Macedonia | Freedom House

Nations in Transit



Nations in Transit 2003

2003 Scores

Democracy Score
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Electoral Process
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Civil Society
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Independent Media
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Judicial Framework and Independence
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


(1 = best, 7 = worst)


(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Of all the countries in Southeast Europe, the Republic of Macedonia was long considered a model country in transition. Weathering recurrent political, economic, and social crises since gaining independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, the country has faced the primary challenge of building a state that accommodates the ethno-political ambitions of Macedonians (66 percent of the population, according to the 1994 census) and Albanians (23 percent). Referencing their historical struggle for recognition as a people, ethnic Macedonians have insisted on a unitary nation-state. Albanians, however, who enjoyed such recognition under the former regime, have refused to be considered an ethnic minority in a Macedonian nation-state and have advocated for official binationalism.

During its first eight years of independence, Macedonia was a relatively tolerant society that perpetuated its inherited Titoist social ideology. Though at times grudgingly, the Macedonian ethnic majority recognized the rights of national minorities and promoted pluralism in the media, native-language education, minority civil society organizations, and interethnic power sharing in the national government. Nevertheless, the perceived concord between Macedonians and Albanians masked deep political and economic dissatisfaction. Expectations of prosperity not only went unrealized, but living standards sank as unemployment soared. Political transformation was formulated as a zero-sum game, pitting Albanian grievances against Macedonian fears for "their" country's security and integrity. Although Macedonia largely succeeded in preventing the escalation of these tensions into armed conflict, the Kosovo war (1999) and subsequent Macedonian war (2001) demonstrably altered the country's sociopolitical landscape.

From 1991 through 1998, Macedonia was governed by a coalition of the Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM) and the Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP), both heirs to the former Yugoslav Communists. The country took a stark political and economic decision in 1998, though, when it ousted the SDSM/PDP government and elected the ultranationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization--Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), led by Ljupco Georgievski. VMRO-DPMNE then formed a surprising alliance with the nationalist Democratic Party for Albanians (DPA), led by Arben Xhaferi. Although the alliance (VMRO/DPA) represented an unprecedented political accommodation, it was based on unrealistic and ultimately unfulfilled promises of economic development and prosperity.

The Kosovo war badly tarnished nascent political and economic optimism. Confronted with over 350,000 Kosovar refugees, mostly Albanians, Macedonians were compelled to assess whether they identified foremost with their ethnic community regardless of its political borders or with their country with all its ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity. Although the unexpectedly rapid departure of the refugees precluded much public debate over these questions, the war still noticeably widened social and political fissures within and among Macedonia's ethnolinguistic communities. Heated and sometimes violent presidential and municipal elections, in 1999 and 2000, respectively, provoked widespread accusations that the governing parties had sold out their constituencies' ethnopolitical interests. Greater ethnic Albanian involvement in postwar national politics aroused ethnic Macedonian concerns that an Albanian swing vote would determine key issues facing the country. Macedonians also increasingly resented perceived Albanian war benefits, whether refugee relief subsidies or political concessions in higher education.

Despite overcoming the immediate impact of the Kosovo war, Macedonia experienced spiraling repercussions of a financial, social, and political nature. Unimpeded corruption within the Macedonian government in conjunction with the festering problems of lawlessness in postwar Kosovo (especially along the Macedonian border) culminated in the outbreak of war between Macedonia's security forces and Albanian guerrillas in the National Liberation Army (NLA). Under international pressure, the VMRO/DPA government expanded into a Grand Coalition (or government of national unity) that included the opposition SDSM, the PDP, the Liberal Party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the Socialist Party, and the small splinter VMRO-VMRO. Meant to defeat the NLA insurgency, the Grand Coalition was unable to curtail Macedonia's military, economic, and social erosion. After six months of low-intensity and often bungled warfare, Europe and the United States compelled the VMRO, DPA, SDSM, and PDP to sign the Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA). Though essentially an arbitrated rather than a negotiated agreement, the OFA nonetheless was intended as an olive branch, first to terminate the armed confrontation between the NLA and Macedonian security forces and second to provide a new platform for political reforms to address the grievances considered to have given rise to the war. The international community further announced that reconstruction aid to Macedonia was to be made conditional upon ratification of the OFA. Both parties were required to sign the document; thus, no matter which coalition dominated government in future, political commitment to the OFA would be assured.

The OFA was signed in August 2001, but Macedonia's Parliament delayed its passage until November 2001. Ratification of its constitutional revisions (Annex A) occurred in late 2001, though passage of legislative amendments (Annex B) was delayed until 2002. Consequently, early national elections slated for February 2002 were postponed until the government's mandate actually expired. To everyone's relief, voting took place on September 15, 2002, and was judged reasonably free and fair by international observers. Despite the incumbent government's efforts to thwart the election process through intimidation, both the VMRO and the DPA lost heavily. As in 1998, rather than expressing hope for the future, both the Macedonian and the Albanian electorates displayed their frustration with the recent past and revulsion for the present. Macedonians, seeing no viable alternative, restored the still mistrusted SDSM to power. As an expression of their postwar elan, Albanians showed their political support for the NLA by voting en masse for the Union for Democratic Integration (DUI), a new party formed in 2002 by insurgent-turned-politician Ali Ahmeti. When forming the new government, the victorious SDSM/LDP coalition had to make a difficult choice: to recognize the will of the majority of the Albanian electorate and bring the DUI into the coalition or to adhere to its preelection stand that no "terrorists" would be permitted to enter government. Reluctantly but prudently, the SDSM chose to work with the DUI, forming what came to be known as the government of "guns and roses"--guns representing the DUI's NLA origins and the rose being the SDSM's party symbol.

Despite passage of the OFA and the success of the elections, the prevailing mood in Macedonia has remained bleakly pessimistic. Ethnic Macedonians still resent the process that imposed the terms ending the war. Rather than anticipating sustainable peace or coexistence, Macedonians remain mistrustful of the Albanians' true intentions. At worst they suspect designs for a "greater Albania" (or, more commonly, "greater Kosovo"). At best they expect a possible "Belgian solution"--namely, the eventual ethnic federalization, or cantonization, of the country. Macedonians also still harbor resentment toward the West, claiming that without its support the NLA could not have achieved its military or political objectives. Ethnic Albanians remain doubtful whether Macedonia will fully honor the OFA. Last year's threat that insurgents would resume the war barring full implementation of the agreement has now been replaced by calls from the postelection Albanian opposition to their constituencies for a "new" struggle to gain their full human and civil rights. Violent interethnic confrontations, considered virtually inevitable, have been overshadowed by intraethnic disputes as the Macedonian and Albanian communities both seek to find their political centers.

