“Macedonia’s Obama”?

Macedonia will hold Presidential elections this weekend. No news there. But here’s the interesting thing: recent polls suggest that an ethnic Albanian candidate, Imer Selmani, has a decent chance of making it past the first round. If so, he’d become the first ethnic Albanian to enter the runoff for Macedonia’s Presidency.

Why is this even possible? Well, to make a long story short, all the other major candidates have managed to make themselves look like idiots. They’ve traded stupid accusations and name-calling, while Selmani has managed to remain above the fray. It doesn’t hurt that he’s young, good-looking, and speaks perfect Macedonian.

Let’s be clear: even if Selmani makes it to the runoff round — unlikely, but possible — he’s not going to become President. That would require between a quarter and a third of Slav Macedonians to vote for an Albanian. This is not going to happen.

That said, there are some interesting stories like this one:

Several Orthodox Christian believers from Macedonia’s central town of Negotino, worried they would be committing a sin if they vote for Muslim candidate Imer Selmani in this Sunday’s presidential elections, have asked, and got the blessing to do so from their local priest…

“Since I consider myself to be a big believer, and my fellow citizens know me as one, I consulted my priest in order not to make a mistake, since Imer Selmani is a Muslim,” said one Negotino resident to the local ”Dnevnik” newspaper.

He said that he is honestly considering voting for Selmani because, “unlike the rest of the candidates, he [Selmani] has insulted no one during the campaign”…

According to the newspaper more and more people from this mainly Orthodox town populated with ethnic Macedonians are considering voting for the ethnic Albanian Selmani, comparing him to Barack Obama who became the first US president with an African American background.

Again: it isn’t going to happen. But it’s interesting that Selmani is trying hard to reach out to the Slav Macedonians. He’s holding rallies in non-Albanian areas and conducting most of his campaign in Macedonian rather than Albanian. He’s probably doing this as part of a complex power play within the Albanian community — I’m not even going to try to explain the interaction among the Albanian parties, because I don’t understand it myself — but still: just the attempt is fascinating. It’s something that hasn’t been seen in the region since Yugoslav days.

It’ll be very interesting to see how it plays out. Round I is on Sunday; watch this space.

[Update, Monday the 23rd]: Nope — Selmani got dinged in the first round. Third place.

24 thoughts on ““Macedonia’s Obama”?

  1. As an Obama fan, I’d like to believe that Obama won because he did more than not speak in black terms….

    Anyway, I always thought Macedonia was a greek province….

  2. The UN recognised name is actually FYROM.
    Macedonia is the name of a Greek province.

  3. FYROM is the provisional term that the UN agreed to use until the Greeks and Macedonians could reach an agreement.

    The Greek position that it’s really the “official” name is nonsense on stilts. It’s not even a name, formally — the provisional agreement states that FYROM is a “reference” member states can choose to use until an agreement is reached.

    Sam, there is also a Greek province named Macedonia. Just like there’s a Belgian province named Luxembourg, a Mexican state named California, a Romanian region called Moldova, etc. etc. etc.

    Now, before this gets derailed by the name dispute, I tell you what. I promise that within… oh, a week… I’ll post something about the name dispute. Greeks and Macedonians you can scream at each other there. Won’t that be fun? Meanwhile, please restrict your comments here to discussion of Macedonia’s Presidential election, or at least of Macedonia’s politics other than the name dispute. (Believe it or not, there are some.)

    Doug M.

  4. Personally, I’m reminded of Elisabeth Rehn’s 1994 campaign.

    The difference being that back then, the factor was language/gender; in this case, it seems to be language/ethnicity/religion.


    J. J.

  5. He can not possibly compare himself to Obama. The African Americans are loyal to the country, while a big part of the Albanians are not loyal to Macedonia. Also, there were never 300 years of slavery in Macedonia. Actually, it was the Christians that were opressed for more than 500 years under the Ottoman Empire.

    When the Americans elect a Mexican for president, someone who talks spanish on the election campaign, uses the Mexican instead of the American flag, sings the Mexican instead of the US hymn, and whose electorate wants Texas, Arizona and New Mexico to be separated from America and joined to Mexico, then we can start making paralels.

    And please stop reffering to us as Slav Macedonians. It’s an insult and a greek attempt of undermining our identity. Do you call Serbs Slav Serbs? Or Poles Slav Poles? Or Ukrainians Slav Ukrainins? No, you don’t, so stop using hate language.

  6. Uh, Jimmy Carter speaks Spanish. And he spoke it also during his election campaign. It was a rather big deal, actually; that whole stuff of how he had memorized the Bible in Spanish.

