Macedonian Style Coup d'Etat

Macedonian Style Coup d'Etat

Macedonian Style Coup d'Etat

By Dusan Sinadinoski

Macedonian parliamentary elections, a quad-annual political event, are relatively orderly and fair; but what takes place after them is comparable to the consequences which follow acoup d’etat.Generally speaking, the concept coup d'etat implies an occurrence of a sudden and violent overthrow of a government. Such acts of government change are predominantly done either by military juntas, as it has so often happened in Latin American and Middle Eastern countries, or by revolutionary movements, which are most likely to take place in Africa and Asia (although from time to time Europe itself has not been spared of this political incongruity). However, more often than not, a coup d’etat is expected to take place in countries which are politically unstable, have a history of dictatorships, or have emerging democracies. But these changes, as violent as they may be, are not the only defining characteristics of a coup d’etat. What follows after a coup d’etat has more of a profound impact on a country’s social, political and economic affairs than the event itself. It not only produces significant and radical political changes, but often times the events which follow further destabilizes the existing bureaucratic and social structures. Even though a coup d’etat has not taken place in Macedonia, the political, social and economic changes that are experienced in Macedonia after every parliamentary election are, nonetheless, very similar to those resulting from a coup d’etat.

In its traditional sense, acoupd’etat is understood to refer to the means by which a government overthrow is accomplished. It tacitly implies that eminent and impending changes are expected to follow. In most cases, the new leaders (after they successfully accomplish a coup d’etat) murder, imprison, expel or displace all or most of the ex-government officials loyal to the previous government. They immediately install their own people loyal to them. The laws are rewritten or amended to protect their interests. Sometimes these changes are so abrupt and shocking that they can cause the government offices to be closed or to stop normal functioning. It takes a while until a country can get back on track and start doing business as usual – unless another coup d’etat takes place. The devastating effects a coup d’etat has on a country’s economic, social and political structures are far reaching. The political continuity of the affected country could be so drastically altered that it could take a long time before that country can get back to some kind of normality.

However, it should also be pointed out that some of the sudden and violent changes which are associated with a coup d’etat can be true of revolutions, civil wars and foreign occupations. It is true that all of these events are violent and could happen spontaneously; but civil wars, revolutions, or foreign occupations normally take much longer to plan and execute because they involve a larger segment of the society. A coup d’etat, on the other hand, could happen in a matter of hours or in a few days while the latter events could take weeks, months or even years. In addition, while revolutions, civil wars and foreign occupations have lofty goals of bringing profound political, social and economic changes, the aims of almost everycoup d‘etat are usually associated with much narrower goals (such as personal ambitions and fear of persecutions). Thus, the real distinguishing criteria between a coup d’etat and revolutions, civil wars and foreign occupations is not the means of how a government is overthrown but the stipulated goals
for which they are fought. All revolutions, including civil wars and foreign occupations, can justify the use of violent means to overthrow a government by appealing to the notion of a higher cause. For instance, the American, French and Bolshevik revolutions were guided by their own particular ideas of justice, freedom, liberty and equality. Most civil wars, such as the American and Spanish wars, were not fought just to depose the existing regimes but they had different ideas of what the function of their governments ought to be and what political, social or economic systems their respective countries should embrace. Similarly, like the occupation of Iraq, the aim is not just to depose a despotic leader and his regime but also to restore or impose a certain value system which the occupying country believes will be better for that particular nation.

In a coup d’etat the aim is much narrower. It usually advances the interest of few individuals and does not have the support of the large masses. It is not uncommon that sometimes people will go to bed knowing the name of their current dictator while waking up to a new ruler. In such cases, what happens is that one dictator deposes another one without anyone knowing for what reason. It is expected that immediate changes in the government will follow because the new dictators cannot survive very long unless they install their own people in power. However, such dictators may or may not attempt to make political, economic or social changes based on political or social values. Sometimes a dictator will impose a value system of his own because of the fear that disruptions in the government could trigger widespread social and political upheavals against his own regime, as is currently the case in Pakistan.

