Vox Opinion on: “People and Power: Macedonia – Behind the Facade”

This short documentary dates from 18 March 2015 and provides some insights on the political situation in Macedonia at the time when the wiretapping scandals were just starting. The video summarizes the nature of the Gruevski regime before the recent escalation of political instability. There is a red line that can easily be traced into today’s events in Macedonia. Just a few months ago, the country was out of the international spotlight and its problems did not receive extensive media coverage. The current crisis, however, clearly has its deep roots in the last 9 years of VMRO-DPMN rule and the long historical heritage of ethnic diversity.

Although Al Jazeera’s footage centers on ethnic tensions and mildly leans towards the Albanian perspective, this is not the core problem in Macedonia. As some of the interviewees suggest, the ethnic dimensions of the crisis are artificially sought for and exaggerated. Radical nationalist groups on both sides do exist and their exploitation by external or internal political actors can bring instability as was the case with the skirmishes in Kumanovo a few days ago.

However, the real problem is Macedonia’s economic hardship, international isolation, deep corruption and nepotism, and lack of any clear perspectives for the future development of the country. Officially an EU candidate state, Macedonia has not started formal negotiations on any of the accession chapters. This situation of “gray area” serves perfectly Gruevski’s regime. Gruevski virtually managed to create a feudal model of government whereby he sits on top of the power pyramid and, based on family and personal links, assigns top and local offices and public tenders. The lack of any international or supranational supervision untied opportunities for corruption and collusion between mafia and government. A small Balkan country, Macedonia is located in a strategic region connecting Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Kosovo and most of the criminal activities in the region related to all sorts of illicit trafficking use it as hub due to its weak institutions, small and corrupt political elite – both slav Macedonian or Albanian.

In these conditions the government ruling coalition cares little about its own citizens and constituents on both sides of the ethnic divide. Therefore, they would ignite even an artificial ethnic conflict if this would serve their economic or survival interests. The Kumanovo incident was an example of this. Now, both Jankulovksa and Mijalkov (whom we see in the video) have resigned but Gruevski will resist letting go of power as much as possible as he does not have any guarantees for his personal status once not in power. Contrary to the images of ethnic stand-off, during the recent events both Albanians and slav Macedonians stood together in front of Parliament and police to show their disdain for the government and its practices. This is a sign of a birth of some sort of civil society which Macedonia did not exhibit so far.

What is to come?

The grand national protest which will take part on 17 May and the consequent multi-party discussion on Monday 18 May should show the way to change. International and local pressure on Gruevski may force him to resign but he will do so only if he would be guaranteed some sort of amnesty.The words of Radmila Sekerinska in the video “..things will probably become worse before they become better” have been so far prophetic. The point here is that even if Gruevski resigned and elections would be staged and a new government formed, Macedonia would need a revolution of political values and not only one party changing another. This is the real challenge.


Al Jazeera “People and Power”: Macedonia – Behind the Facade