The long history of short memory

Questions and answers about how we became not normal and how it reflected on the 2021 local elections… How do we become normal? For now, without a good answer…


Overreacted, that would be the first description of the reaction of the leader of SDSM, Zoran Zaev, regarding the results of the first round. First, two days of silence and then a reaction which, to be honest, was sincere and emotional, but also exaggerated. What makes the reaction of SDSM exaggerated, expressed through the address made by the first social democrat, is not in the recognizing and acknowledging of mistakes and sins during the rule. That’s perfectly fine, and suits a democratic party.


What is exaggerated in Zaev’s call for uniting? 

Exaggerated is the taking of a large part of the responsibility for the election failure and making extra promises related to the system of values and performance of party cadre. That’s not realistic. Even if we were a society with state resources like Germany, or at least Sweden. SDSM is not a party that can transform itself faster than it already has. Even what it has achieved so far in its transformation is much more than anyone could have expected. Certainly that’s not enough, but is significant and very visible. Some will say for the better, and certainly some claim that the party is headed for the worse. And both groups agree – SDSM with Zaev is far from what it once used to be.

Still, it is a party of a large number of Brankovists, followers of the man whose rule in the 90s left many dark spots with, mildly said, an extremely problematic transition, police brutality, control of the media, nationalism and systematic discrimination on multiple grounds. That image of SDSM started to change in the 2000s, but was interrupted with Gruevski’s 11-year even more rigid and deeply nationalist regime, for later Zaev to enter into party reforms with seven-mile steps, as a party leader, in parallel with all processes he opened in the meanwhile – as prime minister.

Not “for the sake of’, but new staff policy at all levels

Things don’t change so easily. Just as VMRO-Shqiptars-in-gas-chambers is not easy to change with two hugs between Mickoski and Taravari, and still not a single one with Sela, not to mention an apology. Indeed, today’s SDSM is much closer to a modern, European, and even unifying party than ever before. However, SDSM needs to eat a lot more “baked bread”, especially with (as word has it) Zaev’s “for the sake of” style.

In that sense, Zaev, both as a party leader and as a prime minister, has to work on introducing and strictly adhering to a new type of staff policy at all levels, from municipal committees, to the government. Yes, the government. He can do this, at least it’s expected from him to find the strength to do so. This especially implies for him to be more energetic towards those parties whose price for keeping the parliamentary majority is, simply, too high, and is paid by the entire society. And also decimates his hard-earned political capital.

Zoran Zaev cannot and must not take on more responsibilities on his back than he can bear. Not him, not his party, and the least of all parts of the spoiled coalition that is tagging along out of “deeply sincere” clientelistic motives, can give much more than they have given until yesterday. More yes, but not as much as Zaev expects from them, and even from himself. Why? Society is not prepared, there aren’t enough (such) people, just enough to gather all the best from all the parties in the country. And the system doesn’t depend only on him and his party, not even on the coalition, but also on the “hydraulics” of the opposition.

That magic comfort of the armchair

Some of the local government structures led by SDSM have definitely disappointed. Expected. Even if it were a much bigger and better developed party, it would have still not gathered so much human capacity to implement all local policies properly. Especially in such a number of units of local self-government in which it won in the local elections in 2017. Moreover, having in consideration the well-known party cadre who, once they get a hold of the comfort of the chair, that magical feeling (!), they forget what the purpose of the desk is, the telephone, office, citizens… They are not the only ones in that, but certainly are known also for lying around and enjoying government positions and privileges, even if concerns a counter position received by party “reward”.

Even if circumstances were “the most normal in the world” and we lived in a rich country with a developed democratic and stable society such as, let’s say, the Scandinavian or Canadian – it would have been hard to maintain the level of such proportions of conquered power. Especially because at the central level (in parliament), the proportion of seats won is not proportional to the size of seats in the local government. In Macedonian / Balkan conditions, that’s very important.

At the same time, some mayors were not up to the positon and just dashed into the well-known taking of maximum advantage of the position for one’s own interests. And that’s all. There is nothing more to say about that, but to just once again conclude the deserved criticism that even Zaev himself often publically refers.