After the violent break up of Yugoslavia, Macedonia emerged as one of the newest nations in Europe without a highly anticipated bloodshed (surprisingly!). This new nation, a landlocked Balkan country whose territory and people are even at the present time bitterly contested by Greece, Bulgaria and Albania, was relatively poor and very heavily dependable on the Yugoslav national economy. Thankfully, Macedonia was spared of a coup d’etat even though it was fertile ground for such an event, considering all that had occurred in and around its borders. This is a remarkable accomplishment. In spite of everything, Macedonia was even on a smooth transition toward embracing democracy. Moreover, it seemed that the country was on the verge of an economic boom. As political conflicts and civil wars were being waged around her borders, Macedonia was praised by the world leaders for her ability to steer away from a civil war or other potentially serious conflicts. For a while it looked as if Macedonia was a major Balkan success story. But unfortunately the large Macedonian Albanian population aided and directed by their ideological comrades and the fanatical Muslim fundamentalists from Kosovo, changed all that in 2001. Suddenly Macedonia found herself in conflict, which not only had devastating effects on the already uneasy Macedonian multi-ethnic coexistence, but brought the country to a virtual political and economic collapse.

As Macedonia was celebrating the realization of her attained statehood, she found herself without a market for her agricultural products and with a nonexistent industrial base. Underdeveloped and with no attractive natural resources, the dream quickly turned sour for thousands of unemployed workers and professionals. Macedonian suddenly found herself in a dire need for foreign capital investments and business know-how. As Macedonia’s unemployment rate sky-rocketed with no foreseeable future of it falling down, the government had no means to move the country forward. Actually, it was trying a lot harder to convince its citizens that thousands of new jobs were created every year rather than taking some practical steps to alleviate the desperate situation. In fact, many of the high ranking government officials teamed up with a small, but powerful, group of oligarchs to rape and pillage the spoils. The Macedonian people were witnesses to a chaotic plunder that created millionaires over-night while leaving many thousands poor. No one knew how to fix the problem or what to expect next.

The Macedonian citizens looked to the government to lead them out of the crisis but the Macedonian government had no clue how to. As part of Yugoslavia, even though highly decentralized, the Macedonian government had very little experience in managing its domestic and foreign affairs. It was not quite sure where it fit in the international community. To the north, Serbia was torn by wars. To the east, Bulgaria (even though it recognized Macedonia as a republic) had secret aspirations towards Macedonian territory. To the south, the Greeks were infuriated by Macedonia’s use of the Macedonian name and imposed an economic blockade. Albania to the west was not sure what to make of the situation, but in the end she turned her back on Macedonia and implicitly supported the Albanian insurrection. Thus, isolated and threatened, the Macedonian government appeared to be simply a temporary caretaker and was awaiting a miracle in the form of the USA and the EU. Meanwhile, the Macedonian people could only rely on themselves to manage their affairs.

These conditions made it very ripe for an outbreak of a coup d’etat in Macedonia at any time Despite it all, Macedonia surprisingly continued with her democratic experiment and somehow survived all the glooms and dooms of her eventual disintegration, which many political experts in the region expected to happen within weeks or a few months at the most. Ironically, Macedonia’s disintegration was welcomed by Bulgaria and Albania because they hoped for a split of her territory. Greece was also hoping for the same outcome because they would never have to deal with the name issue again. The reason there probably was no coup d’etat taking place in Macedonia is because it did not have a strong military or a recent history of military rule of its own. But more importantly, the West understood the potential catastrophe it could cause throughout the entire Balkans and Europe – so they rushed to help Macedonia.

The timely help given to Macedonia by the West did not only help to keep the country together but it was instrumental in avoiding a major human disaster. Through an active political, military and economic involvement, the United State and the European Union managed to stabilize the Macedonian government and steer it toward future democratic development. To ensure no future conflict arose, some series of steps were taken. First, the Ohrid Framework Agreement was put in force. It revised the Macedonian Constitution as an attempt to redistribute the country’s political capital based on the proportion of the ethnic population, but it really aimed at appeasing the restless Albanian minority. Secondly, the United States of America recognized Macedonia by her constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia. Thirdly, the European Union kept a close watch on what was happening in Macedonia by stationing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe forces there and by signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement. These interventions worked and Macedonia currently seems to be enjoying relative political stability. But because of Kosovo’s unresolved status, Macedonia is still susceptible to ethnic and social conflicts which could very quickly destabilize her political foundation. The faster Macedonia integrates into the Euro-Atlantic communities, the better chances she has to become a more stable democracy.

