Macedonia – Political crisis deepens

The situation in Macedonia is getting very tense.

In the autumn of last year there were severe problems within the ruling VMRO–DPMNE/DUI coalition as the ethnic Albanian party, the DUI, opposed what they saw as as the VMRO–DPMNE’s bill to provide compensation for war veterans who had fought against the Albanians in the short conflict in 2001. The DUI lodged around 15,000 amendments to the bill in parliament, effectively stopping its discussion. To my knowledge, the bill has yet to be adopted.

Then, in December 2012 there was a crisis between the government and the opposition SDSM party over the budget. There is a very nice review of events in a paper by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung here.

Basically, the opposition adopted a similar tactic to the DUI and lodged more than a 1,000 amendments to the budget. This time, there was a deadline as the budget had to be passed by the end of the year. The government adopted some of the opposition’s amendments, but was accused of acting unconstitutionally and/or flouting parliamentary procedure to ensure the passage of the budget. There were mass protests outside parliament. On 24 December when the budget was due to be discussed, opposition deputies attacked the Speaker of the House. The security services evicted all opposition deputies and journalists and the budget was passed. The PM accused the opposition of, in effect, trying to launch a coup. The SDSM has since boycotted parliament and threatened to boycott local elections that are scheduled for next month.

The SDSM really wants a general election. However, the government refuses to hold one. To try to force one, the SDSM has now resorted to a new strategy. According to Balkan Insight, it has threatened to resign en masse from parliament. Now, Macedonia has a list electoral system. So, usually if a deputy resigns, then the next person on the list takes the outgoing deputy’s place. However, the SDSM is saying that it is resigning its whole list, so there can be no replacements. According to Balkan Insight, this could lead to a ‘partial’ parliamentary election i.e. an election for the opposition’s 43 seats. Perhaps more likely, though, parliament will simply function without the presence of the opposition deputies.

It goes without saying that this is a dangerous situation. The opposition is now relying on extra-parliamentary tactics to achieve its aim. The chances of a deal when the opposition insists on a general election and the government refuses are very small. Macedonia has faced similar situations in the period since 1990, but this one is particularly tense.

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