by Vladimir JOVANOVSKI
And while supporters of Georgievski and Boskoski are in panic, trying to hold on to nonsense of the "CIA has rigged the elections" sort, their counterparts on the left are bursting with vanity and arrogance. "Their folks" are still not in power, and they are already compiling list of those who supported VMRO during the past four years. They do not understand that their "Brankophilia" will be out of fashion one hundred hours after the members of the new Crvenkovski's cabinet are announced. However, especially surprising is their conviction that criticism of the former government was nothing but a way to please the opposition (!?). On the other hand. This could be motivated by their need to be exclusive fans of the SDSM and keep all others away. We should wish them to persevere in that project.
The fulfillment of the first two principles would imply implementation of the Ohrid Agreement, while of the latter two - the stabilization and association agreement. The meaning of the Ohrid Agremenet is that the authority in Skopje keep jurisdiction over the territory within international borders of Macedonia, while the stabilization and association agreement takes us towards membership in the European Union. However, these two documents require that we also give something in return for what we shall get. There lies the problem, as these concessions should be made by the political party that in the past has shown very little willingness for compromise, until a few years ago. The party is the same, but the situation is different. Today's Ohrid Macedonia is something different from the former Yugoslav republic led by Kiro Gligorov. Wherein hides the difference?
Many would mention events in Gostivar, in 1997. Then, special forces unit Tigers, brutally but efficiently, subdued the crowd, ethnic Albanian protesters incited by mayor Rufi Osmani. Then Prime Minsiter Crvenkovski delivered a triumphant speech. Do you think something like that could happen today? Let us see... Let's say Fadil Sulejmani calls a protest in Mala Recica, and Crvenkovski orders special forces with Branko Bojcevskito go and disperse the crowd. What would happen? Somewhere near Zelino the policemen would be shot at and would turn back. Besides, it is questionable whether they would even accept such a task, given increasing numbers of ethnic Albanian policemen recruited by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Police), and that most of the recruits are candidates offered by the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPSh). Would they be loyal to the Minister of Internal Affairs, for example Tito Petkovski or Vlado Buckovski, or would they follow instructions of their "tribal chief", either Ahmeti or Xhaferi?
In other words, ethnic Albanians are now in control of Albanian territories and government control there is only possible with their assistance. It is questionable whether Socialdemocrats, who in the last year demonstrated lack of enthusiasm for clashing with the minority, will be able to swallow their pride and sincerely work with "ex-UCK" personnel on peaceful reintegration of Western Macedonia. Or would they follow their old suit? "Albanians will now not be fooled by fake smiles hiding secret strategies," Arben Xhaferi warned recently in Forum.
Even less promising is their "dedication" to the development of the economy. In their election program, the SDSM and the LDP wrote that they will secure at least 6 percent GNP growth on annual basis, as well as 5 0ncrease in employment (without taking into account natural employment turnover). Six percent annual growth of the GNP was predicted at one time both by the IMF (2000) and the MANU (1997), but it never happened. It is hard to imagine how some Gosev would achieve that, just like it is difficult to see how Nikola Popovski plans to reduce unemployment "with direct measures", as was announced in TV debates. Whether these "employment activities" will follow the recipe of trade unionists Blagoje Popov and Dragoljub Stavrev, we shall see. For now, information that the future government will meet the demands of the trade unions and repeal the reformed Health Care Act and reduce the rights of employers in the Employment Act, which would discourage potential investors, are worrisome indeed!
However, it is certain that the public will not be easily misled as before 1998, when MRTV and NIP dominated. Macedonians are today some of most economically aware individuals in the Balkans and no pro-regime TV fairytales will fool them, as these elections have clearly demonstrated.
While we're talking about state-controlled media, or more accurately about the Macedonian TV, precisely the attitude with respect to the state-controlled TV will show whether promises regarding media in the election program of the "For Macedonia" coalition were sincere. Some of most important reforms await MTV. During the crisis last year it became obvious to what extent MTV could unfavorably influence events, if given corresponding orders. Journalists who until 1998 were considered to be SDSM fanatics, became Ljube Boskovski's "Dobermans". If the new authorities seek to protect themselves from such "intruders" in the future, in the coming four years they should democratize and professionalize the state TV. However, given the recently mentioned names of potential candidates for the director of that public company, it does not seem that there is political will to do anything of that sort. Again, the candidates are loyal journalistic servants of the highest officials of the SDSM.
Ahmeti is also set apart by the fact that a large part of the political program of his party deals with economy, social justice, corruption - issues that are mostly considered to be Macedonian, rather than something that should concern minorities. Regarding political relations, he (as if) humbly advocated implementation of the Ohrid Agreement, refusing to discuss topics such as federation, cantons, Greater Kosovo, Greater Albania etc.
However, that is the problem. Ethnic Macedonians still do not understand that this country was redefined in Ohrid and that it is now a Macedonian-Albanian republic with two official languages. The fact that it remained a centralized state may in the future turn out to be a drawback, as now ethnic Albanians must be consulted for every important issue. Even the old problems, as for example the official name of the country, which are not supposed to affect ethnic Albanians, will be reopened. Agron Buxhaku has stated the following for Vecer: "Our view is that, since a new name for Macedonia is discussed, involving the United Nations, a name that is acceptable for Greeks and everyone else, Albanians should be consulted as well, as Macedonia is also our country. We do not reject anything a priori, neither 'Macedonia', nor 'the Republic of Macedonia', nor any other name, except for 'Slavomacedonia'," Buxhaku stated in front of most likely dumbfounded Vecer journalist.
It seems her colleague from Utrinski Vesnik was even more shocked, when instead of offering a condemnation of Buxhaku's statement, USA ambassador Lawrence Buttler imaginatively said: "I can imagine interesting discussions in the government and in the parliament, if the BDI believes that something should be different. Perhaps the BDI can offer something that could help resolve the name issue with Greece?" Are Americans sending a message of sorts?