Even though no real coup d’etat took place in Macedonia, not one Macedonian government (ever since her independence in 1991 to the present) has been able to create favorable political, social and economic conditions conducive to a healthy and prosperous country. Notwithstanding the fact that the current government campaigned on the grounds of doing just that, it still has yet to put forward a realistic and workable plan of how to make life better for thousands of unemployed Macedonians. The best option the government has is to stake all of its hopes on joining NATO in the near future and then eventually the European Union. It is widely believed by the Macedonian politicians that her eventual membership in these organizations will somehow be the answer to most, if not all, of her ills. This seems to be a remedy of which the Macedonian politicians have very successfully convinced the people of so that everyone is now waiting for this magic to happen. All of this points out that the economic situation in Macedonia is still pretty bleak without much of a chance for improvement in the near future. As the result, for most unemployed Macedonians, the prospect of ending up with a job in Macedonia is beyond their reach. Their only alternative is to seek employment outside of Macedonia.

Just because a violent overthrow of the government in Macedonia did not happen, it does not mean that similar effects of a coup d’etat are not being felt daily. Each new government lasted for one term only – running an effective government proved almost impossible. They had trouble finding their own raison d’etre. There was no agreement on the priorities of the domestic issues. Conducting smooth and effective international relations was seriously hindered. There was no agreement on how to fight crime and corruption. The government was more concerned about weakening the opposition rather than concentrating its resources on the economy, education, jobs and other pressing issues. The opposition, on the other hand, tried vigorously to minimize the accomplishment of the government. This continuous perpetuation of self-destruction is as much a reason for the ruling party to stay in power as it is equally beneficial for the opposition to come to power at the next elections.

The most expedient way out of this bleak situation for Macedonians is to join one of the major political parties and betting on it to win parliamentary elections. By doing so, their chances for finding a job are exponentially improved. The sought-after jobs are those in the civil service bureaucracy, government offices, public institutions and other public enterprises. But those jobs are already taken by the party members of the ruling government. However, in all fairness to Macedonia, these jobs are also highly sought-after even in highly industrialized nations, not to mention countries with emerging democracies or authoritarian regimes. The reason why these jobs are highly attractive to many professional people is because they are generally very stable. In Macedonia, these jobs are of a premium quality because they are the only ones that are available (for now at least). Ironically, in Macedonia, these jobs are currently also very volatile.

It is assumed that a government is there to maximize the welfare of its citizens so every individual is only faced with the problem of how to choose that which is best for him out of several alternatives. Under those conditions, each individual will chose whether to become a public employee, to be employed by the private industry, to be self employed, or to choose whatever else there is that can be chosen. The ability to choose a job in Macedonia is such a distant and unreachable goal that this may represent a concept not comprehensible to many Macedonians. Meanwhile, the range of employment choices for most Macedonians is not one among several jobs, but one job which is shared by several individuals. Therefore, it is no surprise that in Macedonia, a choice of alternatives is not an option. Macedonians are not faced with the problem of making a decision based on choices which most maximizes their welfare because such opportunities do not exist. To the contrary, the real choice Macedonians have is to decide whether or not they will shovel out support for certain opposition parties and bet on them winning at the polls.

Because of such a chronic lack of real economic alternatives in Macedonia, the best that individuals can hope for is a change of government. For the Macedonians, the purpose of government acquires quite a different meaning than what is commonly understood by Western democracies – it becomes a source for jobs. Part of this attitude is due to Macedonia’s communist experience. Macedonians are use to the idea of the government being a major and steady employer and they continue to expect the same. Since the fall of communism in the early 1990’s, many Macedonians have not been able to adapt to the new political and economic environment. Even those Macedonians who are lucky enough to have a government job are not sure they will keep them for more than four years. That is because Macedonia does not have a strong and permanent civil service force like traditional western democracies where these jobs are separated from the political jobs. For the most part, these jobs are filled by a pool of party members of whichever political party happens to be in charge of the current government. After every parliamentary election, a quad-annual process of mass firing and hiring of government and public employees in Macedonia becomes a frantic experience.

A mass firing and hiring of government and public employees is done by VMRO -DPMNE and it is also done by SDSM, the two major political parties in Macedonia. For example, the current government of VMRO-DPMNE went as far as to replace all supervisory and technical employees in the Ministry of Interior, including the career police officers and custom specialists. It also replaced the personnel in the Foreign Ministry responsible for the Macedonian Euro Atlantic integration. The government recalled newly appointed ambassadors from Washington and London before even having anybody ready to replace them. All of this was done in the name of incompetence on the part of the replaced professionals while the incoming employees were viewed as highly qualified individuals who could bring the much needed professionalism and expertise to their positions. Albeit, every Macedonian knows that this is nothing more than a token excuse for an act of cover-up for hiring the party cadres.