    And the second Bush occasionally _tried_ to speak Spanish, or at least a few one-liners. However, his brother, the governor of Florida, apparently speaks Spanish quite well.

    (I’m not sure how politically correct it would be to mention Jean-Marie Le Pen, who, if memory serves, speaks Breton as his first language, and also made it to the second round in the French presidential elections…)

    As for your other comments, Selmani isn’t a separatist. If he was, why would he be running for the Presidency?

    And when it comes to this “hate language”… you know, over here, we can use terms such as “Finnish Swedes” or even “Estonian Russians” just like that, and no one gets a bug up his/her arse because of it.


    J. J.

  7. J.J., I’m sorry, but it’s obvious to me that you don’t know anything about Macedonia and Balkan politics because your analogies are completely wrong. I’ll just comment on your last paragraph.

    The term “Finnish Swedes” refers to the Swedish minority in Finland. But in the case of the Macedonians, we are not talking about a minority that lives in some neighboring country. The Macedonians are a majority in the Republic of Macedonia. And we simply call ourselves Macedonians, not Slav Macedonians, not Skopjanians, not Fyromians or whatever is the Greek insult of the day. The name Slav Macedonians is a part of a large campaign by the Greeks who want to erase us from history and to prevent the return of property to Macedonian refugees who were born in the part of Macedonia occupied by Greece.

    To make a parallel, imagine this hypothetical situation. Let’s say you are Luxembourgish. The Belgians however, press hard on the international community to change your name into Germanic Luxembourgish. They also say that you are an invented nation that didn’t exist 60 years ago (even though this is within living memory). They do this because they try to present you as an outsider on that land and take all the Luxembourgish history and the rights to the land and name for themselves. They do this because in the past they have conquered a large chunk of the historical Luxembourg, have killed and expelled most of the people and colonized it with people from other parts of Belgium. Let’s just say they have a lot of bones in the closet.

    And then someone who doesn’t know anything about you comes and actually tells you that you are not Luxembourgish, but Germanic Luxembourgish and that you have no right to be pissed off at him because when someone uses the term “Estonian Russians” no one gets a bug up his/her arse. Give me a break. Only we can decide what we find insulting, who are you to tell us?

    So, instead of calling me names, why don’t you read this interview of Victor Friedman who a professor at Chicago University.


  8. Strangely enough, “Marski”, I have no recollection of calling you by any names. I have a tendency to use vulgar language on occasion, but in these parts of the World, it’s pretty much a norm, and not directed against anyone in particular.

    But anyway. Assuming that my experiences with people from the Balkans would be limited to only you, I might make a conclusion that the people from your parts of the World are hyper-sensitive. As for “false analogies”, from your response, I take it that you’re not interested in retracting those twisted parallels that you made regarding the United States?

    By the way, the local Swedish minority has an overarching definition for our entire nation; the term “finländarna”, which encompasses all inhabitants of Finland, regardless of their language. The fine-tuning is done by actual ethnic terms; “finnar” for Finnish-speakers, and “finlandssvenskar” for Swedish-speakers.

    Works just fine, and guess what? This country hasn’t experienced any recent ethnic tensions or secession attempts requiring the presence of multi-national peace-keeping forces.

    So. Since Selmani is obviously a Macedonian citizen, and lives in Macedonia, it stands to reason that he’s a Macedonian Albanian. From his viewpoint, using the term “Slav Macedonian” as a short-hand for the majority doesn’t seem particularly insulting. Hell, I’m at loss why exactly you have to find it insulting. What, you don’t like being a part of the Slavic family?

    If you want another example, should the term “Anglo-American” also be regarded as an insult?

    As for that final comment; yes, of course it’s true that you’re the only one who’s in the position to decide your own subjective feelings of what’s insulting and what isn’t. Equally, the rest of us can also decide whether your feelings in those matters can be regarded sensible or not.

    As for “who are we to tell you”… sheesh. Dude, my tax money has also played a part in keeping your country as a going concern – and at least in your case, apparently to no effect. But I’m a fair man; when the day comes that Macedonian peace-keepers are on patrol in Finland, you can start lecturing me in an equally smug fashion.


    J. J.

  9. J.J., you are right about most of the people from the Balkans being hyper-sensitive. Macedonia in particular has been attacked on so many fronts by so many different interests, that we have the right to be hyper-sensitive. Our sole existence is a threat to the Greek national myth of a homogenuos nation.