In sum, during its short independent statehood, Macedonia has experienced eight years of so-called fictional cohabitation, an adjacent war and its resultant refugee crisis, and its own domestic war. Now Macedonia must adapt to the conditions of cohabitation enforced by the European Union (EU) and NATO. As the likelihood of another Balkan war has all but vanished owing to the Western military presence on the ground, as Europe has focused its attention on new candidate countries preparing for admission into the EU, and as the West has redefined its political priorities in response to the events of September 11, 2001, Macedonia's status has shifted from a key country in transition to an ordinary postconflict society. Nonetheless, Macedonia continues to face the identical critical issue it has from the outset: Can its ethnolinguistic communities find a political formula that will accommodate their divergent sociopolitical needs and aspirations?

In the view of the Western political and military leadership that oversaw the negotiation and signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, Macedonia has been given a final opportunity to retreat from the precipitous threshold of armed interethnic conflict. In the view of OFA proponents, if Macedonia meets the strategic challenges of implementing the OFA's provisions, the country finally and decisively will have thrust itself into the mainstream of democratic politics. Seen in this light, the year 2002 represented a test period for Macedonia as a postwar society that would ultimately prove itself--or not--at the ballot box. And it did. Contrary to the view of Macedonia's "peace architects," though, the country's conflict cannot be remedied exclusively by addressing procedural issues and structural inequities. Rather, any effective solution must address the deep sense of violated identity felt equally strongly by both Macedonians and Albanians and the accompanying resentments these groups harbor about the distribution of the state's economic, political, and social resources. These issues, above all others, have prevented Macedonia's ethnic communities from appreciating one another's legitimate fears and aspirations and, thus, from seeking mutually acceptable solutions.

As in previous crises, the events of the past year have perpetuated feelings of threatened identities. In other words, neither Macedonians nor Albanians have been motivated to "expand the common space as to fit difference, self-identity, and...different interests and needs," as human rights activist Mirjana Najcevska noted in Multietnicki Forum, a publication of the organization Search for Common Ground. Neither have they devised a platform that would permit the development of a functioning civic model. Rather, they are "stuck in a dead end that offers nothing but new conflict." What emerges from this pessimistic analysis is that despite all the advances that occurred in 2002, the long-term prognosis for Macedonia's sociopolitical health has not improved markedly. This may be why, with the olive branch of the Ohrid Framework Agreement still perched precariously between the guns of 2001 and the "rose" that won the 2002 political contest, both Macedonians and Albanians are still asking whether Macedonia truly has arrived at a new beginning.

Electoral Process: 

Article 20 of Macedonia's Constitution permits groupings of 500 or more Macedonian citizens to form political parties. Of the 60 or more parties active immediately after Macedonia's independence, approximately 30 are still functioning. Personal differences have led to the emergence of several splinter parties in recent years. The Democratic Alliance was founded by former SDSM interior minister Pavle Trajanov in 1999, and the VMROVMRO was established unilaterally in 2000 by six VMRO--DPMNE parliamentarians who felt that their parent party had betrayed its electoral mandate. The New Democracy Party (NDP), a splinter from Vasil Tupurkovski's Democratic Alternative (DA), was represented in the previous government by Foreign Minister Slobodan Casule. NLA leader Ahmeti created the newest Albanian party, the Union for Democratic Integration, in July 2002 after Albanian politicians failed to coalesce around his nascent All-Albanian Coordination Council. Although all parties formally are membership based, they are driven largely by personalities: Ljubco Georgievski of the VMRO, Branko Crvenkovski of the SDSM, Ali Ahmeti of the DUI, and Arben Xhaferi of the DPA.

Various parties participate at all levels of government. Metropolitan Skopje's mayor, for example, is from the LDP, but Skopje's five municipalities are split between VMRO and LDP mayors. Throughout the country, minimally two Macedonian and Albanian parties have elected mayors and city councillors. From 1998 to 2002, both the president and prime minister were from the VMRO. Until presidential elections occur in 2004, however, the national executive offices will remain divided between the VMRO (President Borsi Trajkovski) and the SDSM (Prime Minister Crvenkovski).

Between 1991 and 2002, Macedonia had two elected governments. The first, a coalition of the Macedonian SDSM and the Albanian PDP, was considered an extension of the previous Communist regime. Unresolved social and political disputes left both Macedonians and Albanians dissatisfied and led in 1998 to an overwhelming opposition victory. In the second government, the majority "ultranationalist" Macedonian VMRO with its Macedonian partner, the DA, invited the ultranationalist DPA to join the government. Broad consensus existed that if these ethnopolitical extremes could find a modus vivendi, so could their constituencies. The promise of political stability eroded, however, when the Kosovo war strained Macedonia's political establishment almost to the breaking point. Ethnic Macedonians feared the 360,000 mostly Albanian refugees from Kosovo would upset Macedonia's demographic ratio. Unprepared for this crisis, the VMRO government went into near paralysis, creating a vacuum filled by Western military authorities and multinational humanitarian agencies. Albanians, who had been pressured not to exploit the refugee crisis for political gain, began collecting their political rewards once the war ended, filling more ministerial positions and securing concessions for minority-language education. Ultimately, the Albanian vote was courted to secure the election of the VMRO presidential candidate in 1999.

The country's seeming political stability of late 1999 faded in 2000 as the VMRO government stood accused of numerous political and economic scandals that undermined its credibility even among its most ardent supporters. Revelations of severe corruption in the Ministry of Defense and other government institutions increasingly eroded public confidence in the government and in the integrity of the political establishment in general. The outbreak of the Albanian insurgency in February 2001 undermined the government's validity altogether and led to the formation of the Grand Coalition. This government of national unity was expected to provide the legitimacy required to contain the insurgency politically and militarily. Contrary to expectations, however, intra- and interethnic conflicts precluded effective governmental action on either the political or the military stage. Rather than acting as a coalescing factor, the Grand Coalition operated as a dysfunctional substitute for government and disbanded soon after signing the Ohrid Framework Agreement.

