Todays Date
September 29, 2020

For the party or the people?

By Denko Maleski  

 

Probably not even the Minister of Local Self-Government Milevski is quite aware of the assessment of our current political situation, when, on television, he suggested that the mayors, taking the office, to be able to bring their own team of municipal officials. Reason? Not to be subjected to sabotage by those nominated by the previous mayor of another party. This finding is staggering because the work of local governments is most directly related to improving the living conditions of the citizens of the state, so it can be said that the parties know to work most directly against the interests of their own people. Of course, nothing is either better at the state level, with the difference that it is easier to eliminate the ones established by the previous government and replace them with loyalists of the winning party.

The problem of the attitude of the state administration towards the representatives of the newly elected government is old. The first reform of their administration aimed at its professionalism and political neutrality was initiated by the British sometime in the middle of the nineteenth century. The ultimate goal was for the administration to convey its loyalty to politicians whose programs received confirmation in the election. Namely, at the moment when the new democratically elected government is constituted, the administration, respecting the will of the people expressed in the elections, to act in the realization of the program of the winning party or coalition of parties. Therefore, the attitude of the state administration to the new government speaks of the existence or non-existence of democratic consciousness in a society. Obviously, our consciousness is not at a high level. In our country, first is loyalty to the party or to a politician, and then to the state.

As a foreign minister, 1991-1993, I noticed the first symptoms of this disease. Since we were making the first steps towards pluralism, and the parties were not yet fully established in the political system of the state, the people at the top of the MFA were “somebody’s people”. This man “is his”, and that man “is his”, a whistleblower would whisper to me, revealing the secrets of the institution where I had just stepped in and had to run. It turned out that governance was not an easy task because those officials felt more loyal to their patrons at the top of the hitherto single party than to a university professor, a member of the expert government elected by the people’s representatives in parliament. Of course I knew how things were in theory, but I had to learn quickly how they really work in practice. And in practice, loyalty to the state was too much of an abstraction for the administration loyal to the party and its representatives. Moreover, and in times when the common state was hit by ethnic fires threatening Macedonia, the employees remain primarily interested in promoting a personal position in the ministry or in material compensation for the expense of those returning home to Yugoslav diplomacy. And Milevski is right when it comes to sabotage and saboteurs. Even then, almost thirty years ago, there were obstructions, most often in the form of passivity (inertia was the word used) of the administration, to me so incomprehensible at a time when our lives and the lives of our families were at stake. But such is human nature.

 

Deeply convinced of the correctness of democratic postulates that require the administration to convey its loyalty to any new government elected in democratic elections, but aware that it will take much more time than my mandate, I reconciled that I will have to put the work in two tracks. One was the slow building of the Foreign Ministry institution. The second was a fast track that required me to meet the challenges of international politics on a daily basis, requiring me to surround myself with four or five associates who I trusted and who would push with me in the same direction.

The slow pace of development of democratic consciousness seems to require similar behavior today. Namely, one should neither neglect the long process of building a professional politically neutral administration that conveys its loyalty to the people’s constituents, nor sanction a situation contrary to this general direction giving the mayors the right to bring in new teams of administrators again and again. Hopefully a handful of officials loyal to the new mayor’s policy will be found in the current administration. If there are no such people, then not only do we not deserve to have local self-government, but the question is how much we deserve to have a state.

 

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