What is the way out?
The latest polls show that, to put it mildly, Macedonians are not happy and do not trust the Government of Zoran Zaev. A recent poll by MCIC shows that three-quarters of Macedonians believe that Macedonia is in a political crisis and 57 percent do not trust his government. The vast majority of Macedonians believe that the best way out of this crisis is early parliamentary elections.
Let’s recap here: about four years ago, Zoran Zaev and his partner, Ali Ahmeti, finally got what they wanted — power. They came to be in power through a combination of events: people believed the former government had issues with corruption. Zaev and his party, SDSM, started leaking selective audio tapes of conversations between ministers and other officials in the former government — it’s worth noting that these recordings were illegal and that leaking them was, and remains, illegal. The large foreign funded mostly left-wing non-governmental organizations sided with Zaev and engaged in violence to bring down the former government. And, finally, the Western embassies gave their tacit support to all of this.
The Zaev government promised to be corruption and scandal-free, promised to “solve” Greece’s name dispute with Macedonia, promised to improve relations with Bulgaria, promised to get Macedonia into NATO and the EU, promised to bring vast quantities of foreign direct investment into Macedonia, promised to respect the rule of law and provide an open and transparent government, promised to bring or complete needed infrastructure projects to Macedonia, promised to lower interethnic tensions, promised to provide better healthcare and educational opportunities, and promised to increase Macedonia’s standing on the world stage and more.
Four years later, and to be fair, Macedonia is, indeed, a member of NATO. And that’s it. Every other promise made by Zaev and Ahmeti remains unfulfilled, and in most cases, Macedonia has reversed direction and gone backwards. And on that NATO membership, what price did Macedonia, and Macedonians, pay? Observe the bill: loss of Macedonia’s name, loss of the Macedonian identity, loss of Macedonia’s culture, history, heritage, and much more, loss of Macedonia’s own ability to create its own schoolbooks and other curricula teaching young Macedonians. And more.
Was it worth it? Do you, as Macedonians, feel more secure? Are you better off, financially?
Aside from the questionable benefits of NATO membership, we have judges in jail (and not just judges, Special Chief Prosecutors!), various advisors to Zaev in jail or detention, businessmen in jail, corruption scandals (daily, it seems, including, right now, a major passport scandal), a failed census, very little (none?) foreign direct investment, soured relations with Bulgaria(and souring with Greece), no date to start EU talks (because of both Bulgaria and the corruption issues), forced changes to Macedonian schoolbooks and other curricula, drug scandals, simmering interethnic tensions having to do with the killing of ethnic Macedonians by ethnic Albanians, and much more all topped off by a disastrous response to the ongoing pandemic and over 4,500 Macedonians who have lost their lives to the virus from China.
Next month, in late May, I will observe an anniversary date — 25 years in and with Macedonia. I first came to Macedonia when the country was not yet five years old as a modern-day nation-state, having finally won its independence on September 8, 1991. In that quarter of a century, I have never seen things this bad. That does not mean there is no hope or that there are not reasons to be happy — on the contrary, if I believed that I would have said “good-bye” to Macedonia a long time ago.
There is plenty of room for hope and there are innumerable reasons to love Macedonia — and the vast majority of those have nothing to do with the government, any government. But that is a separate story, and one I have commented on many times over the past two plus decades.
Let me return to the title of this column — what is the way out? That poll which I cited noted that most Macedonians believe that the way out of this crisis is through early parliamentary elections and many believe those elections should happen parallel to the October local elections. I am sure that Macedonia will not completely implode before then and that Macedonia will continue to limp along until then, but it will be with continuing scandals and an increasing death toll.
Is that the best way out? If parliamentary elections are indeed held in October — no guarantee they will be — is that the way out?
Is there another way out? Granted my own wish would be to see Zaev spirited away by the US Drug Enforcement Agency on international drug trafficking charges but I doubt that will happen.
Macedonians are going to have to figure this one out on their own and, when they have had enough, they’ll figure out a way to dump the Zaev/Ahmeti regime and vote in a government that has the best interests of Macedonia at heart.