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Balkan Report: September 20, 2002


20 September 2002, Volume 6, Number 35

NOTE TO READERS:
The next issue of "RFE/RL Balkan Report" will appear on 4 October 2002.

MACEDONIA AFTER THE ELECTIONS -- A CLEAR WINNER, BUT NOT MUCH ELSE. Macedonia elected a new parliament on 15 September in what most observers called free and fair elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16, 17, and 18 September 2002). Despite a tense preelection period and fears that violent incidents could overshadow the elections and put their results in question, the election day passed peacefully (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 August, 6 and 13 September 2002). Both domestic and international observers used the phrase "Macedonia has successfully passed the democracy test" to describe the elections.

The election results send a clear message. Among the ethnic Macedonian parties, the opposition Together for Macedonia coalition, which is dominated by the Social Democratic Union (SDSM), has a majority in the new parliament. The SDSM won 60 of the 120 seats, while the Socialist Party (SPM) took one seat. The governing Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) and its coalition partner, the Liberal Party (LP), suffered a defeat and will have only 33 seats.

The VMRO-DPMNE's other coalition partner, the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), will be represented with only seven deputies. Most Albanian voters chose the Democratic Union of the Albanians (BDI), which became the third-largest faction in parliament with 16 deputies. The ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD, two seats) and the National Democratic Party (PDK, one seat) share the remaining seats.

Although the results seem clear at first sight, the formation of the future government may prove complicated. It is widely expected that SDSM Chairman and future Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski will try to form a coalition government with one of the ethnic Albanian parties. But with which one?

What seems to be the "natural" coalition partner for the SDSM is also the most problematic. The BDI has presented itself as a moderate party that stands for the integration of the Albanian minority into the Macedonian state and society. BDI Chairman Ali Ahmeti has also described his party as social democratic, so that the ideological differences between the SDSM and the BDI seem to be rather small.

The BDI's election success is due to Ahmeti's great popularity as the former political leader of the National Liberation Army (UCK), which staged an insurgency against the Macedonian government for five months in 2001. Many Albanians say he won them more rights with his brief rebellion than the PPD or the PDSH did in the decade of their participation in government.

But Ahmeti's past as rebel leader is precisely the reason why the SDSM may hesitate to form a coalition with the BDI, since many Macedonians believe that he is a terrorist. SDSM Deputy Chairman Vlado Buckovski told the Bulgarian weekly "Kapital" before the elections that there is no place in the parliament for Ahmeti and other former UCK commanders. Some observers have suggested a coalition between the SDSM and BDI without Ahmeti, which may be a workable alternative.

The second possible partner for the SDSM is the PPD. The PPD was in a coalition government under Crvenkovski from 1992 to 1998, but the PPD of today is a far cry from that of four years ago. Internal strife has almost destroyed the party in the meantime. It has lost many of its followers to the BDI, and the Albanian electorate is unlikely to accept an SDSM-PPD coalition as representing their interests.

The third, if somewhat unlikely, option for the SDSM remains the PDSH. The ideological differences between the anticommunist PDSH and the postcommunist Social Democrats are quite large, and the PDSH has a number of former UCK commanders in its ranks. It is not clear whether the SDSM and PDSH reached any understanding in talks before the elections.

The tiny PDK has repeatedly called for the federalization of Macedonia, which is unacceptable to the SDSM, which wants to preserve the unitary character of the state.

Meanwhile, Ahmeti has once again called on the ethnic Albanian parties to unite in a coalition under his leadership. But at present, only the PDK has signaled its readiness for cooperation with him. Ahmeti's earlier attempts to form an all-Albanian coalition failed because of animosities among the party leaders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 February 2002).

Whoever the SDSM chooses as a coalition partner, the new government will face numerous problems, from the implementation of the Ohrid peace agreement to the fight against unemployment, corruption, and organized crime. Whether the government can succeed in any of these areas remains very much open to question. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

THE SLOVENIAN PRESIDENTIAL RUN-UP. Since Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek's declaration of his candidacy three months ago for the upcoming presidential elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report ," 21 June 2002), the number of presidential hopefuls has more than doubled. The election is scheduled for Sunday, 10 November.

France Bucar's 16 September announcement of his intention to run brought the number of candidates running against the favorite, Drnovsek, to 15. Bucar was president of Slovenia's first multiparty parliament and currently chairs the Slovenian Pan-European Movement. According to a 17 September article in the daily "Delo," Bucar says popular pressure compelled him to run.

Candidates for Slovenia's presidency can qualify in several ways. If running as representatives of a political party, the signatures of three members of parliament or 3,000 voters are required. Independent candidates must obtain 5,000 signatures to qualify. Candidates must file at least 25 days before elections, and the final list of candidates is confirmed 20 days before elections -- this year, on 22 October. The president is chosen by an absolute majority and, failing this, a runoff election takes place no more than 21 days later, that is, 1 December.

