Sunday, May 19, 2024


  • Political Parties must unite around concrete causes, ideas and ideals and not be the source of their ethnic hyper reality.
  • As the main actors of the political sphere, who have a great weight in the formation of public opinion, it is time for the parties to Europeanize.

Author: Xhelal Neziri

Since its independence, the Republic of North Macedonia has lived in two different, parallel ethnic realities. There is constant talk about the reality of ethnic Macedonians, which is different from that of ethnic Albanians. These parallel universes created a state, which resembles a double-decker bus, where each ethnic community has a floor and has different final stops.

These realities are certainly not the product of society itself. They are deliberately constructed by the political but economic centers of power. Those two parallel universes are a product of the media, which created two truths about an event or phenomenon. The same incident was reported to the ethnic police. Stereotypes were more important than facts.

These media, which were under the dictates of the aforementioned power centers, certainly aimed to create two societies, which live in two different realities and which have two completely opposite truths. Such a divided society is, no doubt, a paradise for populists. If we look back and analyze the pre-election campaigns from this distance of time, we will see in what delusions we lived. The rights of some were seen as a danger to others. The rights of the latter, on the other hand, were promoted as a blow or revenge for the former.

It was known where such social division on ethnic lines leads. Towards the solution of citizens’ problems, of course not. It led to a conflict that happened in 2001. The words stopped, the gun spoke. Reason was set aside, emotions took precedence. The destructive effort had gripped a large section of society.

We were fortunate that during that period the international community began to resolve the conflict in time, before it turned into civil war. Learning from the wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo, diplomats from Washington, Brussels, Berlin and London acted preemptively and unitedly. This approach paid off – in September 2001, the Peace Framework Agreement was signed, ending the conflict and opening new opportunities for peace and development.

Have we proven in this period that we know how to use the second chance given? I would say partially. Even after the conflict, the state continued to function based on ethnic, not ideological or civil principles. This organization and political action was a repeat of what we had before the conflict. Realistically, as a post-conflict country, rapid change was not expected given deteriorating inter-ethnic relations and shaky trust. But it was realistic to expect that political parties would not use (inter)ethnic issues as a means of mobilizing voters.

I have been repeating for a long time the opinion that nationalism in North Macedonia is a dangerous luxury for political parties, which they should not allow themselves to have. With all the obstacles and disputes surrounding the fulfillment of the Framework Agreement, with all the possible delays (most of the agreement was supposed to be completed in 2004), this document is still today a success story for Western diplomacy and the vision of some of the political leaders and social actors.

Do we have a reality based on a truth today? Of course not. But we are well on our way to achieving that. The media is almost free of stereotypes about the other, and political parties now have a different world view of politics, largely freed from ethnic prejudices. The first step was taken in the 2017 local elections, when SDSM and DUI decided to run together in several municipalities. It turned out to be a successful formula, which then continued in the presidential elections in 2018 and the parliamentary elections in 2020. In the last local elections we had two political blocs – the government and the opposition. VMRO-DPMNE for the first time performed with a pre-election coalition with the political parties of ethnic Albanians – Alliance of Albanians and Alternativa. This new moment in politics comes as a result of the process of democratization of the state through the installation of European values, such as: human rights, dignity, equality, democracy and the rule of law.

Now that the process of membership negotiations with the European Union (EU) has started, this democratic development must continue towards full equality, as one of the basic European values. All citizens must be equal, both in the enjoyment of rights and obligations. Such an image inevitably imposes another political reality, which looks beyond the trenches and ethnic barricades. Parties must unite around concrete causes, ideas and ideals and not be the source of their ethnic hyper reality. As the main actors of the political sphere, which have a great weight in the formation of public opinion, it is time for the political parties to Europeanize. As Europeans, they will reflect not only on their electorate, but also on the general public. Instead of narrow ethnic interests that bring easy votes, we need a European vision and concept that will be oriented towards achieving concrete results. Of course, for the benefit of all citizens.

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