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Macedonia: Musings on the Early Elections

The Macedonian public is furiously discussing the justification and timing of the upcoming early elections.

Right-wing bloggers, who happen to be the supporters of the current government, uniformly republished the video of the PM's speech [MKD] without the “need to comment further” (+ transcript [MKD]), or republished [MKD] propagandistic video clips from the pro-government TV channels.

A screenshot of part of a post on the Volan blog, with images of the current PM Nikola Gruevski (VMRO-DPMNE) and his nemesis Branko Crvenkovski (SDSM).

Possibly the most popular Macedonian blogger Volan, who generates over 400 daily visits according to his SiteMeter, published a more thorough analysis [MKD] (edited for length):

Until his trip to the U.S.A., which disgracefully ended without a joint press conference with his hosts–and resulted in very different press statements about the content of the talks by the [Macedonian] and [American] administrations–Gruevski refused the call to elections. You remember that in December he said it was not time for elections, but time for reforms. After the meetings in the U.S.A. he now wants elections fast, possibly tomorrow.

Until yesterday, Crvenkovski dreamed of the early elections, and now blackmails with preconditions, delays the term for some weeks later. His tactics seems to remain to have the elections as late as possible, counting on the increasing loss of support for the current government over time…

Here's the point. According to many sources, Gruevski is losing about 10,000 voters per month. His existing voters may defect to [Ljube Boškoski] or [Ljubčo Georgievski], who announced his return from ‘political retirement.’ Some estimate that up to a third of VMRO-DPMNE members are dissatisfied and can turn to right-wing parties from the opposition.

On the other hand, if Crvenkovski announces that if his party wins, he personally won't take part in the administration, he can gain the vote of many currently undecided voters, estimated to make up about 55% of the electorate.

Up till now we've seen only cheap pre-election bickering. For the second time, Gruevski successfully changes the promises to the U.S. administration into elections. The result of 2011 may differ from 2008. These days he manages to recover with statements that it is not him who initiated the elections. The opposition must respond with action – or will lose the momentum of the ratings’ trends…

At the request of VMRO-DPMNE spokesman Aleksandar Bichikliski, made in a Facebook discussion, media expert Roberto Belichanec discussed some of the opposition's conditions in a lengthy blog post [MKD]. He noted that instead of closing down A1 TV, the government could find a solution that would leave this media outlet functioning, alongside continuing the tax evasion investigation against its owner, and securing the assets that can be used as a guarantee for repayment of the debt:

Simply put, elections with only the pro-government media are not fair elections! That's it.

The second demand by Crvenkovski, to define by law the distribution of funds for electoral campaign is also to gain a level playing field and prevent corruption with public money… I think it's complete stupidity to establish egalitarianism in market economy. Political advertising is foolish in general, and also dangerously foolish, and should be either prohibited–when done by political parties–or limited to cases where campaigns are really needed, with a clear goal and under tight evaluation and parliamentary control–when the government is concerned. This kind of advertising produces corrupt relationships between politicians and the media, influences the coverage and promotes competing with money, not ideas, and so on. Most European countries forbid political advertising because it is antidemocratic in its essence. On the other hand, Branko [Crvenkovski] […] needs a practical solution instead of going to a match where referees are on the payroll of his adversary. So it's foolish if we apply expert criteria, but it is understandable from the viewpoint of the need for fair play. But I am against this condition. It is better to regulate this issue after the elections, because there's no time for a quality solution before then. VMRO can solve this in five minutes. But a fast solution might be faulty, and here temporary solutions tend to remain permanent.

Belichanec also addressed the government's perception of NGOs as just another PR element, referring to the surge of new “NGOs” that appear in the media to publicly criticize the opposition:

If an NGO deals with a political issue, it wants to talk politics based on its own positions, not to confirm or deny the positions of political actors, based on the needs of political parties. […] According to VMRO, NGOs serve only as propaganda tools. The second thing that he did not understand, unlike the old Alliance of Socialist People which had the goal to confirm the sinlessness of the ruling party, is that the contemporary NGOs are a loose network, often have narrow focuses (media, women, abortion, people with disabilities, youth, etc.) and react in an uncoordinated manner or coordinate ad hoc. If a larger grouping of NGOs seriously considers that the opposition's activity is so dangerous for Macedonia, it will probably react.

In my personal opinion, SDSM leaving the Parliament represented the height of the political crisis in the country. But you can draw your own conclusions from that…

[…]

If the spirit of inclusion and consensus does not dominate over the spirit of exclusion and conflict, if the political competition is not based on argumentation instead of arrogance, there's no democracy. Therefore I would call [the political actors] to…

Sit together and make no statements that each will go alone to elections, or that someone will remain obstinate till the end, but to solve all issues that would create conditions for fair elections.

And without low blows… Without hysterical statements… Without quarreling who wanted and who did not want the elections. Without noise and anger…

It is a shame that the best elections in Macedonia took place in 1991, organized by the totalitarian structure, while you, the democrats cannot make a decent election in 20 years.

You owe this to Macedonia, because it feeds you and has tolerated you for too long. You've given very little back…

Vasko Krajchevski wrote [MKD] he was provoked by the announcements for urgent early elections:

First, I must say I am sick of the black-and-white world of Gruevski and Crvenkovski, who try to brainwash us into thinking they are the only actors on the political scene in Macedonia. If they had some democratic sense, neither would Branko come back from retirement, nor would Nikolche insist on his return. With their cadre, the general mood and conditions on the ground, nothing can guarantee that the next four years would be different, except for a difference of an MP or two. What good will come out of that? New demands for elections next year [no matter who wins…]

[…]

To conclude. I support the early elections, but no earlier than the first half of October. In the meantime, we need conditions for the smaller players to run the race on equal footing with the self-declared leading pair. That would be democracy. Putting the national interest above the narrow interest of your political party…

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