Vucic manipulates with the referendum, glosses over the fact that it’s consultative

Photo: b92.net

Speaking about the referendum in Macedonia, Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vucic, made a statement in a highly politically incorrect address from Russia that we deem manipulative and “inconsistent”. Whether coincidentally or deliberately, the Serbian President doesn’t mention that the referendum is consultative, i.e. is announced to “consult the citizens” and the decision reached on the referendum is not compulsory

This article was created in cooperation with our partners of istinomer.rs from the Republic of Serbia.

 

The Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic, commented on the outcome of the referendum in Macedonia (30 September 2018) yesterday (01.10.2018) from Moscow, and made a manipulative statement in which he glossed over an important fact – this is a consultative referendum, and that move provides space for wrongful and tendentious interpretation of the results. According to Truthmeter’s methodology, Vucic’s statement below is deemed inconsistent.

It’s none of my business to meddle in the internal affairs of one sovereign country… I’m afraid and it seems to me that some people from around the world are underestimating us the Balkan peoples and think that everything is allowed – they think, we’ll see if it’s feasible with the people, if not, we won’t go with the people, we’ll try pressuring the MPs, and if that doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter, that’s just how it’s supposed to be… I would ask the people from Europe and the world to show some respect towards us the small peoples and show that they understand what’s actually going on, Vucic said.

He also believes that “people’s opinion cannot be neglected, and nothing can be imposed from outside”:

With regard to the world, I expected bigger understanding of the true reasons for the small turnout and I expected somebody to grasp that realistically. You cannot forget what the people think, Europe must position itself more responsibly, Vucic stated.

He pointed out that Serbia has a clear stance on that, it will respect any agreement between Greece and Macedonia, but people’s opinion cannot be neglected, and nothing can be imposed from outside.

The people are mature, serious in the Balkan countries too, somebody has to comprehend that, the Serbian President averred.

[Source:B92andMKD, Date: 2 October 2018]

 

EXPLANATION:

Speaking about the referendum in Macedonia, Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vucic, made a statement in a highly politically incorrect address from Russia that we deem manipulative and “inconsistent”. With an evident degree of tendentiousness, Vucic said that Europe must position itself more responsibly, and although he considered European Union’s and world’s reaction about the Macedonian referendum important, he still expected bigger understanding of the true reasons for the small turnout and I expected somebody to grasp that realistically. Whether coincidentally or deliberately, the Serbian President doesn’t mention that the referendum is consultative, i.e. is announced to “consult the citizens” and the decision reached on the referendum is not compulsory. The fact that this important moment about the referendum’s character is ignored leaves space for manipulations, arbitrary and incorrect consideration of numbers as well as drawing wrong conclusions about the outcome of the voting.

Article 8 of the Law on Referendum and Other Forms of Direct Expression defines that “a referendum is announced so the citizens can make a decision or to be consulted” and also that:

The decision made on the decision-making referendum is compulsory.

The decision made on the referendum for consulting is not compulsory.

While article 27 stipulates that

For prior consulting the citizens about issues of broader importance for the Republic of Macedonia, a statewide referendum may be announced to consult the citizens (referendum for consulting).

So, there is a difference between: referendum for making a decision (compulsory) and referendum for consulting (consultative). The referendum that was held on Sunday (30 September 2018) was statewide and was consultative, and from the very beginning it was known that the procedure will be continue afterwards in the Parliament of the RM by making constitutional amendments.

In the first, rather chaotic part of Vucic’s statement, he clearly implies that behind everything that’s going on in Macedonia are “people from around the world” who “are underestimating us the Balkan peoples and think that everything is allowed” and later describes the specific “underestimating” in a way that puts those “people from around the world” behind the referendum (“we’ll see if it’s feasible with the people”) in a way that puts those “people from around the world” behind the idea of the constitutional amendments (“we’ll try pressuring the MPs”) in a way that those “people from around the world” are forcing the entire process (“that’s just how it’s supposed to be”). However, the relying on this conspiracy theory is for the shallow-minded. Everything that Vucic attributes to “some people from around the world” is actually laid down in article 1, item 4 of the Prespa Agreement between Macedonia and Greece, paragraphs a) to f), meaning that there are no “people from around the world” that would stay behind the curtains and would pull the strings.

