“We were not aware that it was possible for such things to happen, the ‘bombs’ opened our horizons, and I mean to all the citizens…They showed an ugly face of reality, the existential threat to people – by the powerful parties in power. Practically, it seems as if though the entire life of the citizen is in their hands, and if you are somewhat week, and if you surrender, they will immediately destroy you, you will be their slave”, says President of (political party) DOM, Liljana Popovska in a statement for CIVIL Media.
CIVIL Media: What are the program goals of your party in terms of social justice?
POPOVSKA: For DOM, as a green party, social justice is one of the guiding principles. In order to ensure social justice, society needs to respect human rights, it needs to provide equal opportunities to all, tolerance of diversity and non-discrimination. As a party we advocate for an integrated system of social protection in which equal opportunities would be provided, meaning for education, career advancement, employment…But, also equal opportunities for social and health care protection, access to culture and opportunities for quality of life and leisure time. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to achieve a free labor market. For everyone, to be able to provide work, in equal conditions, without having to have party membership, or any other affiliation for that purpose. Furthermore, salaries need to be increased and salaries that are inadequately low compared to the costs, but also of all other social services and transfers so as to ensure normal living and functioning, and leading a dignified life. Other flaws that we are currently facing in society are the insufficiently strong networks of social protection that would be mobile and would work on the ground. Which means not in the office. For this purpose, professional and qualified people in the field of social protection will be engaged. Macedonia already has qualified staff, however, a large part of them remain unemployed, and those who are in the need of their services, are left without them
Furthermore, it is very important to pay attention to the socially vulnerable categories in society. That means that there should be special programs and special measures and funds for the homeless, for people with special needs, the process of providing access to every building should finally be completed. There should be special programs for treatment and for reintegration of people who use drugs. Efficient programs for the Roma population are especially necessary. We let the Decade of Roma Inclusion go by without effectively using it, and there is still much poverty among that population. And there is also a group in society that many want to forget, but are people who are equally important, people like all of us, citizens…They are the members of the LGBT population. They are probably also one of the most discriminated categories for which people do not even want to talk about, yet these people have serious problems and their rights are seriously threatened. The Law on non-discrimination should first be changed for them, something for which we have been advocating for years, but this time I hope to have enough critical mass and political will for this to happen. To introduce sexual orientation and gender identity in the discrimination bases. Certainly, there are many more issues that need to be supplemented in order to form this integrated system of social protection, but we will primarily need political will and will have to free ourselves from prejudices and stereotypes.
CIVIL Media: What are your realizations on the abuse of socially disadvantaged categories of citizens in the political, or electoral context?
POPOVSKA: Abuses happen, and of various nature. We can see it around us, the campaign has already started and people are already being blackmailed in order to keep their jobs, there are cases of people buying their workplace, we can see that there is massive employment, with hundred people in one industry…There is also blackmail for receiving social assistance and various social transfers and services to which people are entitled to. So, we have blackmail on the one hand with the reduction of certain rights and assistances to which the citizens are entitled to according to the Constitution and according to the laws, and on the other hand, with promises on certain bonuses and benefits. Regardless if it is about getting a job or assistance, or about getting promoted at work or about receiving a certain service career wise. All of this comes into an ugly political market with buying and selling of the citizens’ will and their right to decide how and for who they want to vote for.
We have been witnessing many unpleasant things happening to members of DOM, especially after we joined the opposition, like dismissals from work, blackmailing those who are still at work, regardless if it is in the public sector or in the private sphere, even employers are blackmailed to dismiss those who are members of a certain political party in the opposition! We were not aware that it was possible for such things to happen, the ‘bombs’ opened our horizons, and I mean to all the citizens…They showed an ugly face of reality, the existential threat to people – from the powerful parties in power. Practically, it seems as if though the entire life of the citizen is in their hands, and if you are somewhat week, and if you surrender, they will immediately destroy you, you will be their slave! What is encouraging is that the citizens are going out to contest, to express their revolt, they are even going out in a fight against the institutions, which have proved that they are not entirely independent and principled, such as the judiciary, for example. We have many cases from DOM, where people have been fired from work, they have complained because of the strength of the arguments and because of the absolutely unacceptable reasons for which they have been fired or mistreated at work, and they have even won at court. We have three of our members who have managed to win in a Court of first instance. Well, now, there are other games and manipulations, but as they have started, they are brave people and I believe they will manage to succeed. And finally, everyone is expecting for some positive political changes to take place, after which the judiciary will be freed and the professionals will be able to judge correctly and will ensure a normal life for all citizens.
CIVIL Media: Which promises for social justice are realistic, and which promises are a kind of political corruption, or are playing with the expectations of the voters?
POPOVSKA: A large part of them are playing with the expectations of the voters, because we would need perhaps ten budgets, inflated like this last one of three billion euros, in order to fulfill everything that the ruling parties are promising in the pre-election period. Huge salaries are promised, huge services, employments, something that is actually not possible…Something that is desired, but not possible. In this way, I am afraid that the citizens will be played twice. On the one hand, they will vote for someone for whom they do not want to vote, because of the promise that this will ensure them a normal and decent life. On the other hand, they will be played, because they will not receive what they had been promised. I think that one needs to look into the eyes of what the political parties are promising and offering. In this situation, according to what we have been able to hear so far, I think that the promises of the opposition are much more realistic, dimensioned reasonably according to our budgetary possibilities and to common sense and reason on what really can be achieved. Otherwise, I would just like to say, just as examples, that isn’t it a false promise to promise hundreds of kindergartens that are needed and are an excellent idea, but for which at the same time there is no coverage? Isn’t it a false promise to those with HIV, to say that they will be safe from infection, while at the same cut the amount of funds in the budget in half?! These are all false promises which at the end lead to manipulating the will of the citizens and playing with their right to know, their right to receive an appropriate service, to provide a certain right…And most importantly, to have the opportunity to reasonable assess what each option is offering them and what each option will realize, and to vote accordingly.
CIVIL Media: What are the social and political consequences from abusing the issues in the area of social justice?
POPOVSKA: They are at least double, because if you deceive the citizen and win his vote with promises, then the citizen is deceived twice. On the one hand, what was promised will not be fulfilled, and on the other hand, their vote will be stolen. The citizens, against their will, will vote for someone for whom they do not want to. Here we come to the most frightening thing that is happening in politics. All of it is trade, all of it is deal oriented, including the market with votes. In this way, the most precious thing is taken away from the citizens, because their vote is their right to be citizens, to decide on their own lives and on the life of their society. In this way, they – losing their right to vote and to free expression – lose their capacity as a citizen, that is, they are discitizened. Perhaps the most frightening thing in this entire trade with votes is the moral degradation. Let the one who is forcing the citizen to give his vote against his will sink, along with the one who accepts to enter this buying and selling, but by this, the entire society sinks in moral abyss. And this is the most terrifying thing that is happening to us, day after day.
CIVIL – Center for Freedom is implementing the pilot project “Promises and Abuses”, which deals with abuse of social justice for political and electoral purposes. The goal of the project is to contribute to the strengthening of public awareness on abuses in the sphere of social justice in the electoral context, as well as to prevent manipulative practices of the political centers of power. The project is implemented in cooperation with the Heinrich Bὅll Foundation – Office in Sarajevo