International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses developments in the Middle East and the Balkans. IFIMES compiled an analysis of the current political situation in the Republic of North Macedonia with respect to the last phase of campaign for the early parliamentary elections scheduled to take place on 15 July 2020. We bring the most interesting excerpts from a comprehensive analysis titled “2020 Parliamentary elections in North Macedonia: Will the Macedonians be on the right side of the history again?”
The early parliamentary elections in the Republic of North Macedonia will be held on 15 July 2020. Initially the elections were scheduled to take place on 12 April 2020, but were postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On 30 June 2020, the IFIMES international institute published a pre-election analysis titled “Parliamentary elections in North Macedonia: Membership in NATO is a historic success.”/Парламентарни избори во Северна Македонија 2020: Членството во НАТО како историски успех“ (link: https://www.ifimes.org/en/9849 ).
Based on the system of proportionality, a little less than 1.8 million voters will have the right to vote for the Macedonian parliament (Sobranie), which has 120 seats. These elections as well will be a duel of two leading political parties, the Social-Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM – the ruling social-democratic party) and VMRO-DPMNE (opposition conservative right-wing party). There are also smaller political parties such as the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI – a ruling party of ethnic Albanians), Alliance for Albanians (ASH – an opposition party of ethnic Albanians), as well as political parties of minorities such as the Turks, Roma, Bosniaks, Serbs and others, which traditionally have representatives in the Macedonian parliament.
Parliamentary elections are an opportunity for continuation of changes in the Republic of North Macedonia, which were commenced following the establishment of the new coalition government of the Republic of North Macedonia on 31 May 2017, headed by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (SDSM).
The parliamentary elections in the Republic of North Macedonia are not just ordinary periodic elections for both sides of the political spectrum (SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE), because of the ongoing political struggle between democracy and authoritarianism, that is between civic and/or ethnic character of North Macedonia. However, once again it boils down to election between “Antiquity and Future”.
The parliamentary elections are an opportunity to deliver a final blow to the duo of Nikola Gruevski (VMRO- DMPNE) and Sašo Mijalkov (VMRO-DPMNE), who are directly responsible for the unlawful surveillance of more than 26,000 citizens and syphoning out of the country more than 5 billion Euros. The list could be expanded with unresolved murders and physical liquidations from the period of their rule and numerous inter-ethnic incidents. It is worth reminding that in the last three years no new inter-ethnic incidents have been recorded in this multiethnic West Balkan country.
That is why, according to assessments by analysts, the parliamentary elections are a another contest between Zoran Zaev (SDSM) and Nikola Gruevski (VMRO-DPMNE), who is managing his election campaign from Budapest with the logistics and support of at least four states, which had put their security-intelligence apparatuses and unlimited funds at his disposal in order to assist him in his attempt to topple the current government in North Macedonia gathered around the SDSM and Zoran Zaev.
De-Gruevization of the Republic of North Macedonia is about facing the past, as well as the causes and consequences of the regime of Nikola Gruevski and VMRO-DPMNE. It entails a lengthy process of dismantling of the regime, which is still capillary present in all segments of the Macedonian state and society. Gruevski still cultivates serious intentions to return from Hungary to North Macedonia “on a white horse” and become the prime minister of the country. However, Gruevski is the only and true candidate of VRMRO-DPMNE for the position of the prime minister of the Republic of North Macedonia and Zaev's rival.
Although the VMRO-DPMNE should be a nationalist party, its current political program does not contain any concrete promises. The party did not clearly announce compliance with the Prespa Agreement or the Ohrid Framework Agreement. It also did not announce unilateral change of the name of the country as it had frequently rhetorically promised, or a change of name for internal and/or external purposes. Such a policy is not distinguishable and does not reflect the practice or policy that would truly remind of the VMRO-DPMNE from 20 or 30 years ago. That is why the long-time members of VMRO-DPMNE have dubbed the party „the other SDSM“, because with such a shaky and flabby rhetoric it is not able to consolidate and attract its own electorate, let alone other voters. As a result, the current VMRO-DPMNE offers no sound alternative to VMRO supporters, as the long-time VMRO members worryingly believe. Namely, the long-time VMRO members are once again afraid that they could provoke major western powers such as the United States, United Kingdom and Germany, which had unambiguously said “NO” to such a destabilizing policy of the VMRO-DPMNE, particularly now when the dialogue between the official Belgrade and Priština has entered its final phase and when the time has come to resolve the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nobody wants to see destabilization of the situation in North Macedonia and the region.
With the signing of the Prespa Agreement Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras defeated the doctrine of Slobodan Milošević and Constantin Mitsotakis. The doctrine was assisted by specific Macedonian political parties and did not plan for existence of Macedonia as a state and Macedonians as a people. Full-fledged membership in NATO provided for fulfillment of a century long dream of Macedonians and other citizens of the country to have their own state whose territorial integrity and sovereignty are guaranteed by the biggest and strongest military alliance in the world – NATO. The membership in NATO also defeated the expansionist state projects, which involved or included aspirations towards North Macedonia.
