Macedonia: A Requiem for Democracy

Macedonian bloggers commented on the private meetings between leaders of the biggest political parties as a replacement of public democratic dialog within state institutions.

Cockfight in Otavalo, Ecuador. Spikes fixed at cock's feet.  Photography by Superbass 10:09, 24 July 2005 (UTC)

Volan asked [MKD]:

Why do we need the democratic model of governance? After the dissolution of a one-party state, Macedonia de facto turned into a bi/tri-sultanate. The Constitution and the institutions of the system are adjusted according to the will of the two sultans. It turns out that today’s meeting of the two sultans from the two most powerful political parties is the most important meeting to decide everything. Afterwards the governmental structures will just raise two fingers and rubberstamp – starting from the Parliament, the most shameful gravedigger of Macedonian quasi-democracy. [Quoting Wikipedia:]

Sultan (Arabic: سلطان‎ Sulṭān) is a title, with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning “strength”, “authority”, or “rulership”, derived from the masdar سلطة sulṭah, meaning “authority” or “power”. Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who claimed almost full sovereignty in practical terms…

I propose to legalize the sultanocratic system by changing the Constitution, which at least will notify the people and allow it to adjust to the truth.

Prof. Mirjana Najchevska, a human right expert, lamented [MKD] the consensual murder of the democratic process:

Yesterday’s meeting between Gruevski and Crvenkovski [MKD] was a requiem over the grave of democracy in Macedonia. The gradual sucking out of power from all democratic institutions and especially from the highest legislative body—the Parliament—finished with the meeting of leaders of the two biggest political parties and their secret negotiations and deals.

The lack of citizens’ understanding that this act means moving of the entire power from their hands (power exercised through their elected representatives in the Parliament) into the hands of two leaders (who accumulate the whole power and decide behind closed doors) results from the enormous ignorance about the basic meaning of democracy, and why it was accepted as a system of contemporary civilization.

The Parliament, democratic institutions, transparency and accountability were invented precisely with the purpose to prevent kings, power mongers, and cockerels from the dumps to bring decisions affecting the lives of the citizens without participation of those citizens, without the opportunity to influence or control the outcomes.

Moving the decision-making process to meetings between the chiefs (in Macedonia, initially promoted by the leaders of ethnic Albanian political parties and overwhelmingly embraced by the leaders of ethnic Macedonian political parties) represents an act of announcing the fact that the state is not democratic any more, but autocratic, or, in the worst case, organized as tribes.

The Parliament was invented as a venue for discussion, negotiation and agreement upon issues. This has to be done through defined procedures, before the public eye, and by representatives elected by the citizens. The Parliament can be vacated in protest, early elections may be demanded, the legitimacy of the elected representatives can be questioned, but it cannot be replaced by another kind of deal-making. In a democratic state, if a political party decides to negotiate, it must be done within the Parliament, through the MPs, at a Parliament session, through an appropriate procedure.

Otherwise, why do we need elections, why should we spend money, time, and energy, when we can have the two chiefs meet and strike a deal? Or, possibly, we should invest in organizing a healthy fistfight that will show who is stronger and who should lead the tribe? Or they should take it outside like [roosters], plucking in the backyard, and the winner would jump to the top of the dump and crow about his victory.

Democracy is dead – long live the cockfight!

(Photo “Cockfight in Otavalo, Ecuador. Spikes fixed at cock's feet.” by Wikipedia user Superbass. Published 2005 under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Licence.)


  • The backroom deals that Professor Najceska criticizes here are the latest moves to cripple democratic process in Macedonia. Since late 2008, the current regime has systematically deployed its power to destroy or hollow out all the constitutional systems of checks and balances, by attacking expertise, institutional structure and spaces of legitimate criticism that are vital to democratic debate over real issues. Now, with a compliant president and parliament, a fractured political opposition, and a beleaguered third sector and fourth estate, Prime Minister Gruevski is gearing up for another glossy, expensive election campaign. What is truly dispiriting is that the assault will be financed in the short term by the international community, and ultimately paid for by Macedonia’s citizens and their children. Gruevski’s government recently withdrew $317 million from their IMF precautionary credit line, established late last year. Designed to help the country survive economic shocks from outside, these dollars are now at the government’s disposal as Gruevski seeks re-election. Back in 2006, VMRO-DPMNE were the leading advocates of raising legal limits on election expenditures: Macedonia’s citizens will be paying the bill for this year’s campaign, financially as well as politically, for years to come.

  • […] has already covered Macedonia's tortuous road to the early elections of 2011: here, here, here, and here. A novelty in this round of the elections is expanding the voter base to the diaspora. […]

  • […] indicates the culmination of the trend for centralization of power among a decreasing number of political actors, promising “more of the same” kind of politicking from the last few […]

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