Crisis in the Republic of Macedonia need to be approached in a different, more realistic way, before it’s too late. Negotiations are practically dead. Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his machinery are mocking the whole process, only making cosmetic moves. The lawsuit against the opposition leader Zoran Zaev is one more evidence of the true intentions of the government.
By Xhabir Deralla
Every day without a solution of the political crisis is another day that only brings more trouble and threats to the stability and survival of the Republic of Macedonia. These days, overcoming political crisis through democratic changes in the country seems to be farthest away ever. On top of everything, the country’s judiciary, controlled by the ruling party of VMRO-DPMNE, decided to start a lawsuit against the opposition leader Zoran Zaev (social democrats, SDSM) based on serious criminal charges in the case known as “Coup” on July 1, 2015. What is going in the country? Here’s a brief update on the political situation in the country.
GRUEVSKI IS NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION
All efforts to solve the political crisis in the country are in stalemate. The current situation in the country looks like an airplane which tries to gain an altitude too quickly and the only option now is to crash into a tragedy. The European Commission, the US diplomacy and diplomats of the most powerful European countries, as well as numerous national and international organizations have issued statements, analysis and recommendations on how to overcome the crisis. Negotiations are always the common denominator in all efforts and recommendations, such as the analysis and recommendations of Civil – Center for Freedom.
Now, the moment has come to recognize that negotiations are becoming senseless and grotesque, considering the principles upon which they are set and managed. What negotiations urgently need is to bring more fairness and openness, and acceptance of the facts of life. The first condition should be to realize that Gruevski is not part of the solution of the political crisis. He is the cause of the problem.
Findings on massive abuse of power and criminal conduct of the government painfully coincide with the revelations of the wiretapped conversations made by the opposition leader Zoran Zaev since February. Yet, the powerful judicial, police and propaganda machinery of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski seems to remain strong, though nervous, and imposed itself as an equal party in the negotiation process facilitated by foreign diplomats. The few gestures of Gruevski towards meeting the demands of the national and international institutions and organizations are only cosmetic and do not represent – at all – any sincere will to withdraw from an authoritarian rule.
SECRET POLICE WORKS WELL AND NEEDS MORE MONEY
One of the superficial moves made by Gruevski was the formation of the parliamentary commission to oversee the work of the State Security and Counterintelligence Agency. That is the state organ, led by Saso Mijalkov, the cousin of the Prime Minister, who only formally resigned, after the Kumanovo “petite guerre” on May 9, and is one the two main adversaries in the gargantuan eavesdropping scandal.
However, the mentioned parliamentary commission was established on June 25, after the Reinhard Priebe’s recommendations, publicized on June 8. So, the response of Gruevski was to order his minions – the MPs in the Parliament to establish one, with participation of three independent MPs who play the role of opposition. Priebe’s recommendations were clear – such commissions should be managed by the opposition, after its return to the parliament. The composition and the first “findings” of this commission only prove that Gruevski and his party are fooling the country’s citizens and the European Commission. Namely, the parliamentary commission’s head, Antonio Miloshoski, a high official of the ruling party, proudly stated that the agency works well and needs to receive more funds in order to continue its good work. According to Stevo Pendarovski, university professor close to SDSM, said that there is credible evidence that the incriminated security agency continued with its wiretapping operation.
It is, indeed, the incriminated agency that conducted the massive wiretapping and great many other counter-Constitutional and criminal acts.
GRUEVSKI’S SINISTER MACHINERY
Meanwhile, the ruling party continued with its relentless propaganda, through media and populist measures which only costs the Macedonian weak economy and poor taxpayers more money and more uncertainty. The government of Gruevski has developed skills to totally occupy the society in its entirety in a daily based Blitzkrieg styled operations. No matter that these media and institutional blitzkriegs are scandalous to the bone. What matters is the quantity of them which blurs and suffocates the society and the political process, to exhaust involved parties and push them to accept compromises that have no ground. And, the Gruevski’s sinister and ruthless machinery has enough money and power to put the captured institutions into motion in his favor. And claiming that SDSM is actually running away from elections, afraid from a disastrous electoral defeat.
In fact, the truth is that Gruevski has already put the electoral process under control, having in mind the whole pallet of manipulations, structural violence and widespread clientelism.
It is enough to observe the ways of this government for a week, and one will come to the same conclusions as to observe it for much longer period. Therefore, it is quite unclear how come the international community still swallows the bait, after nine years. Moreover, it is strange that the opposition is still playing the game, knowing the ways of Gruevski led apparatus.
The ruling party is now in a pre-electoral offensive, introducing populist measures more than ever. Subventions in the agriculture, announcing foreign investments, opening public facilities, releasing from criminal charges of 20,000 citizens who failed to pay insane taxes, and more employments in the public sector are only part of his populist campaign with the usual end, which is a sheer clientelism and manipulation on the account of the already impoverished tax payers.
