By XHABIR DERALLA
The government in a democratic state, always and far and wide, gets the short end of the propaganda stick. The opposition is always in (at least) a slight advantage, because mistakes and shortcomings can be found in every action of the government. Especially if the government is working on strengthening the transparency and capacities of the institutions and is dealing with corruption amongst its own ranks (the Raskovski and Zeqiri cases), it turns out that both the opposition and the government itself are working against the government. There is no campaign of progressive governing parties that can have such an effect as the populism and propaganda of opposition parties, particularly if they are right-wing, and a good part of society is radicalized.
A large number of countries are interesting to be observed in this context, especially in the Balkans, the Mediterranean and former members of the Warsaw Pact. Mazedonische Zustände? Oh, that’s always more complicated.
Campaign for rehabilitation of criminals
The campaign that is being carried out since the first day after the early parliamentary elections on December 11, 2016, is aimed at fully rehabilitating criminals in politics and undermining the democratic discourse of the country.
The government of SDSM was formed on June 1, 2017, after an intense ultranationalist campaign by VMRO-DPMNE and the most radical political groups in the country. The campaign consisted of violent protests that culminated with terror in the Parliament on April 27, 2017. The terror was followed by a blockade of then president-usurper Gjorje Ivanov, who was not handing over the mandate to the obvious winner, in every sense of the word, Zoran Zaev. The day when the first government structure of Zoran Zaev was affirmed, that government was already with a significantly damaged image. The mild reaction of a large part of the media was strange even back then. The government was formed half a year after the elections!
The false balance of the big editors and media bosses
The protagonists of the regime, who in the first days were hidden in mouse holes, soon after the brief silence, came across a blank media space and seized it successfully. The big editors and media bosses rehabilitated yesterdays’ factors of the despotic regime and introduced “balance” in their programs. With that “balance” today, it seems, anti-Western nationalists and radicals have an absolute advantage in the public communication and media space.
Some say it is precisely Zaev who is partly “to blame” for this situation, because he rashly promised, and even more rashly fulfilled the promise by cancelling “government” advertisements. (There is a difference between misuse of public money for political purposes and campaigns of public interest. In that period, everything was put in the same basket – both the fierce misuse and media corruption from the Gruevism time and the need of campaigns for protection of the public interest).
The landing for toppling Zaev
Nevertheless, the assessment remains that the media have always been under VMRO-DPMNE’s partial or full control. This became most obvious ahead of the resolution of the name dispute, the Prespa Agreement and the Referendum in 2018. Then the “landing” for toppling Zoran Zaev began, and as IFIMES analyzed then, more than 160 online portals were part of the “propaganda phalanx” that also includes TV stations with a national concession, troll factories and other brainwashing mills.
The narratives of the propaganda – “They are all the same”
Everyone was tired, and many terrified by VMRO-DPMNE’s violence, in which they saw a strong threat with which it seemed that SDSM and peaceful unifier Zaev didn’t want or didn’t know how to deal with. Actually, the public was targeted with five simple narratives:
- VMRO and Gruevski are bad, but SDSM is incapable of dealing with them;
- VMRO and Gruevski are (maybe) bad, but at least know how to keep the Albanians under control;
- VMRO and Gruevski (maybe) steal, but also build;
- VMRO and Gruevski are (maybe) bad, but at least know how to introduce order and discipline, while “ours” are unorganized and undisciplined;
- They are all the same.
That narrative “they are all the same” – somehow magically – always went in favor of VMRO-DPMNE and Levica, and never in favor of SDSM. More specifically, it was the easiest way to discredit Zoran Zaev, and later also the entire government of SDSM. That narrative also follows current Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski.
The Moscow-Budapest-Belgrade-Skopje axis
The “impunity” of DUI, or the narrative “have you heard of a DUI official going to jail?” was also added to the list of “inabilities” of SDSM. And, of course, again this does not go in favor of SDSM. But more on this propaganda narrative in another occasion.
All this, but also much more propaganda and corrupt “seasonings” travelled along the Moscow-Budapest-Belgrade-Skopje axis continuously and unhindered.
It’s easy to torpedo the government
Therefore, in moments when major decisions were being made, decisive for the strategic interests of the country, it was easy and still is – to torpedo the government. With the help of the “neutral” media and NGOs, which with money from the West are hitting against the West, the significance of the decisions related to NATO, the Prespa Agreement, EU and so on, was decreased (practically, nullified), and was presented (at the very least) as betrayal of the Macedonian identity.
Parties formed by the criminal-policeunderground
The public was carefully and systematically handled from the first days of the civil resistance, and especially intensively from 2013. Entire parties were formed with the help of the criminal-police underground. Of them, Levica was the most successful, which, on the other hand, emerged from several quasi left-wing non-governmental organizations.
From a small handful of stupid and greedy, radically right-wing little fascists, who at one time went as leftists, the far-right “Levica” grew into a structure that in the early elections in 2020 won two MPs, party boss Apasiev and his lieutenant Krmov.
The Russian Matryoshkas
Let’s not forget. It’s the same Russian matryoshkas who received the Ambassador of Russiain the middle of the Macedonian Parliament on the verge of the Russian criminal aggression against Ukraine and the entire free world. And gave open support for Putin’s special operation.
The long game of criminals and radicals in politics
By the time the first democratic government was established after the fall of Gruevski’s regime (with a narrow parliamentary majority of a pretty colorful and loose coalition), the ground was already well-prepared for the long game of criminals and radicals in politics. They had direct support from the Kremlin and from centers of power in several Balkan and European countries, primarily Serbia and Hungary, but also from political players in Slovenia, Italy, Bulgaria and others.
Five and a half years later, despite everything: NATO, resolved disputes, EU negotiationsstarted…
Five and a half years later, North Macedonia is a member of NATO, has resolved all disputes with its neighbors and started negotiations for EU membership. Despite everything! Despite all blockades, propaganda and violence by the opposition, fierce Russian propaganda and hybrid attacks, covid pandemic and flat Earth and anti-vaxx (vmro) campaigns – the Macedonian state did not collapse, the regime did not return, the EU opened its gates…
But all important decisions and successfully completed processes, ended with a decrease in the rating of the democratic government. So, this story is not over. Not by far. It’s yet to begin. And more about this in the next (alarming) episodes about theMazedonische Zustände.
Translation: N. Cvetkovska