AIM: start

TUE, 12 FEB 2002 00:35:01 GMT

All the Power to “Politburo”!

The fateful decisions for Macedonia for a long time already are reached neither by the parliament nor by the Government, nor by some absolute ruler. Everything is in the hands of a small informal group of people

AIM Skoplje, February 5, 2002

Macedonian "politburo" is becoming more efficient: the latest of its achievements was last week's principled agreement on passing of the Amnesty Law for the members of the Liberation National Army. It was preceded by coordination of stands on the highly controversial Law on Local Self-Administration, and the constitutional reform that the Assembly just formally passed was previously "smoothed over" a couple of months ago on the same level. Now they are waiting for the return of the head of the state from America to continue consultations (read: haggling) about the date when early parliamentary elections will be scheduled.

And it all began with marathon talks at the height of the crisis that resulted in the Ohrid Agreement. Fateful decisions for Macedonia for quite some time, ever since the beginning of the crisis, and this means for almost a year, are reached neither by the parliament, nor the Government, nor by some obscure despot. They are agreed by a small group that could be seated around one or at the most two tables put together in some cafe. It is something like the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) or Racan's or Lagumdzija's coalition partnerships. Just slightly different and more special. It is more special because in Macedonian case not a single meeting of the informal body the journalists have a long time ago proclaimed a kind of a pluralist "politburo" cannot take place without direct, i.e. physical, presence of one of the "prompters" from the international community. Sometimes it is Javier Solana, and sometimes George Robertson, when tensions are relieved, it is American James Pardew, and at the moment it is mostly smooth-talking Alain le Roy. Around a table most frequently at the President's Boris Trajkovski's, leaders of four political parties gather that in the latest parliamentary elections had won the biggest number of votes: two purely Macedonian and two purely Albanian ones. hey gather mostly when they are forced to. For the sake of history, the names of party bosses should be mentioned, although as far as efficiency and importance are concerned, they could have been marked with numbers, letters or some other mark: Ljubco Georgievski, President of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE and Prime Minister, Branko Crvenkovski, former prime minister temporarily in the opposition, Arben Xhaferi, leader of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (who is building his image on departure from the post which he then repeatedly postpones) and Imer Imeri who is believed to be just the "ephemeral" president of the Party of Democratic Prosperity. President Trajkovski has an indefinite role: he is neither a participant, nor a mediator, nor the errand boy who brings lunch to the "big bosses". Malicious persons say he is a little bit of everything. And the party can begin.

The public does not learn much about the content of these sometimes acrimonious talks. Perhaps some day, when everything becomes history, it will appear in memoirs or archives! What is agreed at these meetings becomes LAW that the obedient deputies (this is regularly a benign assumption) in the Assembly give the desired form. To be perfectly honest, there are times when the people’s deputies get angry and forget what they are asked to do. But, no need for concern! The unanimous brethren from the two sides of the Atlantic quickly call them to order. For their cooperativeness (as popularly said in the popular and practiced jargon of spineless persons) the elected representatives of the people will get lifelong privileges which, at least for the time being, will not refer to their descendants.

Analysts agree that on the example of Macedonia the international community has shown in practice how parliamentary democracy the western societies swear by failed in the fertile land on the banks of the Vardar. Either the seed was bad or the climate? Somebody has evidently done something wrong. It somehow turned out that everybody is doing somebody else’s job. The head of the state whose role according to the Constitution is solely ceremonial is left doing the most problematic, some may say, the dirtiest jobs that even the chairman of the legislative body – the temple of democracy - Stojan Andov and the head of the executive authorities Ljubco Georgievski washed their hands of. And all that just because the Washington-Brussels coalition assessed that Trajkovski was the “softest” and that through him it would be possible to make some kind of an influence on the course of events. That is the reason why the head of the state is regularly appearing as the initiator of one thing or another, from the Ohrid Agreement to the amnesty for the combatants of the Liberation Army because of which many Macedonians would gladly see him in hell. And then the discordant quartet makes decisions. He has the last say...

Following this logic, some desperate political chroniclers wonder in vain: why even think about parliamentary elections, regular or early? The parliament, if needed at all, should be reduced from the present 120 to about 10 deputies who would be in charge of pressing all those buttons for voting instead of their absent colleagues. The calculation is simple: the four parties headed by the members of the “politburo” have 96 sets in the assembly. This means that if the heads reach an agreement – the simple and the two-thirds and every other majority that might be necessary is achieved. The few remaining deputies are there just to play the role of the voice of democratic public.

The Constitution of Macedonia does not prescribe the institution of an agreement of two Macedonians and two Albanians. The way things are going, there are serious intentions to further narrow down this circle. Idle forecasters are already betting that Ljubco Georgievski and Arben Xhaferi have the best chances of winning the best positions in this specific “play-off”. Ever since 1998 elections it is believed that these two are acting as a team. It is possible that the “referee” (the international community) will introduce in the final part of the “game” the fresh and rested leader of the Liberation National Army Ali Ahmeti. Of course, the Macedonian public will need time to get used to the “new player”, but his player’s “feints” could ensure the liking and inclination of even the most antagonistic spectators.

Can anyone say that there is any obstacle to the state of affairs in which two tribe leaders – Macedonian and Albanian – will decide about the destiny of Macedonia?! Indeed, during all these years of the existence of independent Macedonia every prominent politician – ethnic Macedonian had his own “favourite” interlocutor – ethnic Albanian whom he whole-heartedly trusted and “did business” only with him. And the other way round. The only thing that still needs to be done is to convince the international community that for the members of “tribes” this is the most understandable form of democracy.

Zeljko Bajic