    You said that in Finland you use different names for different purposes. That’s fine. Were those names imposed by your enemies? Do you even have enemies? Do you know how it feels to be bombarded with hate for just expressing your nationality? Have you car ever been vandalised because of its licence plate? Have you ever been stopped at the Greek border and forced to scratch out the country code sticker on your car in order to be allowed to continue on your journey? Just because MK stands for Makedonija.

    Slav-Macedonian is a term invented by the Greeks. We have never used it to describe ourselves. It has been imposed by another country, a country that has done and is still doing much harm to my people. As for ourselves, we are simply Macedonians. Anything else is unacceptable.

    About Selmani. I have nothing against Selmani personally, he is a charismatic, positive and capable man. He is making some steps in the right direction. I salute that. But, at the same time, he is a leader of a right-wing ethnic Albanian party. There are no Macedonians in his party, only Albanians. Some of those Albanians have rather radical views about the future of this country and as his main electoral body are certainly going to influence his politics once he is in power.

  10. Marski,
    sorry, but there is a larger population(than the population of FYROM) living in Greece who call themselves Macedonians, they own the larger part of the region and they have a much stronger historical connection to the land. So why should anything “macedonian” refer to the minority of questionably macedonians and not the majority? Don’t you understand that this is insulting to them?

    And Doug, as long as you go along with using the term “macedonian” to refer to the minority of questionably macedonians, you are insulting the rest and you should expect reactions. California is a state in both countries, Ireland is the larger and originally irish part of the island and at any rate countries are only bound by treaties and conventions they sign, not the practice of some other country. Just because the UK and the US have routinely bombed countries they did not like does not create a precedent.

  11. Scot, do you mean the Greek Pontians that colonized Aegean Macedonia after the Greko-Turk exchange of population in 1923? The people that expelled our grandfathers and moved into their homes? ABout one third of the population of my town are refugees or the descendants of refugees from Aegean Macedonia (Northern Greece). So, according to you, just because they conquered a larger chunk of our land, now they have right of the name?

    Actually, we don’t mind. They can call themselves whatever they please. Who are we to tell them who they are? You see, we don’t want exclusivity over the name. But Greece does. That’s the problem.

    J.J., do you see the previous comment? Do you now understand why my stance for the name is so hardline? They are trying to take our identity right to the name in order to cover up the atrocities they did on the Macedonians in Northern Greece. After all, if the Macedonians are Greeks, then all the claims for ethnic cleansing, racism and opression must be false, right?

  12. Mr Marski,
    Your sensitivity doesn’t impress me. As far as I can see, the stronger always killed the weaker. Aleksander the Great conquered almost the entire known world in the name of stenght. The French, Spanish and British led the Americas’ population to virtual non-existence. European viruses were stronger than their immunologic systems. Europe had ships, guns and banking. My granddad killed many Germans. He was stronger than occupation and extermination.
    This is why I exist. The law of the jungle decrees: have no mercy for the weak, have compassion for the stronger. Why should I sympathize with your weakness?

  13. Here is a gentle reminder that this blog is moderated. Comments that are profane, very offensive, far off topic, or just profoundly stupid will be deleted.

    The topic of this entry is Macedonia’s Presidential election. Please try to keep your comments within arm’s reach of this.

    Doug M.

  14. Well, that didn’t take very long.

    I’ll say again: soon I will post something about the name dispute. It will have a comment thread, in which you will be free — free! — to scream at each other all you like.

    THIS IS NOT THAT THREAD. This is a post about Macedonia’s Presidential election. Comments that are not relevant the election will be deleted.

    Thank you for your understanding.

    Doug M.

  15. Well Doug,
    if you insist on using a name that is offensive to one side, then you are part of the problem. And, btw, there was nothing “profane, very offensive, far off topic, or just profoundly stupid” about my post. Just a point for point rebuttal of Marski’w post, which apparently you did not consider “profane, very offensive, far off topic, or just profoundly stupid”. That said,
    I’d probably agree with Sam that Obama did not win because of race.

  16. Doug, the elections are over, Selmani is fourth after Ivanov, Frckovski and Boshkovski. I’m personally surprised by Boshkovski’s results, I expected him to get much less support. However, Selmani got a respectable amount too, and he did get some Macedonian votes, but very few.

    By the way, before Selmani announced that he is going to run for president, the other two Albanian political parties seemed uninterested in the presidential elections. But after he did, they nominated their own candidates just to sabotage him. And DUI’s Agron Budzaku managed just that on the last presidential debate. He uncovered some interesting things before the Macedonian viewers. Lets just say Selmani has not been telling the same things to the Albanians and Macedonians. Anyway, if it wasn’t for that debate and if the other two Albanian parties didn’t nominate their candidates, he would’ve actually had a shot for the second place (though it would’ve been a very tight race).

