of the opposition were purely institutionalized and framed, then the leader of the opposition would not have received the material he received, and after receiving them, he would have reported them to the competent state institution – the Public Prosecution. Instead, he entered into unlawful confrontation with the then prime minister at the cost of concealing information about crimes committed. Why did he do it?
The illegitimate power of Gruevski, however, is revealed, firstly in his confession that some of the illegally wiretapped conversations that speak of corruption and other criminal acts of public officials and of himself “… are correct, some partly correct, and some false “And, second, in putting the justice system in function of prosecuting the leader of the opposition and his associates. Why did he do it?
The answer to the first and second questions is as follows: because they could (had the opportunity, had the power) to do so. That power emanates from the legal powers associated with the institutional positions they occupied or the official roles they played as public officials. That power comes from the networks of informal relations of politicians with other sectors of society. What are these sources?
According to my analysis of the ongoing restructuring of the sociological core of the state-citizen, the main resources of the illegal power of political elites are located in four nuclei of the new social order: secret services, private enterprises, organized crime groups and political parties. Regarding them, the political elite generates its supremacy through three mechanisms of illegal reproduction of power: instrumentalization of secret services, political borrowing of economic factors and politicization of crime.
These phenomena are constantly present in the Macedonian politics since the independence to this day. For the past three decades, five political elites have governed the state resources that emerged from the two dominant Macedonian political parties – SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE, on one hand, and the three dominant ethnic Albanian parties PDP, DPA and DUI, on the other.

The image of the stability of the three mentioned patterns of governance with strong reliance on illegal resources is strongly present in the Macedonian public opinion – according to which “they are all the same”! This perception of politicians is accompanied by a lower degree of confidence in political institutions as such, and a high degree of personal attachment and loyalty – clientelism and patronage. More importantly, with smaller or greater adjustments to corruption as a key criterion for the selection of leaders, these mechanisms persist independently of the personal and party changes of the ruling elites. This is also related to the latest affairs related to the distribution of public resources (tenders, subsidies, etc.), but also to the placement of non-market public goods such as the reputation and integrity of the state.

Ilo Trajkovski