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The importance of a strong opposition in North Macedonia

Parliament of North Macedonia; Photo: Flickr / Sobranie

The elections held in North Macedonia on May 8 brought two significant changes, the return of VMRO-DPMNE to power, winning both the presidential and the parliamentary election. Moreover, for the first time in 16 years (22 if we disregard the 2006-2008 government) DUI is set to occupy the oppositional seats in parliament. I would like to argue that for the sake of the country’s democracy, it would be necessary to have DUI in opposition in a VMRO-DPMNE-led government.

First of all, VMRO-DPMNE does not have a good track record in governing. Their fall from power came at the end of citizens’ movements mobilized against their abuse of power and a two-year political crisis. With 58 mandates in parliament, their position in government is stable and they will hold the power. Unlike the two SDSM-led governments before them, they are not as dependent on their coalition partner, so they can choose VLEN, the ethnic Albanian coalition of parties, which came second in terms of the ethnic Albanian electorate, to govern with.

However, VLEN is likely to have less power than DUI, and less than the parties that are now in the coalition have had under an SDSM government, which will significantly change the government’s modus operandi. It is too early to say which way this change will go, but the apprehension that they might go wrong are valid, particularly considering that VMRO-DPMNE has yet to reform internally.

Herein comes DUI as opposition. They have secured 19 mandates in parliament, making it the second (that is right, the second) party in the country, therefore the potential leader of the opposition. SDSM secured 18 mandates, whereas Levica and the new-comer ZNAM secured 6 seats each. Levica and ZNAM are not a friend to either DUI or SDSM, making the opposition quite splintered.

DUI must lead a strong opposition, cooperating with its former governing partner SDSM in order to be able to ensure any significant opposition force in parliament. If the coalition with VLEN happens as envisioned (there could be glitches), the new government would have a 71-seat majority out of 120 seats. The need for a strong opposition, if not in numbers, then in effort, is more important than ever, considering that the last time VMRO-DPMNE had such a majority with DUI, amounting to 80 seats after the 2014 election, North Macedonia entered a political crisis soon thereafter. This statement is not to call and incite doom, but rather to be aware of the lessons of the past, and a call to not take democracy lightly.

Lastly, DUI in opposition would be good for DUI. They need to refocus and reform. Their longevity in government has come at the cost of making the party more of a market party than a political one. It is evident that the Albanian voters need an alternative, and sadly, they were not offered one in these elections. Ali Ahmeti should listen and do the work of reforming the party if they want to win in the next local elections as their first early test. They were a target in these elections with both VMRO-DPMNE and VLEN mobilizing an anti-DUI sentiment. If DUI wants to represent the ethnic non-majority communities in North Macedonia, the opposition is an equally worthy seat from which to do it, and show citizens that their interests do come first.

PS. Being a feminist, I feel that someone would expect that I also comment on the presidential election, i.e. North Macedonia having a female president for the first time. Congratulations.

However, among the feminists, the voices have been quiet because Ms Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova does not espouse any principles or values of a feminist. Her rhetoric as an MP and a presidential candidate have often rested on a language and policies of exclusion. It remains to be seen what kind of president she will choose to be moving forward.

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