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Macedonia Government Reaches Out to Opposition

Macedonian leaders consider broadening the ruling coalition as a means of

By Gordana Stojanovska Icevska in Skopje (BCR 238, 19-Apr-01)

The main opposition political parties may be brought into the coalition government in a bid to try to resolve the Macedonian crisis.

The ruling VMRO-DPMNE party said this week that it is ready to discuss the possibility of

expanding the ruling coalition to include the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, SDSM, and the Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity, PDP.

The move is aimed at advancing high-level talks on diffusing ethnic tensions.

"The political future of Macedonia depends on the success of the dialogue

currently underway," prime minister Ljubco Georgievski told the

executive committee of his VMRO-DPMNE party last week.

The country's political leaders have promised the European Union to draft

political reforms by June, but ethnic Macedonian and Albanian

representatives are stilll far apart on what form they should take.

The West says that a political compromise is vital to prevent a resumption

of the violence between security forces and Albanian rebels last month.

Political leaders believe the best way of initially advancing efforts to

reach an accommodation is to broaden the base of the government. They say

this would provide greater stability and speed up the resolution of thorny

inter-ethnic issues - including the contentious question of altering the


The SDSM threw down the gauntlet to Georgievski's government last month

calling for early elections and denouncing the present coalition as

irresponsible in its handling of the recent crisis.

SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski said in late March he would call on people

"to protest in order to pull down the government unless the prime minister

accepts calls for a broader coalition government".

Georgievski rose to the challenge saying, "Since he [Crvenkovski] wants so

much to participate in the government in the next few days I'll invite him

to discuss the idea."

The prime minister dismissed claims his government was acting irresponsibly

and said he would talk to the SDSM leader "to see if his intentions are

honest or if this is an attempt to bring about the destruction (of the

government) he has been working towards for the last half year".

Their first meeting demonstrated the two leaders held different ideas on the

make-up of a possible joint administration. The SDSM wants to include all

the parliamentary parties. The VMRO-DPMNE would only invite the largest


Crvenkovski said a broad-based government should eliminate the threat of

war, stabilise the country and prepare the ground for early elections. The

latter is the SDSM's main objective.

SDSM spokesman,Vlado Buckovski, said it would drop its call for all

parliamentary parties to be included in government if early elections were


The VMRO-DPMNE appears to favour a wider coalition for several reasons. Each day, the party comes under growing pressure from its present coalition

partner, the Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA, to agree to changes to the


The Albanians want their constitutional status elevated from minority to

nation - in effect granting them equal rights with ethnic Macedonians. This

is deeply unpopular amongst the latter, who fear it could lead to the

eventual break-up of the country.

Georgievski and President Boris Trajkovski, both senior VMRO-DPMNE figures, are on record as saying that discussion of the constitution is not a taboo topic, but party spokesman Igor Gievski has insisted repeatedly that it will not be changed.

Meanwhile, the DPA insist the present constitution is itself the reason for

the current crisis in Macedonia - and has called for urgent reforms,

although it is not yet clear what changes the party wants.

Following the VMRO-DPMNE's decision to consider a broader coalition, the PDP and the DPA said they would prepare a set of demands - but Georgievski said such pressure was unacceptable.

From the beginning of the crisis, the VMRO-DPMNE and the DPA have offered different root causes for the violence and proposed different ways of end it.

Georgievski claimed repeatedly the violence had been imported from Kosovo.

DPA leader Arben Xhaferi insisted the problems were home grown.

The DPA urged the government not to use force against the gunmen around

Tetovo, while Georgievski encouraged the security forces to move against


Whether a new government is to come into being should be known within the

next few weeks. Crvenkovski and Georgievski are expected to meet again this

week. Diplomatic sources indicate the prime minister and other senior

politicians are being pressed to set up a new administration, not just talk

about it.

Gordana Stojanovska Icevska is deputy editor-in-chief of the weekly Kapital