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ANALYSES Tutti Albanesi, Tutti Commandanti

I do not doubt the good intentions of Prime Minister Zaev to save the Albanians from themselves. But, it is the choice of tools that is not so good. And, as bad as his choice may be, it is inevitable. He has to save the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) at the local level, in order to prevent the further fall of this party, and thereby maintain the coalition in parliament and in the government. By doing so, he is losing part of his allies at the local level and is creating additional confusion, while he himself is becoming additionally vulnerable.

Let us recall, in December, for the first time, the votes of the Albanians were not based on ethnicity. And, from that, I would say, historic circumstance for Macedonia, the Albanians entered into an even more complicated phase than the Macedonians. More specifically, this is a turbulent inter-period, which will be followed by new regroupings and even more dramatic events. Regardless of whether the Albanians voted for SDSM or against DUI, with the Albanian votes spilling out of the ethnic orientations, a new civic character of the election processes and – of social life in general, is becoming apparent. This was a phenomenon for which, it seems, that the political parties were not entirely prepared for. The citizens showed much more maturity than most of the candidates for office did – both the Albanians who voted according to their own will, within and outside of their ethnic communities, as well as the Macedonians who welcomed this phenomenon with relief and great recognition for their fellow citizens.

This, nevertheless, is an extremely delicate situation in which we can see just how much the local government is important to everyone. The political parties are simply fighting for every single vote, intensely and without choosing the means in doing so.

All-out war for votes!

Everyone is included in the struggle for votes, from central party leaderships to the last sympathizer…And now, when there are 35 municipalities left out of 80 in which the local government needs to be conquered, their frantic race for power is the only motive. Nothing else matters to them, ethics the least. This is a period when one has to act now and here, regardless of what the consequences could be on the long run. The important thing is to win political points now, even if it were to be devastating for the entire society tomorrow. We will think about the consequences tomorrow – this is what the urge is these days. Not the logic, not the reason, but the urge.

The Albanian politicians are now in suspense – the success of the local elections will be an introduction to the next phase, when they will be in a position to effectuate their success at the local level at the negotiating table with, let’s say, the Macedonians, in order to gain better positions in the government and central institutions. The local government is a lever for power at the central level. Albanians? Civic interests? Macedonians? Other ethnic communities? What was that? The important thing is the access to the control of power, everything else is just an instrument for reaching the goal.

Hence, the Albanian voters are trapped in the labyrinth of the complicated Macedonian political reality. At the parliamentary elections in December, tens of thousands of Albanians voted for SDSM in order to punish DUI for their ruling in the style of VMRO-DPMNE, and now again they are pushed into the arms of Ali Ahmeti, to save him, who are being persuaded to do so by, nobody else, but the prime minister himself. A campaign for local elections! With national topics. With “guarantees” from the government that, if they vote for the candidate that suits SDSM, citizens can hope for a quicker development of their municipality.

Wrong, very wrong! Gruevski was photographed for billboards together with the candidates for mayors in 2013. We called this pressure and a form of political corruption. Even though Zaev’s campaign is, for the most part, unifying and positive, his intervention, however, has a scent and taste of manipulation. Wrong, regardless of how much Zaev and SDSM, in this way, want to combat the citizens’ assumed fear of a prolonged and deepened dictatorship at the local level.

The Albanians are facing a tough choice. They have been living in a ghetto for decades, constantly torn apart by deep internal divisions. Special rules govern this ghetto, corrupt and inefficient institutions, still completely politicized. When part of the Albanians voted for SDSM in December, and some even in the first round of elections, they sent a message to the institutions and parties that they want to live a different life, to come out of the longstanding cultural, political and social despair.

Not even the well-known Albanian politicians are convincing enough for the Albanian voters, nor are some of the new players who in the past two years have ran out on the uneven political field. Gruevski is excluded from the Albanian’s vision because of his noticeable and dirty nationalism that he practices all the time. Even he was to put on a qeleshe and speak Albanian fluently, he would still not convince anyone.

It is completely justified that the perception of the Albanian voters for those who are fighting to be their political representatives is rather mixed.  It is irrelevant now whether those perceptions are entirely correct or not. Time is short. Decisions have to be made fast, emotions have been shaken, while reasonable solutions have a stain from the dirty combinations and political greediness.

What do the Albanians have on the political plate? Pawns of politicians that have been suspected in the investigations of the SPO and worn out politicians who are waiting for an opportunity to profit something in the political nick of time and options. For many, the dirty political pragmatism will re-emerge, deliberately or not. For others, on the other hand, time and divisions between the Albanians will work.

Even though it seems completely different to other ethnic communities, the Albanian political scene has however always been extremely fragmented. These days the Albanian political campus resembles an anecdote from World War II…The Italian occupier had a saying for the Albanians: Tutti Albanesi, tutti commandanti (All Albanians, all commanders).

Xhabir Deralla

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