North Macedonia

FAST Update Macedonia: Trends in conflict and cooperation Apr-May 2007

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The dominant political issues during April-May 2007 were related to the "political dialog" between the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party and the opposition ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), which had boycotted the parliament for the previous four months. The bi-partisan dialog initially imposed upon them by the international community was seen as a practical method for overcoming the differences between the government and the opposition DUI. Following the so-called "agreement" at the end of May, the DUI returned to parliament and dialog was expected to continue within state institutions. According to media reports, an agreement was reached on the list of 46 laws that would require the Badinter majority vote and on the need to recompose the parliamentary Inter-ethnic Relations Committee. The DUI claims that three other points were agreed on: the election of the government under the Badinter principle, the introduction of Albanian as the second official language and the provision of social benefits for the former NLA (U=C7K) fighters by the state. The VMRO, however, denies this. The return of the DUI to parliament was welcomed by the international community, including the US State Department, EU and NATO. However, the opposition SDSM opposed the agreement, arguing that it represents a dangerous revision of the Ohrid Framework Agreement. Likewise, the ruling Democratic Party of the Albanians (DPA), the DUI's bitter rival, criticized the DUI for misleading the public regarding the contents of the so-called "agreement." This also caused tension with the coalition partner VMRO-DPMNE.

The on-going conflicts over the course of time between the former coalition partners, the Albanian DUI and the PDP, and the modality of political struggle resulted in the PDP abandoning the DUI and joining the government. Yet, out of three of the PDP MPs, only one (party president Vejseli) is joining the ruling coalition, while the other two MPs decided to remain loyal to the pre-election coalition with the DUI. The inclusion of the PDP in the government represents an important step in the process of building political consensus within the country. This coupled with the support for reform policies and laws that require the Badinter majority vote (provided by the MPs) from the smaller ethnic communities could present a greater opportunity for the country to move away from political stalemate to reform.

During this reporting period the coherence (or lack) of the government coalition was also exposed. Namely, the New Social Democratic Party (NSDP) averted demands from within its executive board to leave the government. In addition, the VMRO-DPMNE started a dispute with its key ruling coalition partner, the DPA. At the moment it looks as if both coalition partners will remain loyal to the governing majority because their public grievances with the VMRO are viewed as helping to secure a better position within the government coalition. This is especially relevant to the DPA whose harsh stance towards the VMRO-DPMNE following the conclusion of their deal with the DUI was seen as an indicator that the DPA fears a weakening in its agenda and its position among the Albanian electorate. Frequent conflicts and public disputes among ruling parties and between the government and President Crvenkovski and his SDSM party have confirmed the low level of political maturity of the country's political leaders. This is reflected in their frequent inability to find acceptable solutions to unresolved issues, such as appointing the remaining members of the Judicial Council, which is of strategic national importance. The fight against crime and corruption gained additional momentum during the past two months as numerous actions were conducted by state authorities against human traffickers, drugs and arms smugglers, the so-called "urban (construction) mafia" and corrupt officials. Several high-profile individuals have been detained and some cases even received a judicial end. The clear intention of the government to continue and intensify this fight is highly appreciated by the public and welcomed by international community representatives in the country and seen as a step towards the consolidation of the state apparatus.