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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    WED, 22 MAY 1996 20:39:27 GMT

    Political Panorama of Macedonia

    FEAR OF SIGNATURES AND WHAT ABOUT THE RUSSIANS?

    AIM Skopje, May 17, 1995

    Panicking of the authorities and the opposition concerning the referendum which would lead to early elections seems to be gaining in intensity after the visit of a Russian military delegation and a dilemma it imposed which side Macedonia will turn to.

    After verifying for thirty days collected signatures of those in favour of a referendum on early elections, the Republican Statistics Office finally submitted a report to the Ministry of Justice along with all the ballots collected in an action initiated and conducted by the opposition VMRO-DPMNE and the Democratic Party. According to what the Office determined, out of two hundred twenty odd thousand signatures, little over 171 thousand have been verified to be legitimate voters, that they live at the listed adresses and that the numbers of their identity cards correspond to the ones in registered by the state. Although about fifty thousand signatures were proclaimed to be invalid, this rarely efficient action of the two non-parliamentary opposition parties which lasted for only four days, was obviously not fulite. More than 150 thousand signatures have been collected which will now put the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia to torture.

    In a recent interview given to Skopje "Nova Makedonija", Minister of justice Vlado Popovski, tried to explain to the public that the action of collecting signatures did not impose an obligation on the parliament to actually organize the referendum on early elections, because allegedly the constitutional possibility of collecting signatures of those in favour of a referendum did not refer to dissolution of the parliament which, pursuant the Macedonian Constitution can be dissolved only by a decision of that very same parliament. Interpretation given by the Minister is just a continuation of an earlier declaration of President Gligorov who claimed that in the past hundred years no parliament has ever been dissolved nor early elections called by a decision reached through a referendum. Many understood this as a signal that the current authorities, after reconstruction of the Government which eliminated their greatest partners - the Liberals, would do anything to stabilize their rule and carry out the mandate to the end, even if they had to reach out for measures such as to proclaim that more than seventy thousand collected signatures were invalid in order to make the number of signatures smaller than the necessary 150 thousand, or such as to have the parliament refuse to actually schedule elections even if more than hundred and fifty thousand signatures were accepted as valid. A procedure at the Constitutional Court which is the legal remedy in this case is inevitable. It should be noted that since the reconstruction of the Constitutional Court, those in power have the majority in it.

    The parliament will, therefore, be put to torture in the next few days. First, because the initiators of collecting signatures have patiently waited for verfication of signatures to be completed, and second, because the so-called "international factor" had the opportunity to probe the climate and see for itself quite clearly what the actual state of affairs is like. The Assembly of Macedonia can do nothing but refuse to accept that collecting signature may refer to a referendum on new elections and pass the hot potato to the Constitutional Court or decide to schedule the referendum and have the Government play the only card it would have left - to do whatever it can to have less than 50 per cent of voters vote in the referendum or even if they do, to "arrange" that majority of them be against early elections. In both cases, there is a good deal of danger for the opposition. Although they have lost by the delay, because it is obvious that the authorities had already taken off the edges of the tempestuous collection of 220 thousand signatures by "buying time" in the protracted procedure of verification of signatures (when it had not succeeded in the race and adopted a new law on scheduling referendum before a sufficient number of signatures pursuant the currently valid law was submitted to the parliament), the initiators of the action have at their disposal at least the number of people the authorities do recognize. At least about ten percent of those who have signed leaflets demanding the referendum, could go out into the streets in any town in Macedonia, not to say anything about other possibilities.

    It is not easy for the authorities to convince foreign diplomats and observers who have by now become experts in interpreting local circumstances that this is nothing that could seriously jeopardize the extremely favourable image Macedonia had created for itself in the West. Two hundred twenty thousand signatures collected in two days in Macedonian electorate is a fact which in itself speaks of the quantity of discontent of the population with those in power. The gaffe made by the Minister of internal affairs - his declaration of war on journalists on the day of police - was just another luxury of the authorities which might begin opening Europe's eyes.