For the first time since it gained sovereignty and independence, there is a pre-election multiethnic coalition, including ethnic Macedonians and Albanians, as well as other citizens of the country on the political stage in the country. The coalition of the SDSM and the BESA Albanian political party is a sign of progress and political maturing of the Macedonian society.
In fact, the current Government of the Republic of North Macedonia is a “distracting” factor for the above described political forces, because it bases its activities on association through the “One society for all” and “Government for citizens” paradigm. Establishment of the coalition of the SDSM and BESA is a result of such a policy and vision of the civic concept of the state.
This is why the DUI President Ali Ahmeti has intensified his contacts and concerted his activities with Nikola Gruevski, with whom he shares an 11-years long political as well as criminal history, with the aim of having the VMRO-DPMNE and DUI once again establish a coalition Macedonian government. This means that at the upcoming elections, a vote in favor of the DUI will actually be a vote in favor of the VMRO-DPMNE and Gruevski.
Analysts believe that the political actions of Ali Ahmeti and DUI are similar to political actions of Dragan Čović and the Croat Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZBiH), which was established as a satellite party of the HDZ Croatia in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The two parties always put forward maximalist requests and refer to defense of “their“ respective ethnic community, that is Albanians and BiH Croats, while concealing their completely different interests, primarily criminal ones. One of the consequences of such a policy is that the number of Albanians and BiH Croats has halved. Ahmeti and Čović present themselves in public as the proponents of the European path and European values, while they actually promote criminal and the darkest European values, which are connected with the defeated ideologies of World War II, such as fascism and similar ideologies.
The upcoming parliamentary elections in the Republic of North Macedonia are important for both sides of the political spectrum (SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE), because they are a matter of the political fight between the concept of the past and the future. Therefore, it is important that at the upcoming parliamentary elections Macedonians choose the right side of the history and stay commitment to their future and the future of their country. The upcoming elections are of key importance for North Macedonia, and even the region, in the context of its path to Euro-Atlantic integration, because the current Macedonian government has proven itself as a leader and proponent of reform processes in the region.
Analysts warn of the fatal consequences of the nationalist concept and nationalist policies in a multiethnic country, such as North Macedonia, as was proven during the VMRO-DPMNE and DUI rule in the period from 2006 to 2017. That is why, once again, the parliamentary elections boil down to the choice between “the West and the East” and different systems of values. These parliamentary elections are not just ordinary elections, but a continuation of parliamentary elections and the political changes and processes commenced on 11 December 2016, that is with the holding of early parliamentary elections that led to the overthrow of the regime of Nikola Gruevski (VMRO-DPMNE) and establishment of the new ruling coalition, headed by the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM).
On 9 October 2019, in Novi Sad (Serbia), North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (SDSM), Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić (SNS) and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama (PS) signed the Declaration of intent to establish a “mini Schengen” including the three countries. The joint declaration envisaged elimination of border controls and other barriers by end-2021, which should facilitate movement in the region, enable citizens to use only national identification cards for crossing the borders (of the three countries) and find employment (in one of the three countries) if they have a certificate of their qualifications. The Declaration also provided for recognition of diplomas, as well as better cooperation in the area of fight against organized crime and assistance in case of natural disasters (floods, earthquakes, pandemics, etc.).
The signed declaration should assist the entire West Balkan region to start functioning in line with the four key freedoms promoted by the European Union- freedom of movement of capital, goods, services and people. The initiative is also open for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo. It was emphasized that the initiative does not constitute a substitute for or alternative to membership of countries from the region in the European Union.
Analysts believe that the initiative aimed at improvement of cooperation among the six West Balkan countries (Serbia, Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo), dubbed „mini Schengen“, is the most important initiative since the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and does not imply abandonment of integration or an alternative to membership in the EU. The initiative is a kind of Beneluxization of the region following the model of three Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg), which signed the Agreement on establishment of a customs union in 1944 in London. The agreement was implemented in 1947. In 1960 the agreement was replaced by treaty establishing the Benelux Economic Union. Establishment of this Union significantly instigated the establishment of the European Union.
Studies and calculations have shown that initially North Macedonia would benefit the most from this initiative. It would be followed by Albania and Serbia. According to the analysts, had the „mini Schengen“ initiative been implemented countries in the region would be by far more successful in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, as it has transpired that absence of connectedness and regional cooperation can be fatal for citizens and protection of their lives.
Ljubljana/Skopje, 14 July 2020
 IFIMES – The Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies from Ljubljana, Slovenia has a special consultative status within the Economic and Social Council /UN, New York since 2018.
 Dragan Čović is known to the Macedonian public because as the Chair of the BiH Presidency and President of the Organizational Board of the International Investment Conference in Mostar, which was held from 26 to 27 February 2004, he invited the then Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski to attend the conference, although he was aware that the Mostar Airport does not have the technical capabilities and conditions for landing similar to those of the Sarajevo Airport. He has never been interviewed in the investigation into the plane crash in which Trajkovski was killed.