To this point, the criticism is well-known and in various forms is expressed both by the opposition and analysts, but also by Zaev.

Furthermore, when SDSM’s (non)success in the first round is analysed, several more factors are forgotten.

The hybrid war has a high price

The institutions, the ones that should be independent in their work, but also the government itself, have only superficially or not at all engaged in tackling the hybrid war that is being led against democratic countries at the global and regional level. It is a mixture of intelligence-economic and criminal activities that shake the democratic institutions in the country, precisely with abuse of democratic instruments.

Democracies around the world, and hence the Macedonian, are attacked by sophisticated, complex and persistent propaganda machines, intelligence and counterintelligence agencies, underground and criminal structures, fake civil societies, religious circles, businesses, media, academies and etc.

Much has been written about this, and certainly it remains for much more and in more detail to be written. For now, it remains for us to recall the question: If there is a strong disruption in the US election processes, what remains for the Macedonian ones?

It can be seen on several levels, starting from the cyber-attacks, and up to the carefully devised and implemented black campaign with disinformation and hate speech, as well as the successful abuse and manipulation of processes and events (Bulgaria, EU, NATO, Prespa, COVID-19, census, Afghan civilians, Tetovo tragedy and so on).

Yes, the hybrid war has a high price.

During electoral and other important processes, the invoice is delivered to the government in most unfavourable conditions for the government, and always most favourable for the opposition. Looking to this point, SDSM even did well in the first round. Of course, the second round has the potential to show something completely different. It seems Zaev is on the tight track. It just remains to see how sincere the support he expressly received from the coalition partners is, who decided to go independently in the local elections.

Operation for overthrowing of democracy and installing the regime

One must also not forget the continued black propaganda and well-devised media-propaganda operations for overthrowing the democratic and pro-Western government of Zoran Zaev. Gruevski’s big white palace is not the only one from where a real propaganda war is being led against the democracy in North Macedonia. It’s not just an operation for overthrowing Zoran Zaev.


It would be relatively easy if it was only about that – to remove Zaev from the position of prime minister and leader. And it’s not an operation (just) for returning Gruevski’s regime. That too would be relatively easy. It’s a matter of an operation for overthrowing the Macedonian strategic determinations, established since its independence 30 years ago. And for installing a structure that would return isolationism and tensions, it would be anti-Western oriented, and would be doing whatever it wanted to at home (gruevism if you like – and brankovism). And all this in the service of anti-Western centers of power, not of the Macedonian national interests.

It is an operation according to which North Macedonia and the Western Balkans region should be kept in a state of continuous tenseness, poverty and tensions – political, and if possible also security ones. Just one, but far from the only, example: “Open Balkans” is a thorn in the side of the centers of power in Moscow, Budapest, Ljubljana, Rome and others. In other areas of the Macedonian democratic transformations, other centers of power in authoritarian and illiberal countries – Ankara and Beijing, for example, also have their influence.

Is there a complex operation for capturing the state again, of which overthrowing the government of Zaev is just one step? Yes. When this will become clear, and it is clear, the things that are happening will no longer be strange, aside from the fact that the public memory is quite short. Having this in mind, the entire black propaganda that is being poured out on a daily basis seems like the buzzing of a fly on a quiet summer afternoon.

Let’s become more normal, but how?

What’s the cure? We must understand that we can become more normal. But how? That might be the most difficult question which, unfortunately, at least for now, has to remain unanswered. But we can see how we became not normal…

The overwhelming agenda, uncertainty, Covid-19, hybrid war, fierce black campaign and political blockade have taken their toll. We are all affected by everything that has been happening in these past several years, both personally and collectively.

Imagine a Western democratic society going through a black Monday, like the one we had on December 24, 2012. That society would have made a step back and debated on that difficult and violent incident for at least ten years! And protocols and declarations would have been passed, at the end laws too. We witnessed a situation in which a political agreement was proclaimed a toilet paper by one of the signatory parties (Ilija Dimovski). But that didn’t happen here.

In the meanwhile, this society passed the “Olympic circles” in the local elections in 2013, the difficult election fraud that continuously took place even before those local elections, but also in 2014 (the marathon court processes Titanik 1 and 2).

