SAT, 30 JAN 1999 21:21:56 GMT
The Macedonian President, Kiro Gligorov is serving the last months of his second term of office trying to win a place in power which he thinks he has a right to. Weeks-long delay in the signing of the Law on Amnesty is just an expression of his idea of cohabitation with the new parliamentary and executive authorities which are not to his liking.
AIM Skopje, January 22, 1999
It is the fourth week that the Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov is considering whether to put his signature on a decree on the promulgation of the Law on Amnesty which was adopted by Parliament on the penultimate day of the last year.
According to the latest information from his office issued for the public after a written request of Save Klimovski, President of the Parliament demanding that the first man of the state announce his stand and a "fierce" press conference of the Justice Minister, Vlade Kambovski, the President of the state has not yet made up his mind what to do because even after a number of meetings about this Law which he had with the Presidents of the Supreme and Constitutional Courts and Judicial Council, as well as several professors of the Skopje Faculty of Law, he still waiting for the data on all convicted persons serving prison sentences and estimates of what will each of them "gain" by the envisaged amnesty.
It seems that this will be the third time in his presidential career that Gligorov will exercise the right vested in him by the Macedonian Constitution. According to it, all decrees on the adopted laws are signed by the Presidents of the Parliament and the state, expect that the latter also has the right to refuse to do that in case of laws which are adopted by simple majority. In that case the law is again put to vote in Parliament and if the necessary majority votes in favour, then the President of the state must sign a decree on its promulgation.
In the case of the Law on Amnesty, which was primarily adopted with a view to liberating the former Lord Mayors of Gostivar and Tetovo as well as Presidents of their Councils - Rufi Osmani, Alajdin Demiri, Refik Dauti and Vebi Bedzeti, it is obvious that the new government coalition can easily get in Parliament much more than the number of votes required for the repeated vote. In other words, Gligorov, de jure, cannot prevent it from entering into force, but due to some ambiguities regarding the time limit within which he has to state whether he will sign the decree or not, the Macedonian President can, de facto, procrastinate the procedure as much as he wants to.
In this whole story of least importance is the time when the Law on Amnesty, which the Parliament of Macedonia adopted on December 29, will formally enter into force. The new coalition authorities have brought a decision on the release of prisoners without any hesitation, not only because it was agreed at the time the coalition was being formed, but because all the three parties which make the today's government had such an opinion even before. After the trial of Rufi Osmani, long before the elections, Ljubco Georgievski, the VMRO-DPMNE leader, said that his was a political trial. Arben Dzaferi defended an important member of his party long before any signs of a new coalition were in sight, and his Albanian competitor Abdurahman Aliti agreed with that without any hesitation. When he formed his Democratic Alternative just before the elections, Vasil Tupurkovski also agreed with his coalition partners.
Naturally, those who think that the liberation of these prisoners is a political decision are absolutely right. But, what is important is the difference in details: the political decision to prosecute Lord Mayors and Council Presidents of the communes of Gostivar and Tetovo was brought by an "independent" judicial system. On the other hand, the political will to set them free was verified in Parliament in the form of a law.
The judicial farce by which Rufi Osmani was first sentenced to 13 years and 9 months of prison, after which the Appeals Court reduced his sentence to 7 years in prison without annulling the shameful proceedings of the first instance which, by its various aspects, reinstated the verbal commission and reflected the influence of the day-to-day politics on the "independent judiciary", something which seemed to be the matter of the past. When the Macedonian public realized this, for the first time it refused to remain silent because it was clear what the whole thing was about: "today it is their turn and tomorrow will be ours". Many renown personalities publicly condemned the trials and an equally large number of them signed a citizens' initiative demanding a revision of the judicial proceedings which resulted in many "suggestions" by the international community and European Parliament's resolution in that spirit. On the other hand, Parliament is, in the form of laws, implementing the political will of those who are in the majority. The difference between these two forms of expressing political will is more than obvious.
Liberation of Rufi Osmani, Alajdin Demiri and the others is in itself a change for the better in the spirit of the motto of the winners of the third parliamentary elections in Macedonia. Many saw the police intervention in July 1997 (according to the Government of that time it was the question of implementing the decision of the Constitutional Court which had annulled the decisions of several Communal Councils in western Macedonia to fly the flag of the Albanian nationality, and according to others, just a poor mask for the devaluation of the denar) as the climax of the tension between the state and local authorities on ethnical grounds. The old authorities just continued to pursue dangerous actions in Bit Pazar, Radoliste, Mala Recica...thus keeping up the inter-ethnic tension which was useful both on the internal as well as on the foreign political scene. Their common denominator was the danger of the possibility that inter-ethnic conflicts could actually break out.
