AIM: start

TUE, 30 APR 2002 22:52:41 GMT

With Andov - Anything is Possible!

While the Chairman of the Assembly Hesitates...

AIM Skoplje, April 20, 2002

Despite the consent of the signatories of the Ohrid Agreement - the leaders of four leading parliamentary parties - to have parliamentary elections scheduled for September 15, Chairman of the Assembly of Macedonia, Stojan Andov, who pursuant the Constitution, is in charge of determining the date when they will take place, like so many times before wished to play the role of the master of the house: he first proposed September 22 to be the date. Then this did not seem enough to defy the persistent (it seems to him "deadly tiresome") representatives of the international community, so he proposes September 22, then September 29, alternately; anything but not what suits the mentioned prompters: September 15. He bases his authoritative opinion, at least when his favourite date - September 22, is concerned on two public and visible, and who knows how many invisible, arguments: it offers additional time for the campaign and, second, which is not deprived of bizarreness: the elections would take place just a day after the planned elections in Kosovo which would, he believes, prevent double voting - both in Kosovo and in Macedonia. It would be prevented, he explains, by the use of spray that lasts for 48 hours! The public is confused whether the leader of the people's deputies reads criminal stories in his free time, but in any case, it sounds convenient.

All major parliamentary parties except VMRO-DPMNE of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, consider the visionary dates of the concerned No. 1 parliamentarian unacceptable. "By scheduling the elections, for instance, just 24 hours after the ones in Kosovo, Andov clearly sends word to the international community that he does not wish objective international monitoring", warns Nikola Popovski, head of the group of deputies of the biggest opposition party, the Social Democratic Union. The Democratic Party of the Albanians hinted something about its possible demand that Andov be removed from the post, but later concentrated on its own problems. Among those who are in favour of the elections as a guideline for a way out of the blind alley conviction prevails that the Chairman of the Assembly is in fact working for the leader of VMRO-DPMNE, Ljubco Georgievski. Prime Minister Georgievski wishes to appear nice in the eyes of the international community, but as party leader Georgievski is aware that the elections are the last thing in the world he needs at this moment. And Andov will be adequately awarded for the trouble he is taking. At first, as diplomatic etiquette requires, Europe's representative, Allen Le Roy, said politely that Andov had the right to schedule the elections and that the decision should be legal. However, he reminded that the elections would take place on September 21 in Kosovo and that international monitors could not be in two places at the same time. The representative of Europe also pointed out that the will of the signatories of Ohrid Agreement had to be respected. The officials of OSCE, the organization that would probably do most of the job, point out to similar problems. In their later comments on the topic of the elections, international officials of the highest rank somewhat minimized the importance of the date of the elections, persisting that the dates of Kosovar and Macedonian elections must not coincide. On Thursday, in an interview for the Voice of America, American Ambassador in Skopje, Lawrence Butler, was finally specific when he said that the elections should either be a week before or a week after the ones in Kosovo.

At first Andov justified his deed by saying that he did not wish to prevent international monitors from doing their job. He claimed that there would not be the same people in the field as in Kosovo; indeed, if the European Union had been capable of covering the whole of Ukraine, surely it could cover Macedonia - Chairman of the Assembly became more offensive later on. It became obvious that he not only wished to underline the significance of the post he was occupying, but also his own as a person who had certain political, moreover, presidential ambitions.

Stojan Andov has been one of the constants of Macedonian high politics in the past decade of independence. He passed the road from the president of the reformists of the last prime minister of former Yugoslavia Ante Markovic to the ally of all those who firmly rule the country. He was with the Social Democratic Alliance as long as this party was in power, when its power began to stagger - ever the speaker of the assembly disassociated himself from it. Being a skilful merchant of political vanity, with the current Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski he was cautious at first, and then as the once unrecognized leader of the opposition rose in power, mutual inclination began to strengthen. At the time of the crisis and long quibbling with the international community, he assumed the comfortable position of a "foreign observer": he did not participate in Ohrid negotiations, he skillfully kept the Assembly he chairs at a distance from all serious clashes between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians. When time came for passing of the Ohrid Agreement and then the Constitutional amendments and the Law on Local Self-Administration, Andov turned into an ardent defender and interpreter of the Constitution in the manner of Vojislav Kostunica: the law above all - whatever the cost. With such "fishwife's comportment" as international negotiators assessed him, on a few occasions this people's deputy, the first among the equal, managed to make even the "big fish" from the West very upset. To put it briefly, they intimately regretted that they had ever mentioned in this part of the world that the Constitution was a "holy book" that had to be obeyed unquestioningly; Andov has evidently understood it too literally.

There are certain things that are indeed playing straight into the hands of the chairman of the Assembly. The package of election laws, not without his doing, still has not passed by the Assembly, the process of reintegration of territory has not been completed, the tension among political parties is still too high. In the past period this is manifested through the latent conflict within the Albanian political bloc, and within the Macedonian, it is not exactly a land of milk and honey either. Analysts agree that the level of tolerance among the players in the future parliamentary match should be considerably higher if there was a wish to avoid an unexpected sharp start. Being the oldest (he also things the wisest) Andov occasionally preached to the supporters of the elections: had it been as they had wished - to have the elections in April, they would have seen that it was impossible, the territory has not been re-integrated, there are still no security conditions for the elections... The conclusion: the elder should be obeyed!

If numerous opponents of the Chairman of the assembly are to be believed, the citizens of Macedonia will win the bet if they believe that he is an unavoidable candidate in the next presidential elections. There are two major minor points, however: the presidential elections are not due before 2004. And until then, it is necessary to wait. Second, according to the Constitution, in case of incapability of the head of the state to perform his duty, he shall be replaced by the chairman of the assembly until presidential elections are scheduled. This has already happened once, after the attempt on the life of former president of the Republic Kiro Gligorov. However, at the time, ministers from the ranks of the ruling Social Democratic Alliance were not willing to accept the then chairman of the Assembly Stojan Andov (!) for acting president of the Republic. And then they split.

Nowadays, there is another problem. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and his faithful friend, minister of internal affairs Ljube Boskovski, the media claim, do not care to conceal their intolerance towards former comrade-in-arms Boris Trajkovski who, according to their opinion, took both his duty and the support of the international community too seriously. Rumour goes that they would be happier to see the cooperative Andov at the head of the state instead. It would be good to do something that would make the zealous Trajkovski "pick holes in the job" and get sick and tired of it. For the time being, Georgievski-Boskovski duet is searching for his sins from the time when he coordinated international humanitarian aid during the crisis in Kosovo. The outcome is uncertain. Among similar tricks journalists classify the accusations against the President's advisor Ljubomir Frckovski who, as his successor Boskovski claims, in the capacity of the minister of internal affairs, corrupted, concealed the assassins of the former head of the state. But, that is a different story!

In the meantime, the local public and the international community are waiting... Chairman of the Assembly Stojan Andov is hesitating... Just about the date of the elections, of course. And nothing else.