Although the minimal conditions are not completely fulfilled, the elections will be most likely held. We will see no benefit from the profound reforms, which Macedonia needs, prior the end of the elections, which will either deepen the crisis or will return this country “at least on the road of normality”, depending on the elections’ outcome. This is the general assessment of the three experts given for Truthmeter, who have great deal of experience regarding the political processes in Macedonia
Author: Teofil Blazhevski
One day prior the leaders’ meeting of the four greatest parliamentary parties in this country, during which a decision has to be made whether the snap elections will be held on 11 December 2016, the general, almost unanimous, assessments are that election will be held, after all.
The leaders, alongside with representatives of the international community, will probe whether a handful of minimal conditions, agreed earlier in July, are fulfilled and whether the level of fulfillment allows holding elections with fair preconditions. Let us remind, the focus was laid on the cleaning of the electoral roll and on some temporary media solutions, on an ad hoc body for monitoring of reporting and on an editor in chief of MRT 100 days prior the elections.
On the one hand, there are many people who believe that elections will be held after all, and on the other, numerous people believe that the conditions for holding elections are fulfilled, but not entirely, and the issue of the all-embracing reforms is still no way near the agenda of the political reality of the deciding factors.
ZEKOLI: SEVERE ILLNESSES ARE NOT CURED WITH ASPIRIN
Arsim Zekoli, a diplomat and an analyst, is very direct when it comes to the fulfillment of the preconditions for holding elections, and he believes that the parties will not persuade the public, no matter how hard they try:
If we judge according to Priebe’s recommendations, the conditions are not even near to being fulfilled in order for us to expect fair, transparent and democratic elections. Not only the attempts of the four parties to enact fulfillment of preconditions via formal acts are fruitless, but they will also fortify the citizens’ belief that the opposition has joined the efforts for minimizing Priebe’s clear recommendations. In fact, as we can assess from the behavior regarding the cleaning of the electoral roll and the attitude towards the media manifested via ad hoc committee. Hence, I consider the next elections as one more episode of tragi-comic attempt for curing severely ill body with bandages and aspirins.
According to Zekoli, such attitude will lead to even bigger gap between the state and the politicians on the one hand, and the citizens on the other, because the processes in the society are already “fermented”:
The needs of the first ones, including the international community, for holding elections no matter the cost and conditions represents lack of ideas and willingness for real resolution of the crisis. But, some other processes are taking place in the society, different emotions and energies are being fermented, which will additionally complicate the situation, exactly because they do not expect a solution from the current political elites and at the same time they attract citizens’ attention even more. The society becomes more and more sensitive, more sensible regarding the situation in the country, in the region and further, and all of this brings its own repercussions, no matter the attempts of the “big four” and the international community to present the opposite.
THE ELECTIONS AS AN ESCALATION TOOL
Albeit many people consider the elections as the fastest way to reach a starting point for solving the crisis, Zekoli warns that they can be a tool for deepening the crisis:
The past experience warns that with every election cycle we have been entering in even deeper crisis, instead of solving it. If we bear in mind that the citizens are poorer than they used to be three years ago, more disappointed by all big political parties, more dubious towards the non-governmental sector, more fragmented on various basis – I think I won’t be mistaken, the negative tradition will continue and the crisis will escalate even more.
I regret to declare that both the government and the opposition are equally guilty for this situation, exactly because the latter, with its rushed, egoistic and individual moves turned the all-embracing fight for reforms in a party fight for raw dominance. And all of this, of course, will be reflected on them, in the upcoming period, including the elections.
ARSOVSKI: THERE ARE NO CONDITIONS, DELAY IS PERNICIOUS
Petar Arsovski, a communicologist and an analyst of many years, also believes that the conditions are not fulfilled, not even the minimal ones stipulated as agreement from July:
The conditions, set in July, for holding elections this year are minimal, they won’t alter the ambient for holding elections, and they are not entirely fulfilled. The media are only part of the problem, and the electoral roll is still disputable. Therefore, it will be only a political will, if, on August 31, the political leaders agree to hold elections. Nothing will be related to the conditions, which frankly are not fulfilled.