4. Upon signing this Agreement, the Parties shall take the following steps:

a) The Second Party shall, without delay, submit the Agreement to its Parliament for ratification.

b) Following ratification of this Agreement by the Parliament of the Second Party, the Second Party shall notify the First Party that its Parliament has ratified the Agreement.

c) The Second Party, if it decides so, will hold a referendum.

d) The Second Party shall commence the process of constitutional amendments as provided for in this Agreement.

e) The Second Party shall conclude in toto the constitutional amendments by the end of 2018.

f) Upon notification by the Second Party of the completion of the abovementioned constitutional amendments and of all its internal legal procedures for the entry into force of this Agreement, the First Party shall promptly ratify this Agreement.

Moreover, the part of Vucic’s statement in which he says that he expected “bigger understanding of the true reasons for the small turnout” and that he expected “somebody to grasp that realistically” while adding “what the people think cannot be forgotten” and concluding that “Europe must position itself more responsibly” is also symptomatic.

Yet again, Vucic is vague (first he says “the world” then “Europe”) as if he wants to concealingly say that he is aware of the reasons for the “small turnout” and the world knows them as well but it doesn’t want to “understand” and “grasp” them. As if concealing the reasons due to some sort of his interests or some sort of his ill-intentions. And of course, he doesn’t appease us with his wisdom, he doesn’t say why the turnout was “small”.

First, the turnout is not up for a debate. Plenty of analysts beg to disagree that the turnout was small considering the underground boycott of the referendum by VMRO-DPMNE and also considering the well-financed open boycott of anonymous groups. According to these analysts, if VMRO-DPMNE called its voters to cast their ballot, the referendum would’ve been a success and they also opine that this party’s most important mission is to come back to power using obstructions, instead of fulfilling country’s Euro-Atlantic integrations.

And, if the Prime Minister Zaev and the Government were supposed to find some sort of way to persuade the members and fans of VMRO-DPMNE to vote despite the calls on boycott, abstinence and broadside against the agreement on the part of the party leadership itself, the only thing Vucic has to do is to ask himself whether the Serbian opposition leaders would manage to persuade the members and fans of his Serbian Progressive Party to vote in a referendum, if he calls them to boycott such referendum. Simply, asking a political leader in the Balkans (and even Europe) to persuade the members and fans of the rival party to heed him at the expense of his own leadership is too much. Yes, it’s possible in theory, but in practice, such thing has almost never happened in the political history of the region.

According to the official results published by the State Electoral Commission (SEC) (from the 100 percent of the voting posts), 666.743 citizens or 36.91 percent from the total of 1.806.336 persons on the electoral rolls voted. The referendum question “Do you support the NATO and EU membership by accepting the agreement between Macedonia and Greece” was voted “for” by 91.46 percent or 609.813 voters, while the percentage of “against” voters stands at 5.65 or 37.700 voters. The number of invalid ballots stands at 19.221 or 2.89 percent.

These referendum results do not afford the Government lot of space for triumphalism and euphoria. But, at the same time, irrespective of the fact that the census was not reached, the will of the 609.813 citizens voting “for” in a situation of a doubly organized boycott cannot be disregarded.

Therefore, the Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has a legitimate right, but also a duty to transfer this large support into the Parliament’s legislative agenda. And if two thirds majority (80 votes) cannot be secured there, snap parliamentary elections should take place in order to fulfill the obligations from the agreement with Greece as a precondition for a final push toward EU and NATO.

That is the way out from this crisis. Some other alternative, at least publicly, was not stated by anybody by now. Not even by Vucic.

 

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This article was created within the framework of the Project to increase the accountability of the politicians and political parties Truthmeter implemented by Metamorphosis. The article is made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for Democracy(NED) and The Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD), a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, an initiative that supports democracy, good governance, and Euroatlantic integration in Southeastern Europe. The content is the responsibility of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, National Endowment for Democracy, the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, or its partners.