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Macedonia in the Bulgarian and International Press
News Bulletin No2, February 2000

Problems of the ruling coalition | The Albanian pressure

In February domestic political life in the Republic of Macedonia is extremely dynamic. Media in the country and abroad keep close track of it and their numerous publications outline a full range of problems that dominate domestic policy of the country. 

Problems of the Ruling Coalition

The predominating part of problems focused by media result from the policy of the ruling coalition and mostly from the one of the VMRO-DPMNE (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party of Macedonian National Unity). One of the issues is the election of the Republican Judiciary Council held by parliament. According to country’s constitution five members of the Higher Judiciary Council shall be proposed by parliament and two by the president of the country. Council’s members from the parliamentary quota were elected on February 3 after hot debates. Members of parliament from the opposition, representatives of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and of the Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP), attacked the candidates proposed by the ruling coalition for being unsuitable for the high position at the Council as representatives of the parties from the coalition “For Changes” and as people of no authority in the guild which would “party-cize” the Republican Judiciary Council. According to information in the newspaper Utrinski vesnik (“Morning Paper”) of February 4 and 7 and Nova Makedonia (“New Macedonia”) of February 8 the new membership of the Judiciary Council is lead by judge Rafail Cherepnalkovsky and the mandate of the council itself is three years. 

In fact the problem about the election of the Republican Judiciary Council is not that interesting for itself but for the fact that VMRO-DPMNE managed to take revenge for its defeat from the Supreme Court during the presidential election. As a whole the problem is part of the struggle of those ruling today to place the judiciary power under their influence not only because of its hostility so far but also in view of the forthcoming reform activity of the government. Testemony for such intentions is a publication of the “Utrinski vesnik” of February 7 reading that ruling circles in the Republic of Macedonia intended to abolish the unlimited mandate of judges. That is what VMRO-DPMNE stands up for most. According to representatives of them the life mandate suited supreme and probably even appeal judges but not the others. So the ruling circles insist on changing the constitution on this matter. This intention meets the resistance of the opposition and most of all of SDSM which during its six-year rule managed to select the judiciary members in the country in confirmity with its political preferences.

On this and on other occasions which are to come in question there is a serious debate in Macedonian public and in the media about changing country’s Constitution. A working-group of prominent lawyers has been established which will work on improving present constitution. In the course of the month political parties in the country claimed their statements on the issue defending different views. Two opinions on the issue exist in the very VMRO-DPMNE as noted in a publication of the Utrinski vesnik of February 4. One of them is to observe the existing constitution especially in regard to the superiority of “Macedonian language” in public relations and the other one insisting on finding an acceptable solution of that very problem with one amendment. There is no doubt that the second opinion is associated with the attitude of the party to the coalition partner – the Democratic Party of the Albanians (DPA), the latter insisting on changes in this direction.

Though amendments of the Constitution have not been discussed in the government yet the Nova Makedonia newspaper of February 10 points out the main directions of possible amendments to be made. And they are: amendments regarding higher education in Albanian language, restrain of citizens’ personal freedom (imprisonment for up to 24 hours without a judgement), changes of the membership of the Republican Judiciary Council, particularization of the way to dissolve parliament, the number of signatures required to promulgate a referendum and so on. Other changes of the judiciary system have also come in question. VMRO-DPMNE has known some of these demands for amendment like the one for referendum on dissolving parliament from its own bitter experience during the rule of SDSM as the latter did not respect the 270 000 signatures in its support. 

The debate in the media makes it evident that the parties of the ruling coalition – VMRO-DPMNE, the Democratic Alternative (DA) and DPA, pronouce for amendments of the constitution. Their unanimousity is obviously a result of coalition agreements. Other political parties explicitly pronounce against. Changes are also promoted by the newly established Liberal Party. Its leaders among which Stoyan Andov maintain in the Nova Makedonia newspaper of February 15 that the intentions for amendment of the constitution represented no jeopardy for democracy and human rights. The Utrinski vesnik of February 21 published a resolution of the leadership of DA which according to V. Tupurkovsky has already played its role for strengthening democracy in the country. Representatives of the expert group and of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (DPA) maintain that texts to be amended are only those that are an obstacle for democracy. Still the Liberal Democratic Party of Risto Penov considers that the amendments proposed by ruling circles were intended to distract the attention of the public from real problems in the country. It’s obvious that discussion on this issue tends to intensify.

