Macedonia: Budget Debate Not Over Yet

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By Klaudija Lutovska

Macedonia has a budget for 2013, but its parliament is in turmoil after members of the opposition party scuffled with their pro-government colleagues and were expelled from the chamber, allowing the ruling party to pass a controversial budget nearly unanimously.

“There is fault in both sides in opposition and in government,” Zhidas Daskalovski, professor of public policy and mass media at Bitola State University, told SETimes.

“It is inappropriate [for opposition Social Democrat Union of Macedonia] political leaders to penetrate the barricades and fight with citizens, and violate the physical integrity of the president of the assembly,” he said. “It is absolutely unacceptable to dispose [from] the parliament opposition MPs and journalists. Both sides left scars on Macedonian democracy for a long time.”

Macedonia

Macedonia

The ugly incident on Monday (December 24th) came as thousands of demonstrators clashed outside parliament during the lawmakers’ session where the ruling VMRO-DPMNE was set to pass the budget of 2.4 billion euros. The opposition SDSM sought 196 million euros in cuts to the budget, citing the struggling economy.

Protesters were encouraged by the head of SDSM, Branko Crvenkovski, who vowed the ruling party “will get a fight” if it tried to pass an unaltered budget. Crowds pelted one another with stones, eggs and bottles, injuring at least 11.

Inside, opposition MPs attempted to block passage of the budget by introducing more than 1,200 amendments. A scuffle broke out, forcing security to evacuate Parliament Speaker Trakjo Veljanovski and then eject the opposition MPs.

The budget passed 64-4 in the 120-seat parliament.

Government opponents are now promising a campaign of civil disobedience in protest of the budget and what they see as heavy-handed tactics to eliminate debate. A group calling itself Alliance for the Future, which includes SDSM leadership, organised road blocks on Tuesday in Skopje, Strumuca and Ohrid in the first sign of the campaign.

“From today, Macedonia has no constitution, no parliament, no government. We have a dictatorial regime on one side and the people on the other,” Crvenkovski said told supporters, according to Reuters.

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski blamed Crvenkovski for the conflict.

“The story of the budget … is a cover of [Crvenkovski's] last personal battle for survival in politics. This is the first unsuccessful violent attempt to overthrow the democratic institutions and the legitimately elected government of free and fair elections a year and a half ago,” Gruvevski said.

VMRO-DPMNE MP Ilija Dimovski said SDSM was creating a crisis “and afterwards [the party and] Crvenkovski be offered as saviors. The scenario that we saw it in the past 20 years quite a few times.”

SETimes

The Southeast European Times Web site is a central source of news and information about Southeastern Europe in ten languages: Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, English, Greek, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish. The Southeast European Times is sponsored by the US European Command, the joint military command responsible for US operations in 52 countries. EUCOM is committed to promoting stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

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