Active campaigning officially begins 30 days before the elections, or on 11 October this year. However, broadcasts of campaign messages are prohibited seven days before the election, making for a short campaigning season of three weeks. As a result, leading candidates have already been raising their public profiles through interviews, public appearances, and Internet exposure. In addition, information about candidates is freely available through the numerous signature collection stations organized throughout the country.

One of the latest figures to enter the race is Piran town councilor Josko Joras, who announced his intention on 13 September. Following his recent stay in a Croatian jail, he has set his sights on higher office as an independent candidate (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 August and 13 September 2002). Joras's platform is based on democracy, access to international waters, and, predictably, the unity of the Bay of Piran as part of Slovenia.

Four of this fall's contenders will be running as party candidates: Janez Drnovsek for Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS), Anton Bebler for the Democratic Party of Retired Persons (DeSUS), Zmago Jelincic for the Slovenian National Party (SNS), and Lev Kreft of the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD). Although not running as party candidates, France Arhar has the backing of the Slovenian People's Party (SLS), and Barbara Brezigar has the joint backing of the conservative Social Democratic Party (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi). Both are expected to easily garner the 5,000 signatures required. Stefan Hudobivnik is expected to run with the backing of three members of parliament.

The remaining presidential candidates -- Bucar, Jure Cekuta, Joras, Marko Kozar, Dusan Mihajlovic, Tomaz Rozman, Stane Sevcnikar, and Blaz Svetek -- are at this point considered outsiders who may or may not be able to gather the necessary signatures to endorse their campaigns.

A recent development that has changed the political landscape was the dramatic drop in popularity of presidential candidate Arhar in August. On 2 September, "Delo" reported that he had fallen from second to 16th in popularity among Slovenian political figures in the paper's monthly "political barometer" opinion poll. His poor showing was likely connected with the extensive media attention focused on his relatively high personal income, particularly because of the payments he received as president of the Vzajemna insurance company. Reports of a monthly salary of 3.1 million tolars ($13,300) created ill feelings among the public.

Arhar's advisory connection in the sellout of Slovenia's Krekova Banka to Austrian investors also prompted rival candidate Hudobivnik to call for him to withdraw from the contest. "Anton Slomsek would burst into tears," Hudobivnik was quoted as saying in "Delo" on 20 August, referring to the 19th-century bishop and national awakener. "In [Slomsek's] own city, they have sold [to the Austrians] a bank that was intended to help the farmers and artisans of Styria, Prekmurje, and all of Slovenia."

The race offers a number of interesting, if unlikely, candidates. Kozar claims the novel "The Good Soldier Svejk" by Czech author Jaroslav Hasek as one of his inspirations. Sevcnikar has proposed the idea of a corporate-style state, with citizens as shareholders receiving dividends based on its economic performance. Svetek, who is also president of the nonparliamentary Forward Slovenia party, was last heard of when he ran for mayor of Ljubljana and polled 0.6 percent. Outsiders or not, all of the candidates appear to be taking their roles seriously. Rozman is reported to have sold his house in Hawaii in order to finance his campaign.

Although the presidential race is the most visible contest taking place this November, elections are also taking place for members of local councils and mayors. With 193 mayoral positions and some 3,000 councilors' positions up for grabs, the number of candidates at all levels this fall is estimated at 15,000, according to a "Delo" article of 24 July.

One of the most controversial issues to emerge in the elections at the local level is the requirement for 19 local municipalities automatically to include a member of the Roma (Gypsy) population in the council. Six municipalities -- Beltinci, Grosuplje, Krsko, Semic, Sentjernej, and Trebnje -- failed to pass the required statute by the 2 September deadline, and it is now up to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to decide what action should be taken. Another new provision at the local level is that resident aliens in Slovenia may vote for councilors and mayors, and even run as candidates for town councilor (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 August 2002).

Despite the presence of these local issues, it is the most visible contest, the office of president, on which most eyes will be focused in the run-up to 10 November. (Donald F. Reindl, dreindl@indiana.edu)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "There is sometimes a certain mistrust of my country, and this is unbelievable." -- Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, quoted by AP at the United Nations on 12 September 2002.

"It is absurd that Slovenia and Croatia Balkanize their relations at precisely the time when such problems are by and large disappearing from Southeastern Europe." -- Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan, quoted in Vienna's "Die Presse" on 12 September.

"We guarantee we will have peace in this place for a long time.... I am not a chauvinist. I am not a nationalist. -- Ali Ahmeti (see above), quoted by "The Washington Post" on 15 September.

"A man who cannot forgive is not a man." -- Social Democratic leader Branko Crvenkovski, quoted ibidem.

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