Macedonia’s December 11 election has
left the country in precarious limbo while the State Election
Commission decides several appeals. Initial results suggest the
former Macedonian ruling party (VMRO-DPMNE) won a plurality but lost
seats and now leads at best by only two. Its main opposition (SDSM),
which has publicized illegal government-initiated wire taps
revealing malfeasance, gained both votes and seats. The main
Albanian coalition governing partner (DUI) lost votes and seats,
mainly to a new political movement (Besa).
The prospect of losing power has excited
former Prime Minister Gruevski to
paroxysms against the international community, which he blames
for his electoral loss as well as the antecedent scandals that
caused the Europeans and Americans to force his resignation last
January. A Special Prosecutor has
indicted Gruevski for prompting violence against a political
opponent. Gruevski is convinced that the Americans and Europeans are
doing their best to make sure the final election results do not
return him or his party to office.
That is likely true. While everyone is
entitled to be considered innocent until proven guilty in court,
once indicted politicians in democratic countries generally resign
or do not seek public office. The Americans, at least until January
20, and Europeans will think it important that Gruevski conform to
that norm. Especially as the accusation is one of abuse of power,
his returning to power before the court case is decided would be
distasteful at best, prejudicial to the judicial proceedings at
worst. The fact that his parliamentary delegation
included a convicted war criminal will not help him with the
The question is whether the opposition
can form a coalition that commands a majority in parliament.
Numerically, there are ways to do it, but politically some of the
combinations are ruled out, as I understand Besa has pledged not to
enter a coalition with DUI. Parliamentary systems make government
formation particularly complex and difficult.
But the main thing for now is to get a
clear election result, which may require that the poll be re-run in
some places. Gruevski’s political party doesn’t like that idea and
is demonstrating outside the election commission to try to prevent
it from happening. That they are entitled to do, but the fact
remains: no legitimate government can be formed on the basis of
dubious election results.
Macedonia has a habit of driving up to
the brink of disaster and only turning away at the last moment,
often with international help or pressure of one sort or another.
That is not a good way to run a sovereign, democratic state.
Skopje’s troubles are causing its hopes for NATO and EU membership
to fade farther into the future. Macedonia above all needs
institutions that can manage the political competition transparently
and fairly. Let’s hope the election commission is up to the task.