Therefore, the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement will increasingly confirm ethnic Albanians as partners in resolution of problems and a factor in making of decisions, instead of their former role of decorations or assistants. Former opposition politicians are very superficially and lightly making statements that they will fully support the implementation of the Framework Agreement. "We are for the consistent implementation of the Framework Agreement; many of its parts still need to be implemented," Vlado Buckovski stated for Zum. "Above all, I am talking about the Local Government Act, which hasn't been fully implemented, due to inconsistent implementation of decentralization, so that now we don't have a new way for financing the local government nor the new territorial division. In the coming years we need to assure equal representation of ethnic communities in the state administration as well. We shall stick with these two projects".
But, let us see what that means in practice. As a reminder, here are a few quotes from the Framework Agreement. "By July 2004 Police services should reflect the ethnic composition of the population... Initially, as the first step, 500 new policemen from communities other than the majority ethnic Macedonians, will be employed by July 2002. Another 500 minority policemen will be trained by July 2003 etc. Concrete steps will be taken to increase representation of minority communities in the state administration, army and state-owned companies... In the constitutional court, one third of judges will be ethnic Albanians... This procedure will be applied in the election of the ombudsman and three members of the judicial council... State will finance higher education in the Albanian language... Positive discrimination [affirmative action] will be applied in the enrollment of new students to state-run universities..."
The extent to which the winning coalition will sincerely approach above requirements from the Ohrid Agreement was betrayed recently when Andrej Zernovski criticized the recruitment of new ethnic Albanian policemen, as well as the tender for purchase of equipment for the manufacture of new personal documents (which, by the way are necessary if we are to be excluded from the Schengen rules for traveling within Europe). Both are part of the realization of the Ohrid Agreement.
The meaning of pro-western orientation will also become different. The SDSM had an easy job in the past being pro-Western, in comparison with creatures such as Ljube Boskovski. Now, the rules of "Euro-Atlantism" will be made by Ali Ahmeti. Will the SDSM, as the traditional anti-NATO force in this country be able to follow those rules? Probably yes, since it will have no other choice. First, Macedonia will be closely monitored by the international community, to which the SDSM - the same party that until 1998 firmly rejected international involvement in the country - owes a lot. Recently foreigners helped save the country from a civil war, and now they prevented electoral fraud that might have happened if Georgievski weren't under the threat of Foxes and Bond-style marines.
Secondly, the Association and Stabilization Agreement with the EU, which will soon be ratified by EU parliaments, will dictate an accelerated and precise pace at which local legislation should be aligned with the European legislation. Any failure to meet set tasks would endanger relations with the EU, something Crvenkovski will avoid at all cost.
Finally the past year demonstrated that the SDSM has no power to be as crazy as the VMRO-DPMNE was when it clashed with everything and everyone. The SDSM justified its softer approach with its "opposition to the division of Macedonia"! Nevertheless, such an attitude had much less to do with love towards ethnic Albanians and support for the bi-national state, as would be correct if one opted for peace instead of war, than with an attempt to keep some sort of pre-war status quo. Let us not fool ourselves: the SDSM would have nothing against collective voluntary departure of all ethnic Albanians from Macedonia. As long as that could be accomplished without any victims on the Macedonian side.
If that is the case, in the situation where the SDSM will face the possibility that the BDI may pull ethnic Albanians out of the government due to reluctance of the SDSM to continue reforms, and threaten a new war, the SDSM will make concessions. Reluctantly, but will make concessions. "Macedonia is one", but there's "only one life" as well.
Although, true, in a possible future conflict, ethnic Albanians will not face Ljube [Boskovski] and Ljupco [Georgievski], but a somewhat more serious opponent.
The reply is - that space is secured by Ljupco Georgievski. That man left such a bad impression with his rule that it is unlikely he will ever be reelected by the voters. We are aware of many voters who very reluctantly cast their vote for the SDSM, knowing that they were bringing the man who had disastrously ruled the country until 1998 back to power. They voted for Crvenkovski only to get rid of Georgievski, whom they hated from the bottom of their heart. Now, if they opted so reluctantly for Branko, they will never go back to Ljupco! Even the Bulgarians have given him up. As early as July 5 of the past year, Bulgarian journalist Kosta Filipov wrote in Demokraticeski Pregled: "I fear that the current Prime Minister and leader of the VMRO-DMPNE, Ljupco Georgievski, is on the path to destroy all the historical capital gathered by the VMRO for more than a century. And he is doing it in the way that will discredit the historical VMRO for generations to come, excluding it for good from power and politics."
The Macedonian right will need years to distance itself from the evil caused by Georgievski and his clique. Until then, Crvenkovski can rule comfortably and deflect criticism by saying "if you don't like me, vote for the VMRO". And we shall soon hear more about the way his predecessor ruled. Buckovski has already started pulling stuff to the surface - in his recent column for Dnevnik he hinted that the Lesok Monastery may have been blown up by Macedonians!
We shall face such and similar highlights in the coming months, a grace period during which Crvenkovski will get used to his new partners from Ahmeti's party. It is our impression that they are a special sort of ethnic Albanians. Hegel would explain that impression like this: if the PDP was the position, and the DPSh negation of that initial position, the BDI is the synthesis! An affirmation of positive sides of two previous political phenomena that also brings some new qualities.
We shall see what that new political force will bring in practice and whether it will form a successful combination with Macedonians, which, according to Agron Buxhaku, should result in a united, single Macedonian-Albanian nation. That shall not be simple, given deep prejudices, especially on the Macedonian side. As well as wounds from the war.
The coming time should be used efficiently, or Latas will soon be back from his vacation.