    The statement of President Gligorov given to German daily Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung, according to which Macedonian state was accepted by an enormous number of ethnic Albanians and that there were just a few separatists among them, and immediately after that the assessment that Tetovo university (the only issue concerning which there is a consensus of all the Albanian political parties) was a product of separatists and illegal, caused an expected revolt among all the Albanian parties and municipal assemblies in which the Albanians have the majority. Such reactions were of course immediately condemned by Macedonian parties. In the context of the initiative for early elections, hypothetical joining in of the Albanians, as a kind of expression of their discontent with what the authorities were (not) doing for them might get completely different dimensions. For instance, what would happen if they joined the action in favour of early elections! It would mean that half of the electorate would be in favour of it, and that is something that no police or army in the world could prevent to vote or conceal, least of all the Macedonian!

    A somewhat veiled or perhaps better to say not altogether public visit of a Russian military delegation to Macedonia did not escape the notice of the public. The visit was not announced in advance, and when it was made public, many details remained unsaid. The delegation whose visit lasted for several days was headed by the chief of the Department for Cooperation in the Main Administration for International Relations (what a gorgeous Soviet formulation for a post) Viktor Evgenevich, aroused many dilemmas. It is well known that Russia is against spreading of the NATO among those who used to be its "own" and that it has recently indirectly put Macedonia on the list of its "own". On the one hand, it was published that the meeting of President Gligorov with Russian foreign Minister Primakov in Bucurest the other day was not customary, and on the other, details which leaked out show that the Russian army delegation had other business in Macedonia as well, such as a visit to Skopje Metal Complex where Russian tanks used to be repaired (some people even claim that during the war in Bosnia spare parts for them were produced for the Serb party, which were paid to Macedonia in wheat from Serbia) and to the manufacturer of missile barrels in Prilep. There was also the allegation that a member of the delegation was a high official in the ministry in charge of selling armament.

    "Russians half secretly, the Americans insufficiently publicly", wrote Skopje weekly Fokus on the occasion. This visit of the Russian delegation, after Macedonia's unreserved flying into the arms of the USA and the West, after its joining "Partnership for Peace" and the expressed wish to join the NATO as soon as possible, is slightly puzzling.

    There are people who claim that foreign policy is the inviolable domain of President Gligorov, while the others belive that he is no longer in the game and that the new minister of foreign affairs who is also the former minister of internal affairs has now the exclusive right to create it. Recent visit of Gligorov to Paris, who was accompanied by Minister Frckovski, convinced careful observers through a special program broadcast on Macedonian Television, about the dilemma about the stance of Europe concerning regionalization of former SFRY and Albania and allegations that Macedonia had managed to convince Europe that it could not participate in this project.

    And finally there is an event which may sound almost like an anecdote. An analysis made by the CIA about countries threatened by war, which covers more than thirty states in all five continents arrived in Macedonia through good offices of a correspondent of Nova Makedonija from Tirana who carried an article from Kohe e jone. The title of the article was: "Albania Threatened by War". The piece of news was also carried by electronic media which adopted the same tone. As a coincidence, the same journal carried an article from Italian magazine Panorama about the same document of the CIA, which shows that Albania is threatened by war together with FR Yugoslavia and Macedonia! Just as the correspondent from Tirana informed. Why the title was not "Macedonia Threatened by War" is perhaps due to lack of professionalism! Or perhaps a matter of defence of the thesis about this "oasis of peace" by a "socio-political worker - journalist".

    Bitter associations aroused by the CIA report is a comparison with an allegation in the second half of the eighties made by the same American agency that the SFRY would dissolve. Many scorned at "naivete" of the CIA at the time. Unfortunately, it turned out to be correct. How is one then supposed to understand the message of the famous agency that until year 2000 a large risk of war exists in the region?

    ISO RUSI