The year 2002 began with Macedonia's two primary ethnolinguistic communities reacting and reflecting on the preceding year's war and the OFA that brought it to an end in August 2001. In a January 2003 interview, Prime Minister Georgievski summed up his government's view of the key issues: Albanian aggression against Macedonia and the international community's tendency "to only see Albanian extremists as victims"; internal governmental disputes over competencies and responsibilities; the absence of security as reflected by the slow rate of police redeployment to the "crisis regions" (areas dominated by the NLA or its successors); and the negative role of the domestic and international media in Macedonia's affairs. Ethnic Macedonians, irrespective of their political affiliation, were largely unanimous that since the outbreak of the war in 2001, they had been net losers, having been coerced into making political concessions they believed diminished their basic titular claim to the republic.

Albanians, understandably, considered the 2001 insurgency a success but were far from having achieved political unity. Internal disputes, described as an "intra-Albanian war," arose out of Ali Ahmeti's attempts to coalesce Albanian political actors around the success of his now disbanded NLA. In so doing, Ahmeti marginalized both the DPA and the PDP, noting that 6 months of armed rebellion had achieved more than the previous 10 years of PDP and DPA participation in government. Albanian political opinion was split, among other things, over which demands Albanians could make and how far they could push them. The NDP, for example, claimed no responsibility for furthering the Ohrid plan since it was not among the signatories. The PDP, for its part, questioned the state's commitment to the OFA, which calls for obligatory public financing for Albanian-language higher education. The PDP disputed the value of the OFA's constitutional amendments and doubted whether Albanians would actually gain much from them. DPA leader Xhaferi, still in coalition with the VMRO, was generally suspected of colluding secretly with and in favor of Macedonians. Thus, interethnic debates that had focused on the intent of the OFA in 2001 shifted in 2002 to intraethnic disputes over operational details of its implementation and the commitment of each community's leadership to the process.

Opinion polls taken throughout the first half of 2002 consistently indicated two facts: that the VMRO was lagging further behind the opposition and that Ahmeti was indisputably the champion of Albanian interests in Macedonia. A poll taken by the Institute of Solidarity and Democracy showed, for example, that of 4,300 ethnic Macedonian voters surveyed, the opposition coalition enjoyed support from 59 percent, the VMRO only 39 percent. The same survey indicated that Ahmeti was drawing support from 13 percent of Albanian voters, with the DPA and the PDP getting roughly 4 percent each. Twenty percent of Albanian voters were undecided. Both the VMRO and the DPA felt compelled, if only under international pressure, to support the OFA. To their respective supporters, however, the VMRO and the DPA had to demonstrate that they were greater "patriots" than their opposition rivals--a situation that gradually drove them to distance themselves from the accord they had signed.

Sensing steadily eroding public support, the VMRO was intent on delaying indefinitely the parliamentary elections that were scheduled for September 2002. At the same time, the opposition, led by the SDSM, was trying to take advantage of the VMRO's weakening position by urging early elections. The DPA favored early balloting as well but was unsure which OFA provisions it wanted implemented before agreeing to elections. Furthermore, the DPA realized that postponed elections invited the additional loss of supporters and members to Ahmeti's fledgling political movement. The electoral process, in other words, was caught between ethnic and party politics, between accommodation and competition, between interethnic peace and intraethnic conflict.

Although 3,000 candidates from 53 parties contested 120 parliamentary seats on September 15, 2002, on the Macedonian side of the political ledger only the VMRO and the SDSM warrant consideration. Under its campaign slogan "Glava Gore" ("Head Held High"), the VMRO challenged the SDSM to enter a preelection coalition--or at least to field a joint list of candidates in the heavily Albanian sixth electoral district in western Macedonia. The VMRO claimed that with its answer, the SDSM would demonstrate whether it was "the party of Macedonian unity or the party of Macedonian division," as a report from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty described it. The VMRO's political platform consisted of attacks on the SDSM as dangerous to Macedonia's national integrity and territorial security. When his offer of an SDSM/VMRO coalition was rebuffed, Georgievski demanded an a priori declaration from the SDSM that it would refuse to bring any Albanian associated with the NLA into government should it win on September 15. When the SDSM's Crvenkovski refused Georgievski's challenge, the VMRO escalated its rhetoric and accused the SDSM of treason during the 2001 war by asserting that Crvenkovski had always secretly planned to enter a coalition with Ahmeti.

Campaigning under the slogan "Zaedno za Macedonija" ("Together for Macedonia"), the opposition coalition consisted primarily of the SDSM and Petar Gosev's LDP but included minor ethnic parties representing Serbs, Turks, Roma, Vlachs, and Bosniaks. The Socialist Party, initially a member, soon dropped out. Aside from its own grandiose promise of at least "one job per family," the SDSM's platform stressed reviving the economy by boosting local industry. The opposition coalition accused its rivals of initiating the violent ethnic conflict of 2001, corrupting national institutions, and plunging Macedonia into economic crisis. Crvenkovski portrayed the elections as a watershed choice, "not between political parties, candidates, and front-runners, but between war and peace, between the future and darkness, between morality and crime, misery, and poverty, and between 'for' or 'against' Macedonia."

Early on, some EU ministers announced that the European Union might reconsider ratifying Macedonia's Stabilization and Association Agreement if the elections were not conducted freely and fairly. Such a step would effectively impose an economic boycott on the country and threaten a worse social and political crisis than already existed. Despite the stern warning, the rival Macedonian coalitions escalated their use of inflammatory language, and Prime Minister Georgievski disparaged the OFA as "a piece of paper that could not fill in the crack in interethnic relations created by the initiators of last year's armed violence." Given Georgievski's opinion of the peace agreement, the SDSM's Crvenkovski warned that "a vote for VMRODPMNE is a vote against Macedonia."

