Time to say good-bye
I do apologize if the song by the same name — recorded famously by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman in 1996 — is now in your head. That is not my intention though it is a more polite way, shall we say, of saying that Zoran Zaev, who “resigned” right after the second round of local elections, should finally accept his own resignation and say good-bye from the premiership. (If he wants to stick around as party leader — he said he would “resign” that too — that’s fine by me — he can keep bringing his party down for all I care.)
The facts are now well-known: Zaev’s party, SDSM (formerly the League of Communists of Macedonia before 1991) and his smaller, junior partner in the Macedonian government, DUI (formerly, the National Liberation Army, a group of terrorists who tried to split Macedonia in two in 2001), took a major shellacking losing major cities and mayorships throughout Macedonia. VMRO-DPMNE won big taking 42 mayorships across the country, including most of the big cities.
Again, Zaev said he “resigned,” local and global media said he “resigned,” and then far left and progressive commentators on the international scene (see: Carl Bildt, etc.) broke down crying, lamenting his resignation and said that Macedonia would now collapse (in so many words). Except, of course, he has not “resigned,” several days after his rout.
Zaev, of course, is famous for going back on his word. He is what we might call “an expert” at going back on his word.
Granted, his political supporters all called on him to revoke his “resignation,” with Ali Ahmeti, the leader of DUI, and Artan Grubi, his junior sidekick and sycophant, telling media there is no reason to resign, it was such a hasty decision, etc. It should be noted that DUI and Ahmeti are likely sweating bullets at the thought of what could easily come next: the entire government falling and all of them out of power. Ahmeti has basically been the kingmaker since shedding his terrorist fatigues and putting on a business suit in 2002 (but still smoking like a proverbial chimney) and if he was out of power, I personally believe he would soon pass on from this life because he lives for power. Without being in power, his life is pretty much worthless.
Why did SDSM and DUI lose, and lose so much? There are many reasons but they include (and this is not exhaustive), continuing deep corruption, widely publicized scandals, a disastrous response to Covid-19, a major hospital fire in Tetovo on Independence Day that killed 14 patients, the rising cost of everything, a lack of jobs and foreign direct investment, an approaching energy crisis, Zaev’s giveaway of the name and identity to Greece and his upcoming giveaway of Macedonia’s language and history to Bulgaria, arrogance, hubris, and more, all tied together by the fact that citizens thought the country was going in the wrong direction. Voters wanted to send a signal and send a signal they did.
The idea that SDSM and DUI lost because Macedonia is not in the EU might be a very tiny part of it, but it was basic issues, proverbial bread and butter issues like the ability to put food on the table, issues of water, sewer, garbage collection, illegal dumps, illegal parking, inflation and more — these very real, very tangible issues that affect citizens daily; these are the issues that did SDSM and DUI in for the simple reason that SDSM and DUI failed to improve the lives of citizens and in fact did the opposite — they made matters worse.
Zaev claimed successes, like NATO membership, but he failed to mention the humiliation and costs of giving away Macedonia’s name and identity and anyway, when you think and consider it, how has NATO membership put food on the table?
Now, you might point out that these are local elections, after all, and as such some of the above-mentioned issues should not matter at the local level. And you would be correct in your assumption except for two points: first, Zaev made these local elections into national elections when he pledged that if his party, SDSM, lost the mayorship of Skopje, he would resign. And then they lost the Skopje mayorship. Second, all politics is local and in a country the size of Macedonia, both geographically and by population that is especially true. A perfect case in point: the US state of Virginia just held an election for governor in what is considered an “off-year,” meaning there were no national elections. President Joe Biden’s vice president, Kamala Harris, campaigned there with their party’s nominee, a few days before the election (these are all Democrats). She said in part, “What happens in Virginia will in large part determine what happens in 2022, 2024 and on,” referring to the national elections in 2022 and 2024. And guess what? Their party lost, and the Republican nominee won and the Democrats, across the United States, are having an existential crisis, deeply worried about elections next year. Of course, the United States is not a parliamentary republic meaning we can’t have snap elections. But Macedonia can and because Zaev made these local elections into a national referendum, it appears as though snap elections for parliament are on the horizon.
What comes next? Most importantly the new local mayors and councils must get to work on the local issues which affect citizens every day. They must do an excellent job of responding to the local issues and needs of their constituencies and they must not only crack down on but shun corruption of any kind. If they do this, they will begin to build authority with their voters which in turn will build trust which in turn will help the center right in the next parliamentary elections which can’t come soon enough.
And what about Zaev and his government? Again, time to say good-bye. To all of them.
Macedonia deserves better.