By Aleksandar Krzhalovski
There were quite interesting developments this past week. The protests in most Balkan countries that I wrote last time passed, but all of them are yet to be developed, so we will continue to monitor whether and to what extent they will repeat the events from Macedonia over the past years, that is, the Macedonian scenario.
In Britain, Brexit is experiencing new upheavals, looking for the best solution. Parliament has already voted for the third time against the government proposal with the European Union (although the ruling party has a sufficient majority of MPs) for (organized) withdrawal of the country from the union. Also, after rejecting all eight initial alternatives, all four last possible options were rejected yesterday in the absence of an agreement, and it is more likely that the withdrawal will happen without an agreement, already on April 12 (that is, that day the decision will be made in the EU, and the formal withdrawal date will be May 22). In any case, very much different from what happened in our country with the constitutional changes. The British (or at least their MPs) seem to say – better no agreement than a bad agreement! Time will show how this will ultimately be resolved and whether it will be better for them or it will come out as in one of Balasevic’s poems at the time of the breakup of Yugoslavia “at least to fail with dignity”. In our case, too – it was about dignity.
The few European elections were also interesting. In Slovakia, the independent candidate Zuzana Caputova won, seen as a face to fight corruption or in the “wider picture as someone who stops the trend of electoral victory of populists and demagogues in Europe. It is similar in Ukraine, where the first round is led by the independent candidate Volodymyr Zelensky, who works as a TV comedian, with 30% of the votes, opposite the candidate of the ruling party and the current president Petro Poroshenko with 18% and the main opposition candidate – the former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko with 14% and almost 40 other candidates. The second round is on the day of our presidential election – April 21.
For us, probably the most interesting, if anything else due to the vicinity, was the result of the local elections in Turkey. Although the ruling Justice and Development Party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the majority of the total number of votes across the country, still lost in the largest cities like the capital Ankara, coastal Izmir (formerly the opposition), Adana, Antalya, Mersin, and it is also on a way to lose in Istanbul (for the first time in the last 25 years). However, the last percentage of voting is still being counted, while the last published difference is only about 4,000 (or 0.06%) votes, for the opposition candidate for mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, so Erdogan’s party will do everything to dispute the eventual defeat and keep the power. However, this situation will develop in the course of this week, and we will comment on it next week.
It is certainly becoming interesting here, with yesterday’s start of the election campaign for the next president of the country, as well as with today’s visit of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The MCIC and IDSCS poll from last week (for the time being the only published one, although there were articles in various media – on some party polls, but neither someone did publish such a thing, nor were the “sources from the top of the parties” named) showed little advantage to Stevo Pendarovski (2.6%), but also lead of Gordana Siljanovska Davkova among the ethnic Macedonians (6.1%). Among the ethnic Albanians, there is a big difference in the behavior of DUI supporters in both rounds – while in the first, most would opt for Blerim Reka (57%), in the second the majority would vote for Pendarovski (58.6%). Turnout for now looks to be achievable, but until the election there are still several uncertainties, which the census in the second round will depend on.
But we have twenty days of election campaign ahead of us, and this is not the focus of this column. What left strongest impression on me in the past few days is the assessment of EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Johannes Hahn, who said that it was good that and amendments to the laws had been made and would be made, but that was not enough (for Macedonia to get a decision from the EU Council for the start of negotiations), but a change in behavior and mentality should be shown!
And yes, Hahn is right – the laws have never been a problem… in the last few progress reports of the EU for Macedonia, it was concluded that the laws are good, the legislative framework offers good solutions and is largely compatible with the EU directives, but … but the problem is in the implementation of these laws. And what we expect(ed) – to get a date for negotiations with another new law change? I agree that it really is not enough.
However, criticism this time is not about our Government (current), but to the EU and Commissioner Hahn. If I am not mistaken, at least once, and probably more than once, in meetings with him and civil society organizations during his visits to Macedonia, I have pointed to the problem with the mentality and our behavior that is still (after so many years of transition) more in the spirit of socialism rather than the new values that we strive on the road to the EU as a democracy (including pluralism/multi-party elections), a market economy and a civil society (personal/individual responsibility vs. collectivism).
Then he did not react/comment, I believe because he thought that such a statement was exaggerated. And he did not mind such a mentality in the process of constitutional changes, when in December he gave the famous statement “I believe in a solution with a combination of European and Balkan methods”. We saw that precisely such a combination, by providing the eight opposition votes in the Balkan way, led to the amendment of the Constitution!
But now suddenly, that is a problem. The bad news both for Hahn and for us is that mentality is not something that can be changed quickly. On the contrary, you need a generation(s) for such changes. We are the proof ourselves – when after almost 30 years we still maintain a lot of the values of the previous system. Not that they are bad, but do not we have a national consensus that we have set off to the other side?
For example, the expectations for employment in the state administration (which is so overstaffed – with at least double, and probably more than what is necessary…and what this country can economically bear) are still dominant! So what is the change to a market economy? Where is the personal initiative and entrepreneurship to participate and fight on the market with own individual abilities? What happened with the campaigns like “Dare – Start Your Own Business”?
Or it does not matter that we have more parties, when the most common description for them is the “sultan party”, where the leader determines the candidates who supposedly elect him (or the next leader) for a congress? And this is embedded in the statutes (as in the “brightest” examples of communism and dictatorships, which we are witnessing today in the North Korean “elections”, where candidates receive over 99% of the vote, only the illusion of democracy in our country is that victories are not 5:0 but 4:1), in all major parties, without exception.
And then we are surprised that the same is reflected in the (non)functioning of the state and the public administration, where the leader (PM) is expected to solve everything, in the previous Government with telephone calls from the spot, and in this probably with other “magic”. And we are a little surprised by the enthusiastic citizens who glorify the leaders at the party rallies (like Tito, at the time)!
Honored Professor Denko Maleski is right in the yesterday’s column when he says that a change in the mentality requires a lot of dedication (will) and labor (hard work)! And I would add, as I said above – a long time! Unfortunately it seems that we need to prepare for a few (or many) years of transition until we reach the EU – with a changed mentality.
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