When it comes to European Commision’s report and recommendations and the political semi-agreement brokered by the EU enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, the measures taken by the government are even more ridiculing the whole process. The phony parliamentary commission commented above is only one of them.
ACT OF GOOD WILL
The minister of the Ministry of Information Society and Administration Ivo Ivanovski announced that the government will withdraw all commercial campaigns from media “as an act of good will”. No mention of the years-long criticism of the national and international public on the highly corruptive practice of the government towards media. It is an act of good will. The ruling party’s appointee to the Agency for Audiovisual Media Services (regulatory body of broadcasters) Zoran Trajcevski said that this will severely affect the broadcasters which may be forced to decrease salaries and layoff journalists.
The process got yet another blow in the face.
Again, the responsibility of this new “suffering” for journalists and media is put on the shoulders of the opposition. On the other hand, this “act of good will” by the government does not include the non-commercial campaigns, neither will it have any effect on the editorial policy of the broadcasters. Media in the country have been paid in millions of euros, taxpayers’ money, in the past several years, and it is very easy to guess that they will continue with their fierce pro-government propaganda. They obviously do continue with the inexorable campaign in their informative and editorial programming, which is, in fact, the most effective in manipulating the public opinion.
Practically, the expensive campaigns of the government are only the bonus. The real enemy of freedom of speech are in the editorial policies dictated from the headquarters of the ruling party. The government controlled media (TV, radio, press and internet portals) continue with propaganda and hate speech, labeling and discrediting the opposition and human rights activists on hourly basis. There is no difference. Only more excuses and cosmetics.
The ruling party’s leader Nikola Gruevski tried to intercept the “political bombs” of the opposition by raising charges against the opposition leader Zoran Zaev for “conducting violence against the government officials and organizing a coup against the government”. The case became known as “Coup”.
Finally, the First Instance Court in Skopje has decided to start a lawsuit on July 1. After the whole cynicism displayed by Gruevski, disregarding all national and international efforts to restore democracy in the country, this decision of the country’s judiciary only provides a final evidence of what the country and international community are dealing with here. And, this move has introduced a new phase of the political turmoil in the country.
“I do not recognize this judiciary as an independent authority according to the Constitution and laws. The judiciary is under the complete control of Nikola Gruevski and his government.” – stated Zoran Zaev day after this infamous court decision. He defied the court and challenged the authorities to arrest him.
“I will disobey the measure to report to the court every Monday at 9:00 AM, and I will disobey other measures ruled by the court in the process against me. After this public statement, the court, under the Law on Criminal Procedure, is obliged to immediately arrest me. I am awaiting for this decision of the court from this day on. I will be either in the headquarters of SDSM or in the Liberty Camp in front of the government, together with my fellow citizens.” – Zaev said in his six minute statement on July 2. The future of the political process is now quite grim.
RESET OR RADICALIZATION
Arresting Zaev would mean an open invitation to radicalization and violence, which has been an option for some parts of the opposition from the very beginning of the resistance against the authoritarian regime. “If they arrest Zaev, the overthrow of Gruevski will be violent” – said Saso Ordanoski, prominent political analyst.
Already the “petite guerre” in Kumanovo in which high government officials allegedly play crucial role, became a tool in the hands of Gruevski to get away with his abuses and crimes. By raising the stakes in the latest judicial travesty against the opposition leader, he is playing on the same card again. He knows that arresting Zaev may trigger nationwide revolt. We witnessed how fierce the police may be during the protests on May 5, when police were beating and arresting peaceful protesters, whilst the violent provokers, got away, making the allegations that they have been installed by police quite probable.
After nine years of abuse of power and criminal conduct, the only chance for salvation of Gruevski are violent tensions or a nice political bargain facilitated by the internationals, who tend to freeze the problem, instead of helping the country to solve it. In both cases, the country is the loser. European fundamental principles of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights are losers, too. The political negotiations are set on wrong basis and it became obvious that the end of this and such process is inevitable.
Zoran Zaev does not have many reasons to remain at the negotiation table anymore. Diplomats should finally realize that the country and the international community are a subject to a cheap mockery by the ruling figures in the country. Just needs to listen to the tapes from the wiretapping operation conducted by the Prime Minister and his cousin, the chief of secret police.
As long as the political crisis in the country is treated separately from Gruevski’s crimes, the problem will not be solved. So far, we witnessed only avoidance to see what is obvious, that the government is, indeed, the problem. Consequently, the problem will only grow and become unsolvable. Eventually, the country may vanish in a string of violent events that may very easily involve parts of the region.
It’s high time to reset the approach to the crisis before it turns into a new Maidan.