Aleksandra M. Mitevska
Spiro Ristovski and Vlado Misajlovski, former high officials in VMRO-DPMNE’s government, probably traveled in vain to the southeast of the country, in order to organize the Valandovo Congress of the party on the spot.
Recent quarrels and turmoil in and around the “White Palace” in Skopje have put the holding of the convention in question. The congress was announced as historic due to the expected departure of the longtime party leader and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the election of his successor. The big event in the small town of Valandovo is now uncertain – just as it becomes uncertain whether Gruevski is really leaving from the party’s throne, as he announced after an enigmatic midnight meeting with the current Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in the presidential residence. Indeed, even if all that was announced – and the congress and the election of a new leader for the opposition days ahead – after all letters and resignations, it remains uncertain whether Gruevski’s policies and leadership manipulation of the party will leave VMRO-DPMNE – now that he is no longer in a position to manage the state.
Intra-party disagreements and dissensions are nothing new in the not very long plural history of Macedonia. Through such stages, almost all major parties in the country passed through the transfer to the opposition. Such scenarios have survived almost all of the previous prime ministers in their party cores after the loss of power. However, the latest developments in the current VMRO-DPMNE – just out of the lavish rooms on Ilindenska, cannot be regarded as shocking. Gruevski built (figuratively and literally) his party empire for too long, installing in its foundations the personnel infrastructure of the highest level of trust and policies that guarantee obedience, loyalty and monolith. This is why now all the fractions and wings that suddenly flew out of the party seem unrealistic, while the leader with more than a decade of service haven’t packed his suitcases yet. It is therefore now puzzling that the same characters who until recently implemented the politics of unity (calling them synergy) and opposed the different opinions, are now demanding a democratic and transparent procedure for the election of a new leader. How can democracy and transparency be expected from those who participated in the choking of exactly these values not long ago – not only in their party, but in society as well?!
For the first time in a decade, since Gruevski won power in Macedonia in 2006, VMRO-DPMNE began to spawn various factions in a situation when it is not yet announced which names will enter the race to win the party throne. But the impression is that all these seemingly different streams are flowing in the same direction – to maintain the structure of the party so far, regardless of whether some other characters will move into the party’s top. And, to be realistic, that fractional battle that is beginning to develop in the ranks of the party, the feeling that it is essentially a struggle for supremacy in the new opposition camp, and not the intention to truly democratize the party, is inevitable.
After almost 15 years since the congress in Ohrid, VMRO-DPMNE faces the possibility of a competitive battle for the party’s front seat. This, obviously, provokes tension among the members of the current party establishment, who are facing the danger of losing their positions if they choose the wrong side before the congress. As a matter of fact, many who did not stand on the side of Gruevski in 2003, or who later did not justify his break from the course set by the previous leader, Ljubco Georgievski, ended up losing their positions. This is the risk brought by the competition, which has not been living in VMRO-DPMNE for a long time. So, this manifestation of resistance, and fear of the changes that are ahead, is not surprising.
VMRO-DPMNE, in these critical days, still cannot afford to organize a congress as it organized elections while in power, as it is noted by some of the “bombs” heard by the public. What the opposition party really needs now is a democratic, transparent and free congress, which will bring new winds and energy. This is not only useful for VMRO-DPMNE, but also for the whole political climate in the country, which needs a strong and constructive opposition, unburdened by the mortgages of the past decade. Otherwise, those who are now resisting the changes may eventually have to bring delegates from Pustec to celebrate someone’s Pyrrhic victory at the party congress.