The electoral politics practiced by Albanians in Macedonia were only marginally better. When the Albanian weekly Lobi published an editorial in January 2002 calling for cooperation among all Albanian parties, ideological divisions between the opposition PDP and the governing DPA were seen as insurmountable. Like the VMRO, for example, the DPA was fundamentally anti-Communist and found it extremely distasteful to cooperate with the PDP, which was seen as the Albanian equivalent of the SDSM--namely, the reborn heir of Yugoslavia's previous Communist government. Because the NDP had been viewed as the insurgents' political arm during negotiations for the NLA's disarmament and eventual dissolution, the PDP and the DPA each tried to convince the general Albanian population that it deserved credit for the international pressure put on Macedonia to improve Albanian rights. When delays in the passage of the OFA-mandated Law on Amnesty thwarted NLA leader Ahmeti's expressed "willingness" to participate in electoral politics, he invited all Albanian parties to form a coordination council. However, most ethnic Macedonians dismissed the council, the expressed purpose of which was to assure the implementation of the OFA as an illegitimate, parallel authority to the Macedonian government. Despite their recognition of Ahmeti's prestige, other Albanian party leaders also were unable to find common ground to coalesce around Ahmeti's call for preelection unity.

Seeing that Ahmeti could not reconcile intra-Albanian hostilities, the coordination council decided on June 5, 2002, to create the new Union for Democratic Integration. Ahmeti was elected chairman and thereby thrust into the arena of formal politics. Joining the DUI gave disaffected PDP and DPA members a chance to show their dissatisfaction with their parties and encouraged the involvement of previously non-aligned Albanian elites. Two examples often given are Parliament member Azis Pollozhani, who cited his former party's unwillingness to implement internal reforms when he abandoned the PDP for the DUI, and Dr. Teuta Arifi, who wrote that she hoped the DUI would "help overcome corruption, the old boy networks, and the limited role of Albanian women in party politics."

The DUI, however, ultimately neither affected interparty quarrels nor dispelled the growing disquiet about Ahmeti's role in the upcoming elections. The PDP and the DPA continued their disputes over the PDP's call for a war on corruption and its accusations of the DPA's organizational and personal connections to corrupt practices. Furthermore, the PDP signaled its potential willingness to reenter a coalition with the SDSM in a new government--a prospect that was anathema to the DPA's leadership. Macedonian nationalists were delighted with the prospective coalition of the SDSM with any of the contending Albanian parties and called it a combination of "terrorists and Communists."

During the election campaign, all Albanian parties adopted programs demanding more rights for their constituencies and full implementation of the OFA. Under the slogan "We Support the West," the DPA advocated for Macedonia's integration into the EU and NATO, as well as Kosovo's independence, as prerequisites for resolving the Balkan-wide "Albanian question." Similarly, the DUI extolled the success of the 2001 insurgency, calling its campaign "Together Toward Victory," and predicted that it would "integrate Macedonia into Europe as a multiethnic country." As election day approached, the PDP again suggested a coalition with the DUI, which the latter's leadership rejected. The DUI's growing popularity pushed the DPA's Xhaferi to declare that, unlike Ahmeti's DUI, his party would be satisfied only when Albanians had "equal rights in all spheres of life: in politics, the economy, culture, and finance." His comments implied that the DPA's ultimate goal was the formation of a "greater" Albanian state that included parts of Macedonia, Kosovo, and Albania; they also completely justified nationalist Macedonians who claimed that this had always been the DPA's intention. In contrast, the DUI distanced itself from its NLA past in an obvious attempt to jockey for position as a potentially acceptable coalition partner to whichever Macedonian party formed the new government.

As predicted, the SDSM/LDP coalition and the DUI won overwhelmingly at the polls. The VMRO, for its part, had failed in its strategy of intimidation to keep all but its staunchest supporters from turning out. According to the State Election Commission, of Macedonia's 1,664,296 registered voters, 1,216,339 (73.15 percent) participated in the balloting. The SDSM gained 60 of the 120 seats in Parliament. The VMRO came in second with 33, followed by the DUI with 16, the DPA with 7, the PDP with 2, and the NDP and the Socialist Party with 1 each.

Having passed the democracy test by holding reasonably free and fair elections, the victorious SDSM still had to face the dilemma posed earlier by the VMRO: In the formation of a new government, which Albanian party would it ask to join? The SDSM had not reversed its original position precluding former NLA commanders from government. The remaining Albanian parties, however, presented the SDSM with other difficulties. The PDP, its partner in its two previous terms, had lost many members to the DUI and, with only two seats in Parliament, clearly was not the Albanian community's choice. The DPA, the VMRO's coalition partner, was too ideologically removed from the SDSM. The NDP's call for federalizing Macedonia ruled it out entirely.

Following four weeks of intense negotiations, the SDSM reconciled itself with the inevitable and presented its cabinet to Parliament on October 20. On October 31, Parliament ratified the new government with 72 deputies voting for it and 28 against. The SDSM would have seven ministries, the DUI four, and the LDP three. Macedonia's new "guns and roses" government has elicited both expected and less expected reactions. On the first day the new Parliament convened, the VMRO and the LDP protested "the inclusion of former terrorists" in the government and announced their boycott of the legislature for the rest of the year. According to VMRO party spokesman Vlatko Gorcev, "This government list reflects a military, legal, and spiritual capitulation for Macedonia."

Despite the DUI's grassroots popularity, not all Albanians were convinced that this party would succeed where its predecessors had failed. Their hope, however, was that this arrangement represented genuine progress. Saso Colakovski, the senior editor at Utrinski Vesnik and a frequent critic of the VMRO government, summed up Macedonia's future prospects by stating that the government may be "a bit controversial, but it presents a compromise between the Macedonian and the Albanian blocs." Prime Minister Crvenkovski offered a far blunter justification for including the DUI in government: "The alternative is much worse--interethnic confrontation with all [its] consequences."

Macedonia's parliamentary and presidential elections are staggered. Members of Parliament serve four-year terms, and presidents serve five-year terms. To run for president, candidates need signatures from 10,000 registered voters or support from 30 parliamentarians. In 1999, six candidates qualified: Vasil Tupurkovski of the DA, Borsi Trajkovski of the VMRO, Stojan Andov of the Liberal Party, Tito Petkovski of the SDS, Muarem Nexhipi of the DPA, and Muhamed Halili of the PDP. To win outright, a candidate must receive the majority of votes cast. Otherwise the top two candidates enter a runoff. The candidate receiving the majority of ballots is elected, provided that over 50 percent of registered voters cast ballots. If turnout is below the required legal threshold, the election must be repeated.

