Macedonia: Call To ‘Democratize’ Former Ruling Party


By Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Demands to reform and ‘democratise’ Macedonia’s former ruling right-wing VMRO-DPMNE party are immediately dismissed by its current leadership.

Long-standing members of the former ruling right-wing VMRO DPMNE party – which is now in opposition after 11 years in power – have launched a bid to ‘democratise’ the party.

Those behind the proposal say they have the backing of thousands of unsatisfied VMRO DPMNE party members. One of the key reforms they are seeking is a change in the party’s constitution to ensure a more democratic process for the election of leaders at all levels.

Party reformists claim that the current party statute does not allow for proper democracy and that power is largely in the hands of the party leader and those closest to him.

At a press conference held on Friday in Skopje, they announced the creation of a national headquarters for reform inside the VMRO DPMNE, saying they intend to reorganise the party from within.

“We wish to make structural improvements of the party by emphasising its members as the party’s driving force. We are in no way trying to tarnish, weaken or divide the VMRO DPMNE,” said Aleksandar Mihajlovski, one of the reform supporters and a former member of the party’s central and executive committee.

When asked if the party reformists would seek to replace their current leader, former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, Mihajlovski said: “This initiative is neither against someone, nor in support of someone… We demand democratisation, not revenge.”

Gruevski has been widely accused of authoritarian tendencies and alleged corruption.

The VMRO DPMNE issued a press release in response to the call for reform, labelling the demands “absurd” and accusing the party reformists of seeking change for “purely lucrative” reasons.

“We are a democratic and modern party… It is a lie put out to function for others interests, that the VMRO DPMNE statute is not democratic. This is the same statute that allowed the self-proclaimed reformists to be elected in the past in the party’s commissions and municipal HQs, posts that some of them are carrying out to this day,” the statement said.

The calls for internal reforms comes amid hard times for this party whose leadership, including Gruevski, is entangled in many large-scale corruption scandals that are being investigated by the Special Prosecution, SJO. The VMRO DPMNE leadership denies any wrong-doing in these cases.

Most of these allegations originate from the massive illegal wiretapping scandal revealed in 2015 by the now ruling Social Democrats, which sparked a deep and long-standing political crisis in Macedonia.

After 11 years in power under Gruevski, the party only recently accepted its December 11 election defeat, allowing the formation of a new, Social Democrats-led government.

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The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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