The fact that Mr. Gruevski was not satisfied with only replacing political appointees and those who he believed were hired unlawfully is further evidenced by his decision to carry out a mass firing of hundreds of border and custom specialists. Macedonia is on a crossroads from the East to the West and much of the illegal activities, such as drug and human trafficking, pass through her territory. In order to help the country be better prepared to combat these problems, the European Community and the United States provided much of the technical equipment and training to the Macedonian government. But even if this was the case, it would only seem logical to properly review each individual’s qualifications and then make a decision based on merit. Since it takes considerable expenses and time to train and to educate specialists, it only seems prudent to keep those specialists on the job regardless of which political party is running the government. Instead, the government proceeded with a mass replacement of the specialists instead of slowly replacing those who are incompetent or who may have compromised their positions. Apparently, compromising the safety and effectiveness of the bureaucracy was scarified in order to provide jobs to the members.

The mass replacements were not only done in the political and governmental institutions and agencies. These firings happened in other public institutions also. Especially affected were jobs relating to the medical, educational, transportation and cultural fields. Clearly, Mr. Gruevski’s government did not distinguish between political appointees or civil service jobs either. In either case, however, it probably did not matter to him because the pressure of providing jobs to the members of his party was much too strong to ignore it. Apparently, it all boiled down to the same political favoritism of which he so vociferously accused his predecessor, Mr. Buchkovski. But again, without these maneuvers, one can only speculate how lengthy his tenure of a minister would have been. As long as the Macedonian government does not enact a strong legislation to regulate and protect the civil service jobs, this practice will continue to recycle itself every time Macedonia elects a new government.

The current government headed by Prime Minister Gruevski seems to be unaffected by all the criticism it has received by local and foreign media. Many influential foreign diplomats and politicians have brought it to his attention that he may have gone too far by allowing mass replacements. But Mr. Gruevski attempted to justify his actions by arguing that he is not the one who set the precedent here, but that he only followed in the foot-steps of his previous predecessors, such as Vlado Buchkovski, Branko Crvenkovski, Ljupco Georgievski and other preceding government officials. In fact, he went so far to claim that the previous government had hired many incompetent professionals for political favors and nepotism. Undoubtedly, Mr. Gruevski could truly argue that he has a valid point here because the previous coalition government formed by SDSM and DUI was just as guilty as Mr. Gruevski, and therefore he should not take all the blame. In fact, the Prime Minister defended his decision by arguing that he is only correcting the mistakes made by the previous coalition government headed by SDSM. Of course, Mr. Gruevski could have changed this situation by not following his predecessors’ foot steps; but one can only assume the kind of pressure Mr. Gruevski must have been under to provide the promised jobs to all those who supported his election.

There is an abundance of evidence which points out that these events have devastating effects on the political and economic well-being of the Macedonian people, as well as on the political stability and continuity of the Macedonian nation. People have not only become indifferent to the affairs of the government but they see their government as corrupt, incapable and ineffective. The very ideas of justice, fairness, economic prosperity, political stability and ethnic coexistence have turned into a highly expensive Western import available only to the governmentc a dre and the few unscrupulous oligarchs. But most importantly, the government has critically impaired the most basic human instincts of its citizens to be able to create, hope, and aspire. In other words, the Macedonian government has become more of a burden to its people rather than playing a vital role for creating and perpetuating conditions for a better Macedonian future. To the contrary, the government became directly accountable for alienating its citizens from themselves, their fellow citizens, and the government. It is very difficult to expect that Macedonians could go on like this much longer. The situation in Macedonia becomes more unbearable with every day that passes and a quick-fix is desperately needed.

There are many lessons which the Macedonian government needs to learn in order to become truly democratic. But above everything else, the Macedonian government needs to understand that they are elected to serve the interest of its citizens first and foremost. It is doubtful that this will happen unless the Macedonian people realize that the real power is in their hands and that they are ultimately the masters of their own affairs. Unfortunately, as things stand now, the change of governments in Macedonia (as democratic as it has proven it could be) will continue to harbor the seeds of its own instability and ineffectiveness. Even if no real coup d’etat took place in Macedonia, this quad-annual rotation of governments will continue to cause irreparable damage to the vital government and public institutions as well as to the entire bureaucratic structure of the country. Even the nation’s interests may be seriously damaged on the international level. Moreover, who knows how much more of this desolate situation the people can be expected to absorb! Now is a prime time for the Macedonian government to mature and start to comprehend the perilous situation they face, especially since they are knocking on NATO’s and the European Union’s doors. Hopefully, the sooner they join NATO and EU, the sooner the Macedonian government will be prepared to become a legitimate representative of the Macedonian people.

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