Back in January, I posted about how Macedonia’s young Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, was for some reason the most popular head of government in the Balkans.
Well, they had Parliamentary elections at the beginning of June, and Macedonia said: yes. Gruevski’s center-right coalition won a whopping 63 out of 120 seats, giving them an outright majority. That’s very rare in this part of the world, and it’s the first time it’s ever happened in Macedonia.
Unfortunately for Gruevski, the elections did not go smoothly. There was violence at or around the polls in several ethnic-Albanian regions of the country.
The violence seemed to be connected to tensions between the two rival Albanian parties. (Note: this is the Balkans, so of course it’s more complicated than that. This is the simple, blog-post version.) Several people were shot, and in a few places polls could not be conducted because of violence or threats. The upshot was, they had to hold repeat elections in about 7% of Macedonia’s precincts — all in ethnic Albanian areas.
This is definitely a black mark for Macedonia. It also goes to another point I made earlier this year, about the political immaturity of the Albanosphere.) Hm, maybe that bears repeating here:
Albanian politics still has trouble with the whole â€œloyal oppositionâ€ concept… More generally, Albanian politics tends to be fissiparous, and driven by personalities, clan ties, regional loyalties and cash rather than ideologies. This is common, even normal in post-Communist countries, but it doesnâ€™t make it easy to form a government or run a modern state.
In this case, there’s an additional complication. Macedonia has two parties representing its large (25%-30%) ethnic Albanian minority. I’ve said before that this is probably a good thing. And it probably is — on balance. But there’s a price to be paid.
Anyway. The repeat elections were held, relatively peacefully, a couple of weeks ago.The new government will form next week. Gruevski’s list won enough seats to govern by itself, but they’re taking a coalition partner anyway: the larger of the two Albanian parties. This is an interesting switch, because for the last couple of years Gruevski was governing in coalition with the other Albanian party — the smaller one. At the time, this caused a certain amount of resentful muttering: a majority of Albanians weren’t being represented! In retrospect, though, it looks pretty clever on Gruevski’s part: he can now make swapping partners a convincing threat.
Anyway, Gruevski’s 63 plus the Albanians’ 18 gives the government 81 seats out of 120 — a two-thirds majority. Under the Macedonian constitution, that’s enough to do pretty much anything they want, including amending the constitution itself.
The smaller Albanian party, BTW, is boycotting the government. Not because of irregularities in the election (though there were plenty of those; in addition to the violence, the government pretty openly used state agencies to campaign). No, they say it’s because the other party has sold out the five-point nationalist agenda (recognition of Kosovo, pensions for Albanian guerrillas, etc. etc.) that all Albanians were supposed to agree upon.
So, watching with interest.