AIM: start

FRI, 12 APR 2002 12:11:13 GMT

"Small" Ones Claim Their Due

Political parties that articulate political interests of minor ethnic communities in Macedonia are announcing an offensive in order to be represented in the next convocation of the parliament

AIM Skoplje, March 28, 2002

In the course of these past ten years of Macedonian pluralism, representatives of ethnic communities with a small percentage of members in Macedonia have tried to convince all those who wish to listen that the existing parliamentary and the political system in general was built for two political subjects - the Macedonians (66%) and the Albanians (23%). Unlike other newly established states on the territory of former Yugoslavia where there are certain exceptions, the entire political life in Macedonia is framed by political interests of parties that gather almost exclusively Macedonians and those which gather (this time exclusively) Albanians. However, in this country more than ten per cent of the electorate consists of the citizens who cannot be classified in either of the two mentioned communities. In the past certain parties of the Macedonians have reached so-called "rotten compromises" with certain ethnic communities, i.e. with parties that considered themselves competent to interpret their specific interests. As a rule, however, nothing came out of this.

Thanks to election rules dictated by the majority, according to the proportionate model, representatives of a third ethnic group could become members of parliament only as part of a list of candidates established by political parties. Practice has shown that in that case they interpreted (if at all) party interests, and not those of their ethnic communities. An exception that confirms the described rule was a Romany deputy in all three convocations of the parliament. Judging by the number of votes, and there are about 200 thousand of them, had they been taken cumulatively, in the existing system, small ethnic communities would have been entitled to at least six to ten deputies in the parliament of 120 deputies.

What is even more curious, at the very beginning of party pluralism the established distribution of forces was very acceptable, one could even say desirable for the teachers of democracy and multiculturalism in the international community who experienced small ethnic communities as something similar to grass from the known African proverb. The reasoning was quite simple: the Macedonians are a people, the Albanians are "an ethnic minority that might cause certain problems", everything else apart from that is of no consequence: who does not know how to cause problems - serves him right!

And then the crisis began... Things happened the way they did and resulted in a political process crowned by the Ohrid agreement of four leaders of parliamentary parties last August. The intention of international community that, why not say it, suddenly became attractive to Macedonian officials, was to give greater rights to ethnic communities. Therefore, if not absolutely necessary, the Albanians who had started it all, were not explicitly mentioned either in the Ohrid agreement itself or the constitutional amendments; ethnic minorities are mentioned that meet one or the other requirement on a certain territory - most frequently the percentage of their representation. This is valid when use of language and script is concerned, and certain issues in the sphere of education and similar.

Had persons in Macedonian state leadership been consulted (and they were not) they were prepared to include the largest possible number of ethnic communities in the whole political denouement just in order to make it less obvious that they were retreating in front of the demands of the Albanian community. The international community and its envoys did their best to stick to, conditionally speaking, the middle of the road: to extract certain concessions and yet do everything to prevent the prevailing political spirit from realizing that only the Albanians are benefiting. Let the others take some advantage from it!

Some cynical commentators in newspapers in Macedonian came to the conclusion that, having done nothing, members of minor ethnic communities have benefited the most, without having fired a single bullet. Theoretically speaking, when all legal regulations resulting from the amended Constitution are implemented, in places where they form, say, 20 per cent of the population, Romanies, Turks, Serbs, Bosniacs, Vlachs, can hope to use their mother tongues in local communities.

At the heat of the discussion on the parliamentary model in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, political parties that articulate the will of ethnic communities are announcing an offensive campaign and obviously do not wish to sit on their hands. They propose that the number of deputies be increased to 140 as permitted by the Constitution. The additional 20 seats would be taken by them, of course. Rumour has it that these parties will form an election coalition that might win up to five seats even in the current circumstances. The "Ohrid quartet" will, unfortunately, have the last say again. It can be assumed that this not in the least simple business will not be done again without the encouragement of "the ones who know better" - advisors from the international community.

Political parties of ethnic communities might, however, be caught in the trap of the so-called "ethnic formula" applied during socialism and the so-called “positive discrimination" which could be suggested by some people who have quite a good experience. The Americans, for instance. It is assumed that large parties that were always inclined to "absorb" the votes of "small" ones will take up complicated mathematical operations in order to figure out what is best for them - to work as before or to let the "small" ones have their way. Nobody has established for sure, but it is certain that in last year's political race between the Macedonians and the Albanians, members of small ethnic communities sided with the majority people. They drew some benefit from it. In the future, this benefit could become even greater.