Oh, yes, Macedonia

They had Parliamentary elections last week. Nobody much noticed, but,

1) The voting was conducted in good order and — according to international observers — was, for the most part, fair and without irregularities;

2) The opposition won a fairly clear victory; and,

3) The government promptly acknowledged the opposition victory, and is handing over power forthwith.

This is no small thing in Macedonia, an ethnically divided country with a long and miserable history of political violence. A bit more below the fold.

The new government will consist of the conservatives, VMRO-DPMN (don’t ask), and their Albanian allies. This seems to fit a pattern I commented on last year, in which successful Balkan governments, usually of the center-left, have been punished at the polls for not being successful enough.

You may recall that Macedonia is about 30% Albanian, and that this has caused some problems… most notably a short but vicious civil war in 2001-2. At that time, it seemed like no Parliamentary political solution could easily accomodate such a large minority; if part of a government, they’d dominate it, but if kept out, they’d revolt.

The Albanians, bless their little hearts, neatly solved the problem by splitting into two parties, which look set to alternate in power and opposition. The last government consisted of the Big Albanian Party (it’s called the BPI, did you really need to know that?) and the Socialists. This government will consist of the the Little Albanian Party in coalition with the conservatives.

Of course, this being the Balkans, nothing is entirely easy. The split between the two Albanian parties is no joke. To oversimplify, Big Party claims to be the sole legitimate representative of the Albanians. Little Party, of course, disagrees. The division is not artificial, and the two despise each other with real and passionate sincerity. On election night, both claimed the main square of Tetovo (the major Albanian city) for their victory celebration. Since members of both parties showed up armed, there was serious fear of violence. It didn’t happen, thank goodness, but Big Party has gone into a Homeric sulk and is muttering darkly about refusing to recognize the new government.

Also, while election day went off rather smoothly, the campaign was bumpy, with threats of violence and a great deal of ugly language thrown among the candidates. Particulary (sigh) on the Albanian side.

So there’s still room for improvement. But still: Macedonia has come a very long way in a very short time. Compare and contrast to, say, Albania’s election last year, where Fatos Nano clung to office for nearly two months before finally conceding defeat with as much ill grace as possible. By regional standards, they’re doing very well indeed.

Oh, and Macedonia is an EU candidate. One of just three, along with Croatia and Turkey. That still blows my mind. Macedonia says it wants to join in 2012, which would put it a couple of years behind Croatia but well ahead of any other possible entrant. I’ve always thought that was ridiculously optimistic, but who knows? Macedonia has been surprising us for a little while now.

60 thoughts on “Oh, yes, Macedonia

  1. I travel very often in the region. About 2 weeks ago I was stopped in the border coming in from Serbia for 3 hours (!!) They checked driving insurance, visa, then silence, then I had to pay a fine out of nowhere to renew insurance (although it was still valid), but the officer in the border kept the insurance paper for himself, when I asked it back, he refused he had it, I asked his colleague, his colleague said that they teared it apart. Bottom line I had to pay. No atm machine around for the 60 Euro (!!) fine. Before I know it, a taxi had been arranged to take me to the nearest town to draw some money out. The taxi driver asked for 25 Euros for 7 km. He was not a taxi driver. I asked the policemen and border police for help. They ignored me, pretending they do not understand what I am saying in THEIR language. The fake taxi driver was very “friendly”, he took me to his friend to exchange dinars to Euros (at a questionable rate) and then to his friend for renewing car insurance. All these to a 27 yr old girl. Do not travel there unless u research corruption.

  2. Nedi, can you give me the exact border point, and the date, and if by any chance you have the policemen`s names it would be great.
    Thank you

  3. Yes, it was the 10th of July. Arrived there around 2 o clock in the afternoon, driving on the E75, crossed the border just before Kumanovo. Got no answer to “Kako se zove”.

  4. I have to add that this seems to be a usual practice. Fake taxi driver was already there drinking his coffee with border police. Very kind border police woman was the only replying back to me and said i will probably have to take a taxi to go to the nearest town, she would guard my passport till I come back. Risky, but I trusted her, because otherwise I could not move back or forth cause they kept my passport. Also local car insurance office confirmed it is usual that my car insurance paper went to trash.

  5. Mr Amsterdamski,
    My offer is still open for you. If you don’t give any your answer to my offer, every visitors of this site must consider you as big liar.

  6. My offfer is overdue Mr Liar. If you have courage you have to apologize to these serious visitors on this forum for the lies you wrote. And up to them will they accept or reject your apologize.
    Shame on you mr.amsterdamski. You don’t deserve capital letter on your name.

  7. Well said Les. I am a Macedonian Greek and I find it very insulting that the current citizens of Fyrom call themselves Macedonian.

    It’s unfortunate that this new country simply can’t realize how they discredit themselves in the international community by making all these ludicrous claims. But then again, if you have been brainwashed to think and feel this way what can you do? Get a better education perhaps?

  8. There are at least 40% Albanian-Macedonians in Macedonia. When Macedonia will join EU they will have to make a real census and count all of us. No one is dreaming of Greater Albania. We want a stable and peaceful Macedonia in a United Europe. But we won’t let ourselves be treated as second-hand citizens. Not any more.

  9. My wife and I spent time in Macedonia with both turkish villages in the mountains and orthodox in Skopje; There are real ethnic tensions; and there are bubbles of hope; but not living there, I do not face nor truly understand everyday tensions there…..I loved all the people…and the country.

Comments are closed.