Macedonia - Political Parties
The critical players to consider in Macedonian politics are the political parties, which control much of Macedonian political life, both national and local. Conservative political party structures dominate the political arena. Male-dominated, hierarchical, centralized, and with closed processes, they perpetuate those in power. Much of their politicking, building alliances, and taking decisions takes place at times and in locations where women are not comfortable or welcome. Organizational procedures are not transparent, participatory, and democratic.
Political parties include the Democratic Alternative (DA), the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the Liberal Party (LP), the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDP), the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization - Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), and the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization True Macedonian Reformist Option (VMRO- VMRO).
Although political parties are brimming with structure, rules, and regulations, very few of these procedures are followed. Although all parties claim to have a well-defined place along the political spectrum and to subscribe to a particular ideology, power and patronage played a far greater role than ideology, and that parties revolve around the personalities of their leaders. A small cadre at the top of each party decides who will serve in certain positions within the party or the government, determines policy, and develops party platforms. The political parties are highly centralized, information is rarely communicated downwards, not even to party members, and true competition for voters does not exist. Most citizens view political parties as organizations aimed at obtaining or maintaining power so that the party leaders and their faithful can reap both political and economic rewards. Consequently, public esteem for political parties is very low.
Macedonia’s traditionally pro-Yugoslav stance permitted the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) – the chief successor to the League of Communists which ruled the republic during Tito’s Yugoslavia – to remain in power through a governing coalition which followed the first multi-party elections in November 1990. At the same time, the Macedonian people’s own strain of nationalism was reflected in the founding and general popularity of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (“VMRO,” which was also the name of a 19th century extremist Macedonian liberation group), which, in fact, won more votes in the 1990 elections than any other single political party.
Similarly, the many other ethnic groups comprising Macedonia’s population formed their own, ethnically based parties. This included the sizable Albanian community – which comprises at least one-quarter of the country’s population – as well as the smaller but still significant Roma, Serb and Turkish communities. The leading ethnically Albanian political party – the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP) – was invited into the governing coalition, and a prominent politician from the Tito era, Kiro Gligorov, was chosen to serve as President of the Republic.
Although of a more tolerant, reformed communist tradition, those who governed Macedonia as a result of the 1990 elections lacked strong democratic inclinations, while preoccupation with the external situation post- poned serious consideration of domestic reforms. Thus, when parliamentary and presidential elections were held in October 1994, many of the same electoral problems from 1990 – voter registration lists, media bias and badly apportioned electoral districts – still existed, albeit not to such significant degrees that the outcome was brought into question by international observers.
Moreover, by that time strains between the Albanian and Macedonian communities became more pronounced, with the founding of ethnically Albanian political parties like the Party for Democratic Prosperity of Albanians (PDPA) which were decidedly more separatist in their inclinations. The still nationalist VMRO-DPMNE (the additional initials standing for the “Democratic Party of Macedonian Unity” following splits in the original party) enlisted the support of some other parties in attempting to deny the elections any legitimacy by boycotting the second round. The ruling SDSM nevertheless was able to retain power, and Kiro Gligorov won a five-year term in the first directly elected presidential race.
On 31 October 1999, Macedonian voters went to the polls to choose a new president. Six candidates ran in the election. Originally, the VMRO-DPMNE coalition with the DA was based on the assumption that Ljupco Georgievski of the former would become prime minister with a victory in 1998 while the DA’s Vasil Tupurkovski of the latter would be the coalition’s candidate for president. After months of haggling, however, VMRO-DPMNE decided to field its own presidential candidate, Boris Trajkovski, who had come to political prominence as a Deputy Foreign Minister during the Kosovo crisis. Tupurkovski ran as the candidate of the Democratic Alliance alone. The SDSM, now in the opposition, chose Tito Petkovski, who had been the President of the unicameral Macedonian Assembly prior to the 1998 elections, as its nominee. Stojan Andov, who preceded Petkovski as Assembly President prior to his party’s break with an earlier SDSM coalition, was the candidate of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) which formed in 1997 from two other parties emerging from more reformist wing of the former League of Communists.
Finally, the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), a governing coalition partner, nominated Muharem Nexhipi as its candidate while the PDP nominated Muhamed Halili to vie for the votes within the ethnic Albanian community. This community, in fact, represents almost an entirely separate polity in Macedonia, yet the participa- tion of the two candidates indicated a willingness of the community to consider the head of state their representative and not that solely of those of Macedonian nationality.
The inability of any of them to win a majority of the votes cast required a second round on November 14 between the top two vote-getters. Boris Trajkovski of the ruling Internal Macedonian Revolu- tionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) edged out his opponent, Tito Petkovski, of the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), although irregularities forced second-round reruns on December 5 and were used by Petkovski supporters as a pretext for questioning the integrity of the result.
On 24 November 2000, the Democratic Alternative (DA) announced that it would leave the governing coalition to join the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) in a bid to form a new government coalition. This move came after Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski fired prominent DA cabinet minister Melodic as a final message that the DA was no longer a welcome nor necessary partner in the governing coalition with VMRO-DPMNE.
In a joint press conference with VRMO-VMRO, PDP and SDSM, DA announced its support of its new coalition partners. SDSM announced that it would be pursuing a vote of no confidence against the governing coalition. Shortly thereafter, Savo Klimovski, president of the parliament and a member of DA, was forced to resign. For SDSM to be successful in ousting the present government, all of DA and the majority of PDP would have to support it. During subsequent votes in parliament, more than half of the PDP members supported the governing coalition, causing SDSM’s bid for a change in government to fail.
The outcome of these political maneuverings strengthened the position of the governing VMRO-DPMNE, as opposed to bringing the government down. The government appeared to have the support of 75 deputies, an increase of 8 from when VMRO-DPMNE was partnered with DA. By moving quickly to install the new cabinet ministers from the Liberals and the PDP, VMRO-DPMNE has ensured a stable government. The appointment of six Liberal Party (LP) deputy ministers has guaranteed the support of that party, and there does not seem to be an immediate threat of a vote of no confidence.
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