When asked why such a decision would be made, Arsovski believes that without a new political reality, we’ll be standing still, and that causes damages:
Currently, the political parties show some kind of willingness to end this phase of the crisis. The delaying also causes damages. The elections were delayed several times, but the conditions were not improved. So, the political parties have most likely comprehended that there is nothing left to do and a new political reality would be the best solution. The political parties didn’t give up on big reforms now, they did so back in July, when they stated that they only need these two or three things for holding elections.
Arsovski, same as Zekoli, believes that the elections can deepen the political crisis, depending on their outcome:
If the current ruling coalition wins the elections, we can expect deepening of the political crisis. VMRO-DPMNE can continue ruling as it was, but after the “bombs”, the pressure from the domestic and international public will not disappear, but quite the contrary, it will rise. So, elections after which everything would be pretty much the same are not the solution of the political crisis.
When asked whether he believes that the opposition political parties are ready to deliver substantial reforms, Arsovski says he does not know the answer, but a wide coalition would be the right solution:
They are out of power way too long, and frankly, we don’t know what they are capable of, and what they are not capable of. Although, I think they have will. And if they come in power, and after they open the archives, nobody knows what they will face and whether they will have the capacity to deal with all of that. It is necessary to converse about some kind of wide coalition, because the reforms Macedonia needs are so profound and strong, and they require wider political consensus. None of the parties on their own can implement the reforms this country needs.
SPPO POTENTIAL VICTIM?
The legal part for solving the crisis, as one of the greatest unknown elements in the game, which is related to the Special Public Prosecution Office (SPPO), has been mentioned in most of the past analyses covering the upcoming elections. A relevant and respected expert, who solicited to remain anonymous, believe that the SPPO is “the weakest item from the last annex of the Przhino Agreement, and at the same time the ace in the ruling party’s sleeve”:
If the Constitutional Court finds a problem with the constitutionality of the Law on SPPO, which basically is lex specialis, it can make two types of decisions – to annul it or to void it. If it decides to annul it, it can annul the entire law or just parts of it. If that is the case, according to the agreement from July, the four political parties should meet and within five days, they have to bring solutions which ought to be in accordance with the Constitution, and the SPPO will continue working, but it remains unknown whether it will be completely independent and autonomous as is it now.
The suspension will be greater if the Constitutional Court decides to void it, our expert says:
The political parties should solve this issue and regardless the decision of the Constitutional Court to void the entire law. But, this time, the consequences are even bigger. None of the procedures or decisions of the SPPO, nor of the courts, will no longer be into force. Therefore, I am not sure whether elections should be held or not, and what will happen after the elections, albeit SPPO’s issue can be calculated in accordance with the elections’ outcome, and this is definitely the weakest link of the agreement from July.
On the other hand, Arsovski believes that the SPPO is not jeopardized, primarily because of the umbrella from the international community and the USA:
I see that the international community, especially the Americans, are protecting the SPPO. On the contrary, I think we’ll be witnesses of increased pressure for creating special judicial department, special police-investigative department and for increasing the competences of the SPPO. This pressure won’t stop even if VMRO-DPMNE wins, that’s why I said that their victory won’t solve the crisis, yet it will deepen it even more. The international factor considers the SPPO as the only oasis of normality in the entire political surrounding.
AFAR FROM HEAVEN
He adds that the possible annulling decisions of the Constitutional Court could be another danger – and that is another delay of the elections that is beneficial to nobody.
However, Arsovski, same as our other interlocutors, agrees that the profound and substantial reforms are currently unreachable:
I remain an optimist that Macedonia’s direction will be out of the abnormality, that we will head towards normality, but I am definitely not an optimist that all of this will happen soon. On the contrary, we’ll need plenty of time. First, we should escape from Hell to Purgatory. Heaven is still afar.