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Macedonia - Politics - Background

Yugoslavia’s violent disintegration in 1991 compelled Macedonia to assert its own independent statehood rather than remain in a truncated Yugoslav state dominated by Serbia. The new Macedonian constitution took effect November 20, 1991 and called for a system of government based on a parliamentary democracy. The constitution provides citizens the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, generally free and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage. While the election code provides a generally sound basis for the conduct of democratic elections, it contains some incomplete and inconsistent provisions, especially those related to appeals processes.

The first multiparty elections for the Macedonian Assembly were held after the League of Communists of Yugoslavia approved the introduction of a multiparty election system in 1990. These elections engendered contentious debate from smaller parties which protested that the majoritarian electoral system prevented political organizations with significant but diffuse support from gaining parliamentary seats.

Ethnic Albanians insisted that electoral districts had been established in a way that fractionalized the Albanian vote. From 1990 to 1994, the bulk of parliamentary power was shared between the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) and the Social Democratic Alliance (SDS). Founded in 1990, the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP), which garnered 23 of 120 seats, was the first forum for ethnic- Albanian political expression. In January 1991, a coalition government including VMRO- DPMNE, SDS and PDP, nominated SDS leader Kiro Gligorov as President.

The first democratically elected coalition government was led by Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and included the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP). Kiro Gligorov became the first President of an independent Macedonia.

Once a top communist official, Gligorov became president of Macedonia in 1991 when it was still part of Yugoslavia. He peacefully led the country to independence, avoiding the wars that raged in other Yugoslav republics. Under Gligorov's guidance, Macedonia joined the United Nations as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - a concession to neighboring Greece, which sees the use of the name Macedonia as laying future territorial claims to its own northern province of Macedonia. The dispute continues to this day.

By August 1994, it was apparent that the Macedonian political system was dysfunctional. Parliamentary sessions regularly failed to take place because, after walkouts by PDP and VMRO-DPMNE deputies frustrated with the slow pace of reform, the legislative body lacked a quorum. Parliament and the government steadily lost credibility due to their inability to legislate much needed social and economic reforms. New parliamentary and presidential elections were called for October 1994. These were FYROM's first multiparty elections since independence. Though irregularities such as incomplete voters lists and a lack of ballot secrecy did occur, international and domestic election monitors agreed that there had been no systematic pattern of disenfranchisement. The 1994 presidential and parliamentary elections in FYROM took place within an outdated, Yugoslav electoral framework.

Due to outdated voters lists and poor organization, more than 50 percent of the population did not receive an official invitation to vote, which included information on the location of polling sites. In addition, many of those who did receive an invitation were kept from voting because they lacked the necessary documentation (a new passport or a citizenship certificate). Though international and domestic election monitors concluded that no systematic election fraud had occurred during the 1994 votes, the above issues, together with the VRMO-DPMNE boycott of the second round, contributed to a low level of public confidence in the fairness of the election process.

The VMRO-DPMNE boycotted the second round of voting in protest of alleged ballot tampering and manipulation. President Kiro Gligorov won the presidential race with 52.4 percent of the vote and his Social Democratic Alliance, opting to maintain its partnership with the ethnic Albanian PDP and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), constructed a coalition that secured 95 out of 120 seats. As a result of its boycott, VMRO-DPMNE found itself without parliamentary representation.

The new government was faced with the huge task of implementing extensive economic and political reforms. During its first year, legislation was passed that established an army to replace the Yugoslav forces; created a framework for an independent judicial system; clarified citizenship guidelines; and regulated the establishment of independent radio and television. Little, however, was achieved in the area of economic restructuring. Fortunately, having experienced several years of severe economic decline, Macedonia saw an upturn in trade when the 1995 Dayton Accords ended both the war in Croatia and Bosnia- Hercegovina and the embargo against Serbia-Montenegro.

An OSCE Mission and a U.N. peacekeeping contingent were deployed in the country to deter the spillover of fighting elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia, but Macedonia’s stability was threatened early on by the economic disruption of international sanctions placed on the new Yugoslav state as well as a blockade imposed by Greece, prompted by Greek fears that a Macedonia state would threaten its own territorial integrity.

By the time the Dayton Agreement ended the Bosnian phase of the Yugoslav conflict in late 1995, the isolation of Macedonia had largely ended — especially with the acceptance of the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” as an interim name acceptable to Greece—but the resurgence of conflict to the immediate north in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999, however, brought renewed concerns about Macedonia’s external security.





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