The electoral campaign for the third parliamentary elections pushed inter-ethnic relations to the margins, especially those between the Macedonians and the Albanians. Accordingly, the until then "extreme" political parties turned to the economy. After the electoral triumph, the Macedonian coalition, which had secured majority in Parliament, offered the Democratic Party of the Albanians to participate in the government leaving a door open for the Party of Democratic Prosperity too...It seemed, at least at that time, that inter-ethnic relations had lost their applicability in daily politics. Only in such relaxed atmosphere it was possible for Osmani and Demiri to be pardoned. Even those by whose decision (political) they were put to prison did not protest much, but rather tried to explain and justify their act.
Irrespective of how events will unfold further regarding this specific law, the refusal to sign the decree on the promulgation of the Law on Amnesty is just an episode in something much broader and more important. On the one hand, it is obvious that Gligorov is not in favour of liberating Osmani, Demiri, Dauti and Bedzeti as victims of a political process not just because he was against it even earlier, but because he was among those advocating such a scenario for the resolution of the "problem" of the use of national flags. And that can be easily ascribed to Gligorov's Albanophobia which he is not trying to hide as of late.
On the other hand, when it was already clear that his Party was losing the parliamentary elections, as an experienced politician Gligorov issued the only possible statement, i.e. that he would respect the will of the people and cooperate with the new authorities. Leaders of the winning parties also spoke about cohabitation. And the first impression was that the truce would last only some ten months until the new presidential elections. Only a few days before the New Year, when all segments of the new authorities were being constituted in Parliament, Gligorov gave an interview to the Skopje daily "Vecer" (Evening) in which he made it clear that he had no intention of signing decrees on the promulgation of laws which he disagreed with. It is now obvious that with the formulation on the non-signing of laws which he disagreed with he only wanted to mask his rejection of the role of a silent observer whose time was running out. Gligorov evidently thought that he should play the role he had when his party was in power. And that role, despite oscillations in the president's power, is till greater than what the Constitution specifies as presidential authority.
In other words, it seems that Gligorov is setting off for his last battle for winning the space on the Macedonian political scene he thinks is rightfully his. Since in the last couple of years he has already shown that he is that type of a social-democratic president who thinks that only the option of his party is the right one, it is evident that Gligorov will behave as an "opposition" towards the new authorities - that he will try to oppose and confront them everywhere he thinks fit. It is quite another story whether that is realistically possible. Not only because of the indisputable fact that by the end of the year Gligorov will definitely leave the Macedonian political scene.
In other words, it is up to Gligorov to decide how he will step down from the throne and what place he will take in the more recent Macedonian history. For, after the unsuccessful attempt on his life, both his "image and work" were going downhill. It was a dispelling of a myth about a man who was called a wise politician who, with his charismatic role, was the only one who brought independence to his state without a war and turned it into a "peace oasis". Although ethics is a rather flexible category in politics, especially in the Balkans, it is possible to say from this distance that in creating the "club of the cheated" Gligorov resorted to moves which can be indisputably considered to be below the belt.
After first parliamentary elections he managed to push the victorious VMRO-DPMNE to the margins, to pull the Albanian PDP by the nose for ever by promising much and delivering practically nothing. Together with the "young lions" of SDSM he managed to trick Petar Gosev several times (both as the undestined prime minister designate of the party government, as well as the leader of the Democratic Party at the second parliamentary elections) as well as Stojan Andov and his Liberals (he used Andov as President of the Parliament as a "bait" whenever he wanted to provoke a conflict between the VMRO and PDP in order to use their votes for adopting the decisions required by the current authorities, only to finally throw him out of the then ruling coalition as a "squeezed lemon"). Now, many of Gligorov's victims think that he was the source of numerous misfortunes that Macedonia met with.
It turned out that the man who was the author of the "cohabitation" concept which was to eliminate inter-ethnic tensions, was behind almost all police raids in which there were also casualties, which brought the relations between the Macedonians and Albanians to the verge of explosion. Even his own men realized that Gligorov had concentrated much more power in his hands than envisaged by the Constitution and how harmful he had become. The then Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski and the SDSM were among the first to see that, so that at the 1994 elections they used up his authority and popularity (his famous wail "Don't leave me alone") and after that reduced him for a long period of time to a protocolary function of "Queen Elizabeth".
After recovering from the consequences of the attempt made on his life, at first Gligorov played a tragicomic role of a political clown of sorts, attended different events, often speaking longer than was expected of him and even shedding an occasional tear. After that he realized that he could stop his marginalization if he got in the van in the struggle for saving the SDSM rule. That, as well as the infamous "love affair", a kind of moral self-assassination, definitely caused a drastic fall in his rating among the local population. For all these reasons, the Macedonia public recently came up with an idea that the Constitutional Court of Macedonia should judge Gligorov's ability to discharge presidential function! It seems that a myth has definitely died!