When incumbent president Kiro Gligorov announced that he would not stand again in 1999, Tupurkovski, a member of the post-Tito rotating Yugoslav federal presidency, became the assumed front-runner. Tupurkovski was eliminated, however, owing to exaggerated and unfulfilled promises of Taiwanese aid made while he was the head of development and cooperation in the VMRO/DA government. With the race narrowed to two Macedonian candidates, Trajkovski and Petkovski, Albanians cast their first-round ballots for Nexhipi and Halili, realizing neither could win. In the runoff, however, owing to the VMRO/DPA coalition, Albanians supported Trajkovski and ultimately determined his election.

Many ethnic Macedonians remain convinced that Trajkovski was coopted by the Albanians. Likewise, feelings that Albanians have hijacked Macedonian politics have increased significantly since the 2001 insurgency and the passage of the constitutional reforms mandated by the Ohrid Framework Agreement. President Trajkovski's early refusal to deploy Macedonian troops against NLA insurgents and his insistence on seeking a negotiated settlement to Macedonia's crisis have made him a special target for condemnation by radical Macedonian nationalists who still reject accommodating any Albanian demands. Viewed at first as a puppet of VMRO extremists, Trajkovski has been compelled to overcome the pro forma symbolic nature of his office through negotiations with Western diplomatic and military representatives. Whether this ultimately will strengthen or weaken the presidency will become clear when the next presidential elections occur in 2004.

Civil Society: 

Civil society is a contentious concept in post-Communist models of social and political organization, because many international development agencies fail to recognize discrepancies between their ideals of civil society (mediating between government and citizens) and local socioeconomic realities. Macedonia is no exception, having neither of the two preconditions required for a thriving civil society sector: a socioeconomic environment that stimulates nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to emerge and function and the presence of NGOs that reinforce the vitality of civil society. Many Macedonian NGOs are vestigial Yugoslav-era organizations that were "of" but not "for" citizens. Economic conditions and tax legislation also impede the growth and work of voluntary organizations. A 23 percent tax on philanthropic contributions, intended to thwart money laundering, further discourages business from financing NGOs.

Philanthropy and volunteerism, prerequisites for a vital nongovernmental sector, are alien to Macedonia. Notions of self-help are highly localized, rarely crossing traditional boundaries of responsibility. Since average Macedonians are too preoccupied with survival to work voluntarily, they tend to view NGOs as potential employers, particularly since most enjoy foreign financial support. The wars in Kosovo in 1999 and Macedonia in 2001 aggravated this tendency by making NGOs one of the country's biggest employers. International spending in Macedonia diminished following the overthrow of Yugoslavia's strongman leader Slobodan Milosevic and caused local concern that Macedonia's NGOs might not survive the West's shift in focus toward Serbia. With the West's new attention on "the war on terrorism," the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and a looming war in Iraq, sufficient finances may not be allocated to Macedonia. In that case, Macedonia's overall economic recovery will be slowed, as will the growth of civil society.

The total number of NGOs in Macedonia is unknown. The Macedonian Center for International Cooperation listed approximately 300 international and domestic organizations in its 1998 Guide to Nongovernmental Organizations in Macedonia (not updated since). The basic court, where NGO registrations are recorded, now reports closer to 10 times that figure. Most of the NGOs that relocated to Macedonia from Kosovo in 1999 have since returned to Kosovo. Following the Macedonian war, various international NGOs such as the Institute for War and Peace Reporting opened local offices.

Precise NGO membership cannot be calculated, either, since local organizations inflate their numbers. Umbrella associations such as the Union of Women of Macedonia, for example, claim thousands of members, including subgroups representing specific ethnic communities. Among its hundreds of purportedly registered members, few are usually active. Limited funding sources, especially of local moneys, constrain serious organizational development and capacity building. Many local NGOs typically compete for a project once a tender has been issued but are often otherwise inactive.

Although local NGOs face few procedural obstacles such as registration, the overall NGO environment is hazy since no tradition of civic activism exists outside governmental control. The government tolerates NGOs but neither encourages their development nor considers them beneficial. NGOs have few expectations of government and rarely attempt to influence legal and regulatory matters. Usually politicians are dismissive of NGOs, and with few exceptions, NGOs lobby infrequently for legislation. Events such as protests against industrial pollution receive media coverage, but rarely do NGOs and media cooperate on issues of general public concern. The Movement of Ecologists of Macedonia has advocated for greater environmental protection and contributed to Macedonia's National Environmental Action Plan. The women's group Humanitarian Organization for the Emancipation, Solidarity, and Equality of Women lobbied for maternity leave rights and other pieces of family law. In these two instances, both the media and the government took this advocacy seriously.

Absent international support, most domestic NGOs would fold. Although they collect symbolic membership fees, NGOs are otherwise restricted in generating income. Macedonian law requires NGOs to report their income and expenses, but most groups typically reveal only the former. They do so largely to avoid tax obligations, since they are not tax-exempt. NGO project funds enjoy limited tax concessions but are otherwise taxed. False receipts for financial reports are commonplace. Questionable financial management and perceived personal enrichment contribute to general skepticism about NGOs and thus diminish their importance in the public view. In sum, underdeveloped volunteerism and the economics of NGOs continue to be crucial obstacles to the vitalization of civil society in Macedonia.

Interest groups and trade unions do exist, but unemployment and small-business growth have reduced the overall role of trade syndicates. Corruption associated with privatization and declines in Macedonia's industrial sector resulting from the 1991 and 2001 wars have created worker redundancy and smaller union membership. Two of Macedonia's traditionally strong sectors are agriculture and textiles. After the 1999 war, Western countries promised to purchase these Macedonian commodities as part of the Kosovo reconstruction effort. Despite some increased procurement, though, Macedonia's agricultural export sector has yet to recover.