    Still, all is not lost for Selmani. I think his greatest victory is that he got more votes than the other two Albanian candidates put together, so his party is probably going to replace Taci’s DPA as the second biggest at the next parliamentary elections. So, we are going to see more of him in the following years. And you know what, I think that’s a good thing, I’ll take Selmani over Taci any day of the week.

  17. Marski, I’ve already updated the original post. I thought Selmani was third — I was looking at projections, not final results.

    The willingness of the Albanian parties to sabotage each other is both good and bad. It’s unfortunate that they have to do this, but on the other hand a single party for all Albanians would probably be very bad for Macedonia.

    Personally, I’m surprised that Frckovski did so well…

    Doug M.

  18. Well, Frckovski was the candidate of the second largest party (even though the rating of SDSM at the moment is historically low). So, I wasn’t surprised by his results. If he ran as an independent though, he wouldn’t have gotten anything approaching that number. I was truly dumbfounded when he was nominated by the SDSM. What were they thinking?

    The only smart move by SDSM at these elections is their (semi-hidden) support for Boshkovski which took a lot of Ivanov’s votes. But they won’t have that advantage at the second round.

    Anyway, the results thus far (from about 83,06% of the vote):

    Ivanov(VMRO) – 35,33%
    Frckoski(SDSM) – 20,12%
    Boshkovski(Ind.)- 15,11%
    Selmani(ND) – 14,97%
    Budzaku(DUI) – 7,57%
    Ruzin(LDP) – 3,74%
    Hodza(DPA) – 3,16%

  19. Just a small update. You were right, in the end Selmani did finish third. Extremely tight race between him and Boshkovski.

  20. Pingback: Roundup of election results from Europe to Latin America | Worldfocus

  21. Pingback: Roundup of election results from Europe to Latin America | Politics News

  22. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece is optimistic about the name issue with Skopje.

    Sources from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece, have claimed to be optimistic about the future outcome of the name issue with Skopje.

    The Greek side, they claimed, is flanked by experienced diplomats, well known for their accomplishments in modern diplomatic history.

    The Greek interlocutor in the past had been entrusted with the task of solving the issue of the pending parking tickets issued by the Mayor of New York to Greek Diplomats, for illegal parking, which amounted to $550.000.

    The Greek Side, claimed that “the diplomats wouldn’t be obliged to pay, because no measures could be taken against them, due to Vienna Convention for Diplomatic Relations”.

    The Mayor of New York sent the bill to the State Department. The Greek side continued to be confident. The State Department transmitted the bill to Ministry of Defense. The Greek side started questioning “There is something fishy about it..”.

    Then they heard the news “All scholarships to Greek military personnel for training in the U.S. is suspended until the $550.000 parking ticked is paid to the Mayor of New York”.

    The Greek side became anxious about the turnout of the issue. The charged the experienced interlocutor to start negotiations about the amount to be paid. “How about paying you $400.000 and we stop talking?”, “how about paying you $400.000 now and the remaining $150.000 is paid in 99 years?”, “how about paying now the whole amount minus 10%?”, “how about paying you in Panama Canal bonds?”, “how about not paying, but you to be free to park where you like in the center of Athens without getting parking tickets?”.

    After receiving “No”s about a hundred times (2005-2006), the Greek side paid $550.000. The illegally parked cars’ owners were never called to reimburse the Greek tax payers money of $550.000 corresponding to their respective illegal parking practices.

    The other strong weapon of the Greek diplomacy is the Supreme Service Council (“Anotato Ypiresiako Symboulio). It is comprised of high ranking diplomats (even retired ones, some of them very old, invalid or close to dying). The new clauses of the reformed status Law of the Foreign Ministry stipulate “that the low rank officials whose case is brought before the Supreme Service Council, have no right whatsoever to be represented before such a council even is the said council is ready to kick them out of the service for grounds of incompetence. In such cases, even the Foreign Minister cannot modify the Council’s decision”.

    Retired ex diplomats, aged between 70 and 87, (experienced in persecuting young diplomats) that constitute “the Greek Foreign Minister’s elite advisory group”, have claimed that Greece shall come victorious in the name dispute with Skopje, if the latter ever decides that the issue shall be discussed and determined exclusively within the “Supreme Service Council” of the Foreign Ministry of Greece.

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