Later, the difficult scandals that followed the release of the wiretapped conversations (26.000 wiretapped people, among which more than 4.000 directly targeted) – landed in the headlines of world media… “The little war” on May 9, 2015 (8 policeman lost their lives, and 22 others in just one day together with the armed attackers or terrorists) … The rise and fall of the SPO… The difficult negotiations for a peaceful transition of the government from Gruevski’s regime to a democratic government with Przino 1 and 2… But those too were in vain, while the agreements that were signed, became “toilet paper”.

A long fall and difficult post-regime transition

It seems that it’s necessary to remind ourselves that the transition from a regime to a democracy was difficult and violent. Immediately after the December early parliamentary election in 2016, the regime showed that it was deeply installed and resistant. It falls a long time, while transition is difficult.

Let’s skip the institutional attack on civil society organizations and “Stop operation Soros” and remind ourselves of the regime actress and official V. Bozhinovska. With a trembling, bad acting tone, she spoke in front of the SEC about the “long knives” right after the first, somewhat, free elections that marked the fall of Gruevski. And party militants armed with automatic weapons appeared in the hallways of the State Election Commission (no, no one has said this until now, and recordings and testimonies from this have not been made public).


Many things have already been numbered, while it seems that we are at the beginning. The public has to constantly have in consideration the devastating consequences of the Bloody Thursday that took place on April 27, 2017. The same year, local elections were held at which, surprisingly, SDSM like a tsunami wiped out VMRO-DPMNE from the map of the local government.

The Prespa Agreement and the referendum in 2018 were critical for the progress and democracy of the country. Processes that should have been long ago finished, and had not been even started, started and finished for an exceptionally short time. NATO membership is a reason for celebration, but enormous efforts and participation of many people are behind this…

Let’s also not forget the Macedonian-Bulgarian agreement from which, as is known all too well, Bulgaria now deviates grossly, unfriendly and villainously…

And the Strategy “One Society for All”, with which a huge number of, supposedly progressive” elements in society and in the system do not agree with…

A long series of scandals

Every success in the democratization and opening of the country to Europe and the world, has been opposed with a long, endless series of scandals. A part devised in the propaganda kitchens, and a part that truly result from the weaknesses of the government structure. Overwhelming, indeed.

Many more things can be numbered, but let’s stop for a moment here, because it’s more than enough to understand the complex answer to the question: Why, apart from the real and justified dissatisfaction, some of SDSM’s voters did not vote? High political awareness? There is something in this too. A sign of high political awareness is also the fact that those voters also didn’t vote for VMRO-DPMNE, a party that is still far from reforms, regardless of the step forward with the Alliance for Albanians and despite the long-lasting attempts of hard-working and pro-democratic individuals and groups within the party.

And all this doesn’t mean that those voters who remained home in the first round of elections will not vote in the second round. On the contrary, the message they sent is significant, loud and direct. After the first message has been sent, next comes the second message, in the second round. (Note: This text should be complemented here, with that second message).

Let’s conclude

Having all this into consideration, as well as all that was not said, but implies, the call for unifying that Zoran Zaev made from the podium sounds nice and possible. But not everything he promised in his uniting and emotional speech.

After all this, nevertheless, certain questions have come up. It remains unclear whether Zoran Zaev, in responding to the questions from the media, is hinting at his own withdrawal or early elections, if he does not win the local elections. Both variants are unacceptable.

Just as he didn’t accept the resignation of Minister Filipce, although he should/must have, so should the public not accept his resignation, because he shouldn’t leave the processes unfinished. It is even less appropriate to call for early elections, because particularly early elections are a shock to the system, not only when it comes to our country, but overall. (Poor Bulgaria, look what happened to it after it started blocking North Macedonia…).


I know that this analyses will encounter the usual reaction from the creators of black propaganda, that it is relatavization (which it is not). It is expected to have criticism also from the progressive public that is prone to seeing only the weaknesses, and not the entire picture. But it was necessary to put these premises in one place. The long history of the short memory is a well-known obstacle in drawing realistic conclusions of the situation.


Translation: N. Cvetkovska


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