Macedonia Coalition Rattled

Macedonia's ruling coalition is in serious trouble after one of its members, the Democratic Alternative, threatens to leave

Macedonia Coalition Rattled

Macedonia's ruling coalition is in serious trouble after one of its members, the Democratic Alternative, threatens to leave

Tuesday, 6 September, 2005

Macedonia's governing coalition member the Democratic Alternative, DA, party has threatened to leave unless the joint administration introduces serious economic and democratic reforms.

DA leader and deputy prime minister Vasil Tupurkovski issued the ultimatum after the recent DA convention where he presented a grim picture of the republic's current state of affairs and complained of the government's failure to put in place any of the substantive commitments it made during the election campaign over two years ago.

Macedonian Prime Minister and leader of the main coalition party, the VMRO-DPMNE, Lubco Georgievski, dismissed the DA's demands as self-seeking.

"We will not accept conditions, especially when they are aimed at getting top government posts for the DA," Georgievski said.

The third coalition party, the Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA, also responded angrily. Its deputy leader Menduh Thaci said his party "would not be put under pressure by the DA. This is a political bluff to secure greater influence for Tupurkovski. We won't allow that."

The VMRO-DPMNE claims the DA have ambitions to appoint its own supporters to head up the state bank and thereby control the country's finances. The party is also thought to want a greater role in the privatisation of the republic's two largest enterprises - Telekom and Elektro Ekonomia e Maqedonise.

Tupurkovski insists his threats are aimed at forcing the government to introduce economic and democratic reforms.

"Our goal is the country's democratisation," he said. "Now the last non-democratic bastion in the region has fallen we must speed up the process of democracy in Macedonia."

The consequences of the standoff for the ruling coalition are clear. The DA provides the ruling coalition with 13 members of parliament. Should the party leave or be expelled, Georgievski would need to shore up alternative alliances to secure a workable majority in the assembly.

Indeed, Tupurkovski has already warned he may enter talks with disgruntled coalition MPs and the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, SDSM, the second largest party in parliament, with a view to forming an alternative majority administration.

There are indications that Georgievski and the DPA have to some extent welcomed the split with the DA. The coalition has been wracked by disagreements throughout its two-year term in office.

Relations with the DA became especially strained during the 1999 presidential elections. Tupurkovski had hoped to be joint coalition candidate, but the VMRO-DPMNE and DPA opted in the end to put up their own.

VMRO-DPMNE candidate Boris Trajkovski won. Tupurkovski was knocked out in the first round and had to make do with the post of deputy prime minister.

The DPA in particular may hope to increase its own leverage, and secure better and higher offices for its members, should the DA be kicked out. DPA leader Arber Xhaferi has ruled out any further discussion with Tupurkovski. He described the DA's new platform as "a product designed to destroy the government".

On November 5, however, Georgievski said, "doors should be left open". He is expected to hold talks with Tupurkovski this week.

The DPA's rival Albanian party, the Party for Democratic Prosperity, PDP, meanwhile, has jumped on the opportunity presented by the government rift. Part of the PDP backs the DA's calls for electoral and economic reform.

The party's leader, Ymer Ymeri, is eager to form a new government alongside the DA and the SDSM. Ymeri cannot, however, rely on the backing of all his MPs. The PDP has been divided for months. Some deputies have left to join rival parties, others have formed their own rebellious factions within the PDP.

The local election results in neighbouring Kosovo introduced yet another complexity to Macedonia's political jostling. The DPA's natural ally, Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo, won only 28 per cent of the votes in last month's poll. The Macedonian government now needs a political ally with close ties to the victorious Ibrahim Rugova - links enjoyed by the PDP.

Should the present coalition finally collapse, it is not inconceivable that Georgievski could seek to form a new administration with the PDP.

But the prime minister would still need the support of additional allies to establish a stable majority. Georgievski may seek to co-opt ambitious dissidents from the DA and the SDSM with the lure of government posts. Likewise, the smaller parties, such as the three-strong Liberal Party, could shore up numbers. There are also the six defectors from the VMRO-DPMNE, which left to join the rival VMRO-VMRO.

It seems unlikely the present coalition can survive this breach, but given the current political jostling and manoeuvring its hard to predict just who will end up governing the country.

Veton Latifi is a political analyst and freelance journalist from Macedonia.

Macedonia, Kosovo
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