Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Macedonia Elections: In Search of a Kingmaker

The outcome of the Macedonian general elections on 5th July was no surprise: Nikola Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE triumphed with 44 seats in Parliament. From now on Gruevski has two months to form a government. The Prime Minister-elect needs at least 17 seats to declare his “kingdom”. Who will be then his “kingmaker”? An Albanian party or a Macedonian party or both? At a time when the outcome of the talks over the Kosovo final status draws nearer and nearer, the multi-ethnic stability of Macedonia is more important than ever for the whole region…

Return of VMRO-DPMNE

On 5th July the voting day what had been feared most did not materialise and Macedonia proved that it could conduct fair and democratic elections. According to State Election Commission (SEC), some incidents put aside, the voting day was not corrupted. Voter turnout at the elections was 56.15 percent from the total of 99.43 percent processed protocols.
Within five hours of polls closing, former Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski conceded his defeat. The EU called for a prompt and clear result. By this gesture Buckovski clearly showed that he and his “Together for Macedonia” coalition could assume the defeat in a politically mature and democratic way.
The winner is “For Better Macedonia” coalition led by Nikola Gruevski’s Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation - Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE). The coalition obtained 32.46 percent of the votes and 44 seats in Parliament. Thus VMRO-DPMNE returned to power that it had lost four years ago. As to Buckovski’s Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM), it obtained 23.31 percent of the votes and consigned to opposition with 32 seats.
As for the Albanian side, no much has changed. Ali Ahmeti’s former ruling coalition partner Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) obtained 12.24 percent of the votes and 18 seats. And his eternal rival Arben Xhaferi’s Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) obtained 7.51 percent and 11 seats in Parliament. At the end of the day it is formally confirmed that during the first half of the pre-election campaign activists of these two Albanian parties had literally beat one another for almost nothing.
Those parties, which were claimed to divide the votes of the two major Macedonian parties (VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM), VMRO-Narodna and New Social Democratic Party (NSDP) obtained respectively 6 and 7 seats in Parliament.
These unofficial results were posted on the Internet site of Lobi, Albanian newspaper of Macedonia. The figures (seats) can change after the announcement of the official results.
Main reasons behind the defeat of SDSM were the poor economic situation and the social uneasiness in Macedonia. Buckovski’s government had been widely criticised for failing to improve the crippled by high unemployment, low wages and little investment. Accepting summer elections, VMRO-DPMNE had wanted to make maximum use of the general discontent with the poor economic situation in the country.
Nikola Gruevski stated that “the top priority of the government will be integration into the EU. Our government will focus on improving the economic situation, to fight corruption and crime and raise the standard of living”. He has just started negotiating today in order to put together a stable government.

Coalition scenarios

There are possible combinations that one can think of, considering the unofficial outcome of the elections. Yet, when it comes to forming government coalitions, mathematics is not enough.
Here are some basic facts about the political panorama of Macedonia:

- No Macedonian party can form a coalition without an Albanian party (given the fact that the Albanian minority makes one third of the Macedonian population). Not only such a government has never been established in Macedonia since its independence in 1991, but also it would seriously undermine the inter-ethnic relations in the country.

- DPA leader Arben Xhaferi would not be present in any coalition government including his eternal rival Ali Ahmeti, DUI leader.

- DUI leader Ali Ahmeti categorically stated that he would reject any coalition proposal with Lubjo Georgiesvski’s VMRO-Narodna.

- NSDP leader Tito Petkovski stated beforehand that he would never make a coalition with SDSM headed by Vlado Buckovski.

- There is a serious political feud between Lubjo Georgiesvski and his former protégé and current political foe Nikola Gruevski.

- VMRO-DPMNE has always stigmatised DUI of being a “terrorist” party. DUI is the successor to the National Liberation Army of Macedonia (UCKM), which fought the Macedonian security forces in 2001.

Very inspiring perspective, isn’t it? Now if we toy with different coalition possibilities in the light of the above-mentioned facts:

- A coalition between VMRO-DPMNE and DPA actually was the most probable possibility. DPA is traditionally close to VMRO-DPMNE. And the latter, though more nationalistic before 2002, opted for DPA to be its coalition partner between 1998-2002. However, together they make only 55 seats in Parliament.

- A coalition between VMRO-DPMNE and DUI would make up 62 seats. DUI has already given the signal that it would not hesitate to cooperate with the winning party, whether SDSM or VMRO-DPMNE. Would Ahmeti go as far as forget that VMRO-DPMNE labelled his party as “terrorist”? Yes, according to Daut Dauti, well-known local analyst and publisher, “Albanian leaders are very fond of power and see elections as a question of survival”. This is the most probable coalition scenario. The majority being too narrow, Gruevski could also strike a deal with smaller groups.

- A coalition between VMRO-DPMNE, NSDP and DUI or DPA. Why not?

- A coalition between VMRO-DPMNE, VMRO-Narodna and DPA would make up 61 seats. Let alone the old feud between Gruevski and Georgievski, Xhaferi would refuse a coalition with the radical nationalist Georgievski. And the latter probably rejects the idea of cooperating with an Albanian party, which, according to him, tries to “Albanise” Macedonia.

- A coalition between VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM. Just a mathematical fantasy!

Very hard times are waiting for Nikola Gruevski indeed. The king desperately seeks his kingmaker …

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