Media in Skopie have given considerable place to the eavesdropping devices found in the cabinet of the minister of internal affairs Dosta Dimovska. The Nova Makedonia newspaper as well all other newspapers in Skopie and a few in Bulgaria of February 22 and 24 guess who, when and why has installed the eavesdropping equipments. D. Dimovska announced that the author of that act could not be inedtified yeat but she explicitly denied the version that this were an act of foreign secret services. On this as well as on other occasions media discuss the pending changes in Macedonian security and investigation services. In fact it has for a long time been talked or written about this, sofar without consequences. An article of the Skopie journalist Sasho Ordanovski appeared in the edition of the Sofia newspaper Capital of Ferbruary 26 – March 3 reading that chaos, interdepartmental struggles and lack of coordination reigned in Macedonian secret services. So the presence of eavesdropping devices in the cabinet of the minister of internal affairs is no surprise. 

Oppositional Macedonian press attemps to exploit the issue about fractional struggles within VMRO-DPMNE at the moment. The Makedonia denes newspaper of February 16, Dnevnik (”Journal”) of the same date, the Utrinski vesnik and Nova Makedonia from the beginning of the month publish statements of former secretary general of VMRO Boris Zmeykovsky and of the recent minister of finance B. Stoimenov directed at the present leadership of the party and mostly at its deputy chairman Dosta Dimovska. In fact the review of these publications made it obvious that their dissatisfaction is caused by the audits of the companies they stand at the head of by financial authorities as a move of the party leadership. Contradictions in local organizations allover the country regarding the election of local ruling bodies of the party are used as an additional argument against the party leadership. This campaign actually is loaded with great tension.

What draws the attention during the review of the Skopie press is the media confort that opposition in the country enjoys. It disposes of some of the most prestigeous daily and weekly newspapers that continuously attack the ruling coalition and mostly VMRO-DPMNE. Though the ruling coalition is in possession of the biggest publishing house in the country which is Nova Makedonia that publishes the newspapers Nova Makedonia and Vecher (”Evening”) the latter do not manage to establish equilibrium in the world of media. Let’s not talk about superiority. Not to mention that according to the agreement about the parity of parties from the government regarding public enterprises the management of the publishing complex is given to DA which continues to make its one policy. It appears that this namely is the circumstance that has caused VMRO-DPMNE to establish its own publishing house. Last month information appeared in the press that the party purchases the Skopie printing house “Gotse Delchev” (Dnevnik of January 27) in which it intended to print its newspaper Glas (”Voice”). This paper hadn’t been released for an year and it has to develop into a daily edition. It is doubtful whether this would solve the media problem of VMRO-DPMNE taking into account that the prevailing part of intellectuals and mainly its top crust are against the ruling today. Back to top

The Albanian Pressure

The greatest part of the problems discussed so far are furthermore due to the strong pressure on the ruling coalition and mostly on VMRO-DPMNE to change the status of the Albanian population in the country. That pressure goes further back to the establishment of the Republic of Macedonia as an independent state and the adoption of its constitution. Its preamble reads that Macedonia is a unitary state of the “Macedonian people” and that official language of the country is “Macedonian language”. But now after the events in Kosovo that deeply changed relations in the region, after parliamentary elections were won by the coalition “For Changes” with a strong Albanian attendance and especially after presidential elections were won by B. Traykovsky mainly with the votes of the Albanian population, the demands of the Albanian political forces for changes of the status of the Albanian population in the country acquire special strength and persistence. Their representatives state this straightforward in the media. A representative of DPA published in the Dnevnik newspaper of February 12 an article reading that by voting for B. Traykovsky Albanians have invested in the development of the country’s democratic society and that it were now the turn of the government and the president to overcome the prejudice of ethnic and regional majority which means of the Macedonian population. The leader of DPA Arben Jafferi is even more direct in his interview for BBC. He declares that “Macedonian constitution has to be cleaned of national complexes”. According to him the Republic of Macedonia has to determine whether to be a “national” or a “civil” state. If national then it would be “multinational”. Regardless of the interpretation of these statements they represent an undeniable evidence of the pressure exercized on the government and bring forth or more precisely they strengthen the tendencies toward significant changes of country’s constitution.

