Regular local elections recently ended in North Macedonia, in which the opposition party VMRO-DPMNE won a major victory over the ruling SDSM, winning over 110,000 more votes than Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s party. VMRO-DPMNE won not only in most Macedonian municipalities, but also in the capital Skopje, while for the first time Kumanovo was led by a member of the ruling SDSM, Maksim Dimitrijevski, who, due to open conflict with party leader Zoran Zaev ran as an independent candidate, and with the support of VMRO-DPMNE voters, he defeated his opponent from the ranks of the parent party.
When it comes to the Albanian political camp, the situation there has changed significantly, and in the largest Albanian cities in North Macedonia, Tetovo and Gostivar were won by candidates who are not from the ruling DUI Ali Ahmeti, but the candidate of BESA has won in Tetovo, also a coalition partner of Zoran Zaev at the republic level, while in Gostivar has won the candidate of the opposition Albanian party Alliance for Albanians, who was supported by VMRO-DPMNE, but also by the Albanian party Alternative, which was in the opposition until a few days ago, but in the post-election period, however, it decided to become part of the ruling coalition, arguing that this would ensure a stable future for the current Macedonian government.
“Albanianization” of the new Macedonian government
But things are not at all simple in relation to how they look. The future new government, which will not be headed by Zaev this time, due to the announced irrevocable resignation, but will be a candidate from the SDSM, will be composed of as many as four Albanian parties DUI, BESA, Alternativa and the Democratic Party of Albanians. Although it seems that it will be a numerically stable coalition, such a composition of the government will certainly open the issue of “cake sharing”, especially between the Albanian coalition partners who are political enemies of each other. Thing that will bring into question the new Macedonian government may not be its legitimacy, given that the SDSM won much fewer votes at the local level than the opposition VMRO-DPMNE, but how to ensure the functionality of such a “bulky government” in which the Albanian DUI aspires to take the leading role between the Albanian parties, while the smaller ones, and above all BESA and Alternativa, are basing their policy on the marginalization of DUI and its removal from the ruling ranks after almost 20 years in power in North Macedonia. It is unlikely that the SDSM is ready to be a balancer in such a coalition, on the one hand, while, on the other hand, it is difficult for Albanian political leaders to allow it such a role. Therefore, the question that remains open is – Will the new Macedonian government overthrow itself, without any role of VMRO-DPMNE, or will it still have the capacity to satisfy all the desires of diverse Albanian leaders?
Dispute with Bulgaria – what is Zaev’s role and when will he finally resign
Another question that “occupies” the Macedonian political scene on a daily basis is whether Zaev will finally resign at the head of the Macedonian government. Some analysts believe that it is good that he does not resign, claiming that it means that Zaev is a responsible politician, and that he will not let everything “downstream”, while others, pro-opposition, believe that Zaev’s resignation is postponed because of resolving the dispute with Bulgaria and the possible start of negotiations between Skopje and the European Union. It is clear to everyone that Zaev will not be the new prime minister, even his coalition partners have confirmed that, but the question is whether his successor will manage to preserve the diversity of the new Macedonian government, composed in Zaev’s cabinet. As for the dispute with Sofia, it is also speculated that this is the main reason for Zaev’s postponement of his resignation, and it is assumed that the future Bulgarian government is ready to sign an agreement with Northern Macedonia that will allow Skopje to start accession talks, but, at the same time, not to deny everything that the previous leaders in Sofia did – the Macedonian language, the Macedonian nation, Macedonian history. However, the reality is that there is little time left for compromise, at least until the end of this year, and at this moment it is difficult to predict the development of political trends in the spring of next year. Yet the Western Balkans are so imaginative and dynamic that it is difficult to predict who will win the election, even after the votes have been counted, let alone such historic agreements as are expected between Skopje and Sofia – between two great enemies, at least in historic context.
Economic and energy challenges as a generator of the new political crisis in Skopje
Even if all of the above were resolved, the question is how the new Macedonian government will function in terms of maintaining the country’s economic and energy stability – whose government has already declared a state of emergency due to energy problems. North Macedonia is already at the bottom of the European continent when it comes to attracting new investors, facing serious health problems, especially during the current covid pandemic, while the prospects for energy and then economic stability are less likely. And when you add to all that the political rivalry between the government at the central level and the opposition at the local level, and the division of finances, it seems that everything can be expected in that country, but nothing stable and sustainable, even less promising. However, it is very difficult to maintain stable budget relations at the central and local levels, even in developed democracies, if one party or one coalition does not dominate at both levels of the government.
A broad coalition as a possible solution
However, it is possible that North Macedonia will bypass the deep political crisis, such as the one in 2015, and with international mentorship reach a new political level, similar to that in Germany during the last sixteen years, where the two largest parties SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE will form a government coalition with certain Albanian partners. That would be perhaps the fairest – it is demanding, but still not so challenging, given that both are in favor of the EU, and that at the moment both cannot resist their old political habits as which is the Machiavellian struggle for power, and then, after gaining power, forgetting everything they promised – the fight against corruption, crime – but theirs further deepening. Sve u svemu izazovno poglavlje
The situation in North Macedonia, political, economic, energy, security – is not so skeptical or dangerous, but it is very challenging, even for the best experts on the political situation in that country. It is difficult to expect a stable government, while problems are continuously accumulating. Skopje will not face security challenges, all its potential, even at the interethnic level, has been spent or overcome, but it will face new security challenges – such as energy, economic, health – and that is in today’s circumstances – anything but naive , at least for those who understand contemporary political trends.