As early as April 2002, Macedonian workers had begun to organize strikes to protest unemployment, poverty, and corruption. Employees from loss-making firms, together with the Association of Trade Unions, demanded changes in employment legislation and improvements in unemployment insurance. On May 20, 2002, approximately 80,000 public workers launched a general strike to protest the government's refusal to accept demands for a raise in Macedonia's minimum wage. The government first justified its position by saying that restrictions on the national budget imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) precluded such a raise. Although it acceded on May 29, the government requested additional time to calculate wage increases across all employment sectors. In June, the government finally decided that nongovernment workers would receive a monthly increase of 500-800 denars (9-13 euros), whereas pay hikes for government workers would range between 3,000 and 3,500 denars (45-55 euros).

Politicians not surprisingly had made unemployment--estimated at 35-50 percent--and prosperity their primary campaign issues for the 2002 parliamentary elections. Both the VMRO and the SDSM pledged to create approximately 200,000 new jobs after the elections, with the VMRO alleging that it had already created 110,000 during its four years in office. However, given World Bank pressure on Macedonia to make a 60 percent cut in public sector employment, any campaign promise to create instant post-election employment was highly unlikely. On December 6, 2002, the EU mounted additional pressure by making its Macedonian support package of 46 million euros conditional on Skopje reaching a standby arrangement with the IMF to further reduce state expenditures. Finance Minister Gosev was already predicting a budgetary deficit of nearly 50 percent of Macedonia's gross domestic product, something he blamed on the previous government's election tactic of spending large amounts of money for social projects. With untenably high unemployment and the war tax of 2001 ending on December 31, 2002, the new government's challenge was to meet the IMF's conditions of increasing revenues without raising taxes or otherwise further alienating Macedonia's already angry and impatient labor force.

The SDSM/LDP coalition did not benefit from a honeymoon period with labor after the elections. In November, more than 8,000 workers from state-owned enterprises or businesses in which the state held the majority of shares went on strike when Parliament approved the new government. They reminded the new SDSM administration that although the VMRO had denied their demands, conditions had not changed and labor was just as adamant now, if not more so. For instance, in addition to earlier demands for changes in the minimum wage and employment laws, strikers now called for better workers' benefits, the reversal of illegal or corrupt privatization deals, and the investigation of corrupt and profligate management. In mid-November, 300 miners at the Sasa zinc mine began a hunger strike in the pits. When workers from the state-owned Macedonian Railways blocked all national and international lines, the country edged toward the kind of labor unrest that could fundamentally undermine its economic and social stability.

Although the SDSM government claimed, like the VMRO, that IMF-imposed financial constraints precluded the possibility of meeting worker demands, it averted a major crisis by yielding on one point: paying a portion of back wages to workers, some of whom had not received a paycheck since June 2002. Realizing the benefits to its image, the government also consented to launch investigations into the possible reversal of questionable privatizations of state-owned companies such as the Nova Makedonija publishing house. Nevertheless, the Association of Trade Unions continued to push the government to sign a social contract to address the government's role in socially owned enterprises and to guarantee worker insurance. In the words of the association's leader, Vanco Muratovski, "Every government has to have good relations with the trade unions if it wants to have social peace." Although the SDSM was fully cognizant of the risks it would be taking by dismissing the concerns of Macedonia's workers, by year's end it had not yet demonstrated the necessary determination to meet union demands and thereby deescalate simmering labor unrest.

Religion in public life is often a contentious issue. Disagreements divide not only the Orthodox and Muslim communities, which make up approximately 66 percent and 30 percent, respectively, of the population, but also Orthodox and non-Orthodox Macedonians in general. The Macedonian Orthodox Church reacted vehemently to a constitutional reform that denied it superiority over other religions and threatened to excommunicate the members of Parliament who voted for the change. The construction of a church-funded, 80-meter illuminated cross on Mt. Vodno overlooking Skopje has enraged Muslims, who view this as symbolic of Orthodoxy's attempt to usurp Macedonia's identity. President Trajkovski, who is Protestant, faced accusations of infidelity to the "nation" from Orthodox Macedonians during the 1999 election campaign and following the 2001 war.

Faith-based organizations are rare but not nonexistent in Macedonia. Foreign faith-based organizations are often suspect for using humanitarian needs to disguise their proselytizing, especially among the Roma. Domestic and international organizations attempting to bridge religious divides by focusing on shared tenets of peace and tolerance have succeeded only minimally. In summer 2001, the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation assembled representatives of the Macedonian Orthodox and Muslim communities for a low-profile meeting in Geneva but failed to obtain their signatures on a final communique. Previous efforts by American organizations such as the Global Dialogue Institute and the World Conference on Religion and Peace have failed to secure sustained interfaith cooperation. The Conflict Management Group, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is considering the introduction of a new interfaith effort based on its program director's successes in establishing similar dialogues in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Education remains a highly disputed area of public life in Macedonia. The separation of schoolchildren by language, a Yugoslav legacy, reinforces overall social segregation, and politicians often exploit education as a tool to prove their nationalist credentials. Interference in education manifests itself in various ways. For example, both the Macedonian and Albanian communities have raised objections to having their children learn each other's histories and preventing children from following identical curriculums. Albanians regularly protest that Macedonian educational authorities systematically have underfunded Albanian schools. School attrition rates among Albanians at all levels greatly surpass attrition among Macedonians.

Private education is still largely illegal. Although the government had considered privatizing kindergartens, implementation of the OFA-mandated Law on Local Self-Government shifted responsibility for preschool education from the national to the municipal level. Only Macedonians who hold foreign passports may attend private primary schools. Private secondary schooling is available, but on a limited basis.

Albanian-language education at the university level has been one of the country's most volatile issues. Since 1996, when the popularly named but unrecognized University of Tetovo first opened, Albanian tertiary education has been the focus of political and sometimes violent conflict. In 2001, Macedonia accepted a proposal by Max van der Stoel, then commissioner for national minorities at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), to open the Southeast European University as a private trilingual (Albanian, Macedonian, English) university in Tetovo with funding from the international community. However, Albanian nationalists rejected this institutional solution for several reasons. First, they object to the only recognized Albanian university being private when the state funds Macedonian-language higher education. Second, they claim that their community's identity hinges on having a fully developed Albanian-language university, not a multilingual university. Although enrollment in the Southeast European University has increased, including a limited number of ethnic Macedonian students, tertiary education remains a hot political issue.

