By Marina Stojanovska
Two months into a political standoff between Macedonia’s VMRO-DPMNE government and the opposition Social Democrats (SDSM), and with local elections looming, the opposition bloc is splintering and international community members are urging compromise.
Tensions began on December 24th when SDSM members were removed from parliament after causing disruptions prior to a budget vote. The situation has drawn the attention of European officials, who have made it clear that the political upheaval in Skopje will adversely impact the upcoming progress report on Macedonia’s EU accession.
Elmar Brok, chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, condemned SDSM’s actions.
“The whole country is made hostage by this party due to its own political reasons. In my opinion, the Macedonian government is not unprepared, but SDSM is,” Brok told reporters in Brussels.
Richard Howitt, the European Parliament’s special rapporteur for Macedonia, spent nearly three days in Skopje last week and said he will postpone the voting on a new progress report because he believes the current situation will prevent a positive outcome.
“As I very clearly told all the political leaders in your country during my visit last week, the European Parliament does not support a boycott of elections,” Howitt, told the Macedonian Information Agency.
With SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski announcing that the opposition would boycott local elections, several prominent SDSM members left the bloc in recent weeks to join or form other parties.
This week, Karpos Mayor Stevce Jakimovski — the only opposition mayor among Skopje’s municipalities — submitted his candidacy as a member of the Serbian Progressive Party in Macedonia.
Jakomovski immediately was expelled from SDSM, where he held a high-ranking position as a president of the party’s city branch. He was the sixth high-ranking SDSM member to be expelled.
“I think that we will fight the battle much better by showing that we have support by the voters. This can be proved only in elections,” Jakimovski said.
Jakimovski said he doesn’t feel he betrayed SDSM, as he had previously expressed the necessity of participating in the elections to other high-ranking party officials.
“The fact that Jakimovski was excluded from the party is not a surprise to me, since we witnessed dismissal of other party members for matters less important from this one,” Albert Musliu, head of the Association for Democratic Initiatives, told SETimes.
“Still I would say that the most important and complex matters are the boycott and the notice by the opposition that they will act outside of the institutions,” he said.
Former prime minister and leader of SDSM Vlado Buckovski, who was also expelled, agreed that the exclusion of Jakimovski was not a surprise.
“I was always saying that the Macedonian parties have a lack of democratic capacity, inter- party democracy and dialogue,” Buckovski said. “The current happenings are linked with this problem. It is better to prevent the things instead of curing the consequences.”