European Western Balkans

Loosing Legitimacy as Consequence of Trading Democracy for Stability


Polarization of the society, negotiations between political leaders under international assistance, ongoing civic mobilization, rallies and weekend armed conflict.

There would not be better way of getting insight into current realities in Macedonia that quick visit to Skopje and taking a walk around city that would bring the visitor in front of the assembly, to the camp of supporters of the governing party of the prime minister Nikola Gruevski, Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) that was founded after the party rally on 18 May.

Not so far away in front of government, the visitor could on other side meet with these asking for resignation of Gruevski government coming from the main opposition party representing by Zoran Zaev, Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) but also representatives of several civic organizations.

Opposition camp was founded on 17 May just right after rally that connected various groups of Macedonian society. During the rally the crowd had an possibility to hear speech of university students (that was delivered in Macedonian and in Albanian) who stated clearly that they will be always critical towards government as towards opposition and that neither one or other political party will never buy their support. After the students, shared their opinions various civil society activists and leader of opposition party Zaev. Main demand of this rally was clear – resignation of Gruevski government.

During same evenings the visitor of the camp demanding resignation of current government would have possibility also heard some of the “bombs” that the opposition party is revealing already for several months. On 5th  May one the “bombs” brought information connected with the case of Martin Neshkoski who was in 2011 killed by a member of a special police. Information shared with public proved that the representatives of ruling party tried to cover this case. In reaction on it people gathered in front of government. Gathering that started as nonviolent demonstration was finished by violent clashes that caught the attention of foreigner media. One would say finally Macedonian crisis got the attention that it deserved.

The days that followed after 5th May was marked by raising protests and embraced of #Protestiram (#Протестирам) movement that joined people representing various groups in Macedonian being connected by one demand – resignation of government.

Civic mobilisation and whole country stopped on 9th May when armed conflict in Kumanovo started. Two days clash between Macedonian polices and terrorist group put back Macedonia on spotlight especially in relation with the possibility of new inter-ethnic conflict. In case of Kumanovo many questions still needs to be answer as until now much more than clear information media and citizens are fully of various explanations and conspiracy theories. But one clear message from the citizens, Macedonians and Albanians, was send: “We are against violence, we do not new war.”  Kumanovo also showed that if you wanna be informed join Twitter and Facebook as social media become without doubt the key channel through which people were sharing information and demanding rumours.

And now after bit more than one month? Besides two camps, that the visitor can visit and demonstration that he can experience on some days it looks like that all is now in hands these sitting behind close door and negotiating.

Unfortunately, media interest in Macedonia is gone, in the moment that could be consider to be the breaking point for the future of the country.

It seems that resignation will be soon or later be presented as the result of ongoing talks.  But even if resignation of Gruevski government will be without doubt important moment it cannot be consider to breaking point that would give Macedonia a possibility to become democratic country in which citizens can vote in fair elections, in which citizens can leave without being afraid to share their opinions.

To achieve this Macedonia needs much more – needs that balance of powers is fully respected, needs independent judiciary and free media for a start. Transition to democracy will be painful but at this moment it seems that much more painful would be if Macedonia loose the chance for its democratic re-start.

Besides citizens who needs to continue with their pressure in form of non-violent movement cannot be overlooked the international element and especially the consequence of ongoing negotiations. If international actors, especially at this moment European Union representing by commissioner Johannes Hahn will not send clear message about the importance of deep changes in current Macedonian society leading to fair elections the trust of citizens will erode and legitimacy of international organizations, legitimacy of institutions will be lost together with the chance for democratic re-start. And this chance is not coming very often I would add.

Author: Ilona Olehlova

Ilona Olehlova is obsessed with education in its various forms. She holds an MA in Political Science and a BA in Media Studies and Journalism from the Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. After working as a journalist, she started her journey that brought her to the Balkans. She was a UNV volunteer at the United Nations Population Fund in Pristina, Kosovo, and a EVS volunteer in Macedonia. Currently she works as a trainer/coach aiming to develop competencies among young people, especially those coming from divided communities, and enable them to become active actors in the decision-making processes in their local communities. She comes originally from the Czech Republic, but she has been living and working all around the Balkans for several years now.

Related posts

MEP Terry Reintke recipient of the annual EWB Award for 2022


Statement of the EU Heads of Missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding the attack in Zvornik

EWB Archives

Joint statement of Mogherini and Hahn on the formation of the new government in Kosovo

EWB Archives