The insurgency of 2001 and remaining feelings of insecurity in Macedonia's crisis regions have impacted education and educational politics as well. The academic year 2001-2002 was postponed because internally displaced schoolchildren had to be accommodated in their place of temporary residence. Once the school year had begun, some parents still refused to send their children to school, particularly those attended by children of the "other community." Though expressed in terms of security concerns, the parents' objections were clearly motivated by a desire to segregate their children. Interethnic tensions associated with the parliamentary elections of 2002 negatively impacted education even further. For example, during the summer, the principal of the Dame Gruev School (named after a 19th-century Macedonian hero) in the ethnically mixed village of Semsevo (near Tetovo) had received permission from the then VMRO minister of education to change the school's name to Jumni Jonuzi, in honor of the first Albanian teacher who was born in the village. The incident rallied Macedonians throughout the country, and the school's 200 Macedonian children began boycotting classes at the start of the school year in September. Following the elections, however, Macedonian patience erupted, and on October 9, 30,000 Macedonian children in Skopje protested the name change. Chanting slogans that had not been heard since 1997, including "Albanians to the gas chambers," the children blockaded the Skopje-Tetovo highway. Although the OSCE mission to Macedonia called the decision to rename the school an arbitrary breach of the spirit of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, the decision stands. The SDSM recognizes the importance of addressing educational issues inherited from the previous regime, but the new government has yet to show that its policies will represent a qualitative change from the past.

Independent Media: 

Macedonia's Constitution protects freedom of the press and speech and bars censorship. With approximately 120 radio and television stations serving 2.2 million people, the country has one of the highest per capita media rates in Southeast Europe. However, the country's readership for print media is relatively weak, and the circulation of newspapers and other periodicals is low compared to neighboring countries. Although the abundance of media in Macedonia reflects the country's pluralism, it also creates information ghettos. That is, the country's ethnic communities rarely use one another's media, even when language is not a barrier, and journalists reflect each group's parochial interests. At best, the media reinforce Macedonia's ethnolinguistic segregation. At worst, they provide biased, inaccurate, or inflammatory reporting that escalates interethnic tensions and encourages sporadic violence.

Considered free of government intervention, Macedonian media are largely editorially independent. Nonetheless, private media tend to reflect their owners' politics in their coverage of events as well as in their commentaries. The government controls Macedonian Radio and Television (MRTV), the state-run television and radio broadcaster that until 1998 was the only nationwide network. The state also owns about one-third of NIP Nova Makedonija, the publisher of Nova Makedonija and Vecer, two daily Macedonian-language papers; the Albanian daily Flaka e Vellazerimit; the thrice weekly Turkish paper Birlik; and the Macedonian weekly Puls. In all state-controlled media, positions of responsibility are primarily political rather than professional. With each new administration posting its own functionaries, these media are "pro-government" by definition.

Owing to low readership, daily papers with a circulation over 50,000 are considered successful. Among NIP Nova Makedonija's papers, only Vecer reaches this level; Nova Makedonija claims a daily circulation of 20,000, which is doubtful; and Flaka prints only about 3,000 copies. Of the private Macedonian papers, Dnevnik and Utrinski Vesnik each have a daily circulation of 50,000 copies or more. Among Albanian papers, the state-run Flaka prints under 3,000, whereas the private paper Fakti has a daily circulation of 15,000. Among the country's various weekly and monthly magazines, Forum (Macedonian) and Lobi (Albanian) wield the greatest influence by reaching their respective communities' political elites. The two Macedonian-language papers Dnevnik and Utrinski Vesnik are profitable. Vecer, their closest competitor, is published by NIP Nova Makedonija. NIP Nova Makedonija also owns the largest distribution network, which caters to pro-government publications. Tutun, the other privately owned distributor, is pro-VMRO.

Left to survive on circulation and advertisements, most private media in Macedonia would go bankrupt. The broadcast media market cannot support hundreds of players, and the government offers limited support for independent media by redistributing annually some 1.5 million euros it collects in TV and radio taxes. Media owners complain, however, that progovernment media get support far exceeding amounts given to media out of governmental favor. Generally, financially viable broadcast media are owned by individuals able to subsidize them. MRTV's financial dominance has been challenged since 2000, when Hellenic Telecom purchased Sitel TV (Skopje), then owned by the Socialist Party. Even though major Greek political actors often own media conglomerates, Greece's media differ from Macedonia's in their focus on profit. However, evidence to date indicates that this sale has not yet affected Sitel's financial or programmatic profile.

There are two tiers of television stations in Macedonia: the first consists of those that offer higher quality and some original programming, while the second comprises those that offer less quality and mostly rebroadcast downloaded satellite signals. The first category includes A1 TV (Macedonian, Skopje), TV ART (Albanian, Tetovo), TV KISS (Serbian/Macedonian, Tetovo), TV TERA (Macedonian, Bitola), TV Festa (Albanian, Kumanovo), TV IRIS (Macedonian, Stip), and TV VIS (Macedonian, Strumica). In Skopje alone there are two full-time Albanian stations (TV ERA and TV TOSKA), eight Macedonian (A1, Sitel, Telma, TV Skopje, KRT, TV 5, Amazon, Skynet), two Roma (BTR and Sutel), and one Serbian (TV 96). Many local TV stations have affiliated radio stations. Only Kanal 77 has national coverage.

Since 1998, the Broadcast Council has been attempting to regulate broadcasting by enforcing the licensing law, but unlicensed TV and radio stations continue to operate without any repercussions. In 2002, however, the Broadcast Council was actively involved in monitoring the behavior of media, as regulated by the new Decision on the Rules for Equal Access to Media Presentations in the Elections that Parliament adopted on July 11, 2002. Although the council, which is independent, reported that TV stations largely complied with the regulations, enforcement of the law was left to the governmental Agency for Telecommunications.

The media's primary focus during 2002 was the parliamentary election and issues that emerged from the campaign. Given the media's party and ethnolinguistic divisions, the elections served to reinforce the existing lines of segregation. To comply with the new regulations regarding equal access, television stations were open to all parties for paid advertisements. In their coverage of daily affairs, however, whether election rallies or events indirectly connected to the campaign, the media displayed their usual biases. Each ethnic community's media largely ignored the other community's candidates. When reporting, they most often used negative portrayals of one another's candidates.