The pressure of the Albanian political circles is expressed in other directions too. One of them the new bill of territorial partition of the Republic of Macedonia that is being prepared and that causes or strengthens political tension in the country. First of all it is about the bill worked out at the end of last year while minister of this sphere was the Albanian politician from DPA Jevdet Nassufi. As stated by Nassufi himself and quoted by the Dnevnik of February 2 the bill promotes territorial partition of the country by ethnic criterion. Moreover by adding some of the old municipalities or settlements to the new ones the project aims at establishing such a situation in the districts dominated by Albanians that no Macedonians could be nominated candidates for mayors. Professor Mitko Popov, one of the authors of the reform of local self-governing during the government of SDSM and member of the present team for its change, maintains that this were a step to cantonization, regionalization and afterwards to federalization of the country. All the more that local Albanian population constantly increases on the account of the inflow of Albanians from Kosovo which has so far not been assessed by the authorities.

Two of the old issues related to Albanian demands have also intensified in February. One of them is about using the Albanian language in the work of the parliament. To this end parliamentary members from DPA insist on changing the rules of parliamentary work though the issue itself is a constitutional matter. The other issue is related to the struggle of Albanian political parties for the recognition of the Albanian university in Tetovo and for it to start working on state’s costs.

The struggle of Albanian political parties for the recognition of the Tetovo universirty and thereby for the recognition of the right of the Albanian population to complete higher education in its native language has lasted for nearly five years. It has recently intensified and it obtains massive support from abroad on the part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and from its commissioner on national minorities Max van der Shtul. He has for years lobbied for this under the pretence that higher education of nationalities is necessary. In the past he had proposed to finance the Albanian higher school from abroad by finding proper donators. But now he supports the Albanian demand to bound it with the state’s budget.

It is not known whether the issue of the Tetovo university is included in the coalition agreement between VMRO-DPMNE and DPA. Still this problem will hardly to find an easy solution. Even at its meeting with Max van der Shtulthe leadership of VMRO in the person of the president B. Traykovsky and of the prime minister L. Georgievsky still supports its previous position that higher education and education in the native language in general shall be realized in the framework of the constitution. This was announced by the Nova Makedonia newspaper of February 10. The most that the leadership of VMRO would agree on is the university in Tetovo to remain a private school as the language of teaching is still under dispute.

Among the new problems arising from the demands of DPA is the desire of this party for a broader participation in power. The newspaper Fakti (”Facts”) printed in Skopie in Albanian language which is dominated by the party of A. Jafferi, quoted by the Sofia newspaper Monitor of February 22 maintains that soon the deputy chairman of the party Menduh Tachi will be appointed deputy minister of internal affairs. Leading cadres of Albanian origin will enter the police together with him. In fact this process, still at local level, exists in Western Macedonia where most policemen are Albanians. 

One of the forms of pressure exercized by the Albanians is terror which during the past two years has gained significant scales. The Dnevnik of February 2 makes an overview of this phenomenon since December 1997 and indicates that during that period 15 acts of terrorism have been conducted in the Republic of Macedonia, police has prevented further three and a missile strike. Terrorist actions make the impression of being conducted immediately next to police stations and other objects of authority. The Kosovo Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the first actions. Nobody claimed responsibility for the following but some of them at least the 5 against KFOR have been conducted by Albanians.

Unlike his fellow party men the leader of DPA has tried to present the demands of the Albanian population as efforts to expand democracy in the Republic of Macedonia and to observe certain refrain. But even he especially in recent time has frankly maintained that his objective is to transform the country into a “multi-ethnic” state, a phenomenon so far unknown anywhere else.

Of the three parties of the ruling coalition it is VMRO-DPMNE only that attempts to hold Albanian pressure back in the framework of the existing constitution even though it admits that amendments are necessary. The other partner, the DA of V. Tupurkovsky, has disregarded the problem and aims at strengthening its economic positions in power. And in this situation where the leaders of the ruling coalition play a separate role and do not respect government’s common policy VMRO-DPMNE would hardly hold Albanian pressure back. A testemony for this is the participation of Arben Jafferi in the meeting between H. Tachi and Iv. Kostov in Sofia and in the talks about the independence of Kosovo keeping in mind that the Macedonian government is firmly against changing borders on the Balkans.

This is also one of the main factors determining the growing influence of Macedonian opposition in the last year and the shaking of the positions of VMRO-DPMNE even among its followers. The jeopardy of regionalization and later of federalization of the country is real. So the defence of “Macedonian identity”, of the national state, of Macedonian culture etc. becomes the three whales riden by the opposition in the Republic of Macedonia with no hesitation in their efforts to present itself as nationally responsible factor in the country.
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