Recent elections bring a change of the guard to troubled Macedonia
The parliamentary election held in Macedonia on 15th September, 2002 was the first nation-wide poll taken since violence broke out in the republic in 2001. The election was not only an opportunity for Macedonians to vote on domestic issues, like jobs and the economy, it was also a mandate on the Ohrid Agreement signed on 13th August, 2001 which was intended to bring fighting between ethnic Albanian rebels and the Macedonian security forces to an end. The international community’s hope was that the election would represent a rejection of violence and prove that the Agreement presented the best way forward for future inter-ethnic harmony.
During the past year, Macedonia has remained a troubled land. A small NATO-led operation ‘Amber Fox’ has been in place to monitor the peace. But, although fighting has formally stopped and the ethnic Albanian NLA disbanded, there are always rumours of another insurgency, possibly conducted by some new guerrilla-type formation. On 5th August, the Interior Ministry announced the appearance of a new paramilitary organization – the Army of the Republic of Ilirida. Although ethnically-mixed police forces have been set up, they have yet to have much impact, particularly in Albanian-majority villages – isolated acts of violence still occur.
Meanwhile, on the political front the international community threw its support behind a change of government in Skopje, favouring the coalition Together for Macedonia, za Makedonija, whose major component is the Social Democratic Party (SDSM). On the Albanian side they turned to Ali Ahmeti’s new party, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI). The governing Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO) was branded as ‘nationalist’ and their coalition partners, the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) fingered for corruption. The international community’s love affair with Mr. Ahmeti was evident – they seem to favour him above all the others.
In order to buttress support for a new government, the West has funded numerous NGOs, particularly in the capital, Skopje. One leading organization, the International Crisis Group, with close ties to the Western political establishment published a damning report highlighting corruption in Macedonia on 14th August, 2002 – one day before campaigning started for the September election. The report’s culprits were VMRO and its allies in the DPA. Only one paragraph in it deals with corruption allegations made during the SDSM’s period in office, even though many Macedonians have told BHHRG that they regard both the major Macedonian parties as tainted by corruption during their periods in office. The author of the report, Edward Joseph, has had a long career in the Balkans since 1992.
Of course, much that is written about Macedonia is for foreign consumption – few people will have struggled though the 52 page ICG report. But, the involvement of the West at all levels of Macedonian society from the military to so-called ‘civil society’ only adds credence to the beliefs of those who say that the country’s recent troubles have been fomented by outsiders. Even if all the suspicions of Western promotion of the violence that erupted last year remain unproved, the bottom line is clear and incontrovertible: that 40,000 heavily-armed Western troops based in neighbouring Kosovo could have shut down the rebel army of the NLA in a few hours had they chosen to do so.