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Analysis: Macedonian Opposition In A Quandary

A group of just over 20 opposition lawmakers of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), the Liberal Party, and the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) moved a vote of no confidence on 15 September. Gjorgji Trendafilov of the VMRO-DPMNE said a no-confidence motion is the only way to raise some questions regarding the governing Social Democratic Union's (SDSM) poor record.

As might be expected, the governing coalition of the SDSM, Liberal Democrats (LDP), and the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) rejected the motion on 18 September by a large majority, 67 votes to 22 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2004).

The opposition's poor showing reflects a deeper internal struggle. The initiators of the no-confidence motion failed to get the backing of all lawmakers of their own party, the VMRO-DPMNE. But there are fault lines running through other opposition parties, such as the PDSH, as well.
It is clear that the VMRO-DPMNE wants to return to power. But the big question is who will be its ethnic Albanian coalition partner.

The conservative VMRO-DPMNE still suffers from the long-standing feud between former Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski on the one hand, and former Finance Minister Nikola Gruevski, who succeeded Georgievski as party chairman, on the other. The rift between Georgievski and Gruevski resulted in the foundation of a new party, the VMRO-Narodna, by Georgievski's followers in July (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 June and 9 July 2004).

Some Macedonian media speculated that the no-confidence motion was masterminded by Georgievski to wrong-foot Gruevski, who had reportedly planned to move a no-confidence motion after the referendum against the government's redistricting plans, which is slated for 7 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2, 23, and 30 July,13 and 27 August, and 3 and 11 and 17 September 2004). Gruevski's plan must now be postponed, as the constitution provides for a 90-day period between two no-confidence motions.

Whereas Georgievski has kept a low profile in the leadership struggle, Gruevski is trying to stay in the headlines. With his latest interviews and editorials, Gruevski attacked the government, mainly for its performance in the administrative reform and its economic policy (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 September 2004).

It is clear that the VMRO-DPMNE -- independent of who is its leader -- wants to return to power, which it lost in the parliamentary elections two years ago. But the big question is who will be its ethnic Albanian coalition partner.

In a long interview with the Bulgarian news agency Fokus, PDSH Chairman Arben Xhaferi said on 16 September that a successful referendum against the government's redistricting plans would inevitably result not only in early parliamentary elections, but also in new negotiations to revise the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement and establish some form of "soft" international protectorate over Macedonia. "Unlike the Macedonian politicians, I have a positive attitude towards this solution," Xhaferi said.

Regarding the VMRO-DPMNE, Xhaferi said his own party is now having difficulties finding a potential ethnic Macedonian coalition partner, since most parties have lost their clear ideological profile. "The VMRO has [given up] its [conservative] doctrine, has lost its essential nature as the VMRO, and turned into a DPMNE [Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity] only," Xhaferi said, adding that the loss of the VMRO's ideological underpinnings has led it to make "unpredictable political decisions." The original VMRO was a Macedonian national-liberation movement against the Ottoman Empire founded in the late 19th century.

Macedonian media interpreted Xhaferi's statements as a clear sign that he would prefer a VMRO led by Georgievski rather than by Gruevski, who wants to transform the VMRO-DPMNE into a European-style moderate conservative party.

Georgievski's followers, for their part, also say they would prefer to form a coalition with the PDSH. Vera Janevska, who leads the VMRO-Narodna, said the coalition of the VMRO-DPMNE and PDSH, which governed the country between 1998 and 2002, functioned much better than the current coalition government of the SDSM and BDI. "We, as the ideological successors of the VMRO-DPMNE [headed by Georgievski], are convinced that, working with the PDSH, we would find a much better approach to [redistricting] than the one forced upon us by the SDSM and the BDI," Janevska said.

Gruevski reportedly told VOA that the PDSH leans towards Georgievski's wing of the VMRO-DPMNE, adding that he expects a new Albanian party to emerge because the PDSH has lost support among ethnic Albanians.

However, it remains to be seen whether Xhaferi's PDSH will remain united. Xhaferi's recent appeal to his followers to support the referendum was not met with unanimous approval. PDSH Deputy Chairman Menduh Thaci, who is often regarded as the party's gray eminence, told the media on the sidelines of a party convention in Tetovo on 17 September that the party will not call on its members to support the referendum.