Within communities, the media gave preferred candidates excessively more coverage than their rivals. For example, according to the based European Institute for the Media, state-run MTV's Channel 1 "with an incredible zeal covered every activity of the incumbent government, both on the national and local levels....On the other side, the TV station seldom reported on factories' closure or labour protests." On MTV's Channel 3, the "DPA received undue prominence in the news at the expense of other contestants. This misbalance was further exacerbated by minimal coverage of the ethnic Macedonian parties."

Although known for its SDSM sympathies, independent A1 TV provided approximately equal time to the incumbent Macedonian party and to the SDSM opposition. It allotted only one-tenth the time, however, to DUI, the front-running Albanian party. Kanal 5, which supports the opposition right-wing splinter VMROMakedonska, together with other Skopje-based private stations spent considerable time reporting on labor issues, corruption scandals, and other stories showing the incumbent government in a negative light. Independent Albanian stations--TV ERA in Skopje, for example--covered both the incumbent and opposition Albanian parties almost equally but devoted negligible time to Macedonian parties. Print media provided more comprehensive information of the election, but they also maintained their partisan biases. During the campaign, most papers included daily or weekly election inserts. Dnevnik, the largest circulating Macedonian daily, provided equal coverage of the major Macedonian parties and paid approximately the same attention to Albanian parties that it did to the minor Macedonian ones. In contrast, the independent daily Utrinski Vesnik and the state-run Vecer both were highly biased in their reporting of antigovernment and pro-government political events, respectively. A similar pattern was evident among Albanian papers, with NIP Nova Makedonija's paper Flaka supporting the incumbent DPA and independent Fakti giving about equal space to the DPA and the DUI.

A worrying trend that emerged in 2002 prior to the elections was the Ministry of the Interior's targeting of opposition journalists and media outlets. According to the European Institute for the Media, Macedonian and foreign journalists considered supportive of the opposition were either attacked or threatened if they insisted on reporting on issues that "would destabilize the country and the current government." VMRO also used its economic power to boycott A1 TV by refusing to place election advertisements on that station, accusing it of "anti-Macedonian activities [and] disseminating destructive lies."

On World Press Freedom Day (May 3), broadcast journalists staged an unprecedented five-minute work stoppage to protest government interference. A priority complaint was that ministries fed the media misinformation about national security--inventing incursions from Kosovo and other border incidents, for example--in order to justify greater military activity. As Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported, certain diplomats and political analysts were convinced that the prime minister and interior minister were "eager to provoke some sort of resumption of last year's conflict between Albanian rebels and Macedonian security forces to improve their chances of reelection."

Macedonia's Union of Journalists is the successor to the Yugoslavera journalists organization. Younger journalists tend not to join professional organizations, and consequently the precise number and gender breakdown of journalists in the country is unknown. Women constitute over half of working print and broadcast journalists, though they rarely hold positions of authority. The editor in chief of TV TERA in Bitola is a woman. Likewise, Gordana Stosic, former director-general of A1 TV, was appointed the director-general of state-run MRTV following the 2002 general elections.

Freedom House rated Macedonia's media "Partly Free" in its 2002 Survey of Press Freedom.

Judicial Framework and Independence: 

In September 1991, the Republic of Macedonia adopted its postindependence Constitution. On November 15, 2001, Parliament ratified constitutional amendments adopted in the OFA, with 94 members of Parliament voting for and 14 against. The amendments include recognition of Albanian as an official language and increased Albanian access to public sector employment, with special emphasis on the police. The Constitution's preamble, which previously had distinguished between ethnic Macedonians and other nationalities, was also amended to erase any inference that minorities are second-class citizens. There are various explanations why war and eventually constitutional change occurred in 2001. Ethnic Macedonians blame the country's Albanian politicians, and Macedonian Albanians somewhat less, for their refusal to support the new state and to work within its institutions since independence. The country's Albanians locate the conflict in ethnic Macedonians' 10-year-long refusal constitutionally to recognize minority co-ownership of the new state, including equal participation in all aspects of public life.

The signing of the OFA in August 2001 heralded the formal end of the war that had begun in February and signaled that the NLA had declared a struggle for improved Albanian civil, human, and constitutional rights. Foremost among the OFA's stipulations was that national elections had to be held by the end of February 2002. First, however, Parliament was required to promulgate a number of contentious constitutional reforms, including moving from majoritarian to proportional parliamentary representation, determining new parliamentary procedures, passing laws regarding the use of minority languages in official communications and documents, scheduling a new census, and passing a Law on Local Self-Government. However, by the close of 2002, even the new Parliament had not adopted the law regulating the use of minority languages in documents.

Constitutionally, Parliament is Macedonia's only effective rule-making body. Its authority applies to passing legislation, amending the Constitution, electing the government, and appointing the head of Macedonia's national TV and radio network. Legislative powers rest with the Parliament and the prime minister, who heads the government. The president, chosen through direct elections, is the head of state and thus uninvolved in rulemaking procedures.

Although checks and balances are structurally present, the real distribution of power is determined by party membership. Parliament passes legislation, elects the head of government (prime minister), and appoints judges. When the ruling party has a parliamentary majority, it has effective control over all three branches of government. The government tends to act with impunity and exercises checks and balances only when caught in a situation in which no other option is available. Whereas checks and balances are intended to prevent abuse of power preemptively, the Macedonian government's application is mostly punitive, such as withholding a parliamentarian's salary or requiring the resignation of a ministerial official.

Until 2002, Macedonia's Parliament had been divided between 85 directly elected (majoritarian) and 35 proportionally determined (party list) seats. To win proportional seats, candidates had to pass a 5 percent threshold of total votes cast. Majoritarian seats went to candidates receiving a majority of votes, provided at least one-third of registered voters had cast their ballots. Disputes sometimes had arisen over unequal parliamentary representation, with some constituencies consisting of 7,000 and others of 70,000 voters.

Adopting new electoral legislation, as mandated by the OFA, was a delicate exercise. Redistricting heralded a sea change in parliamentary representation to a proportional model of six roughly equal districts, each with 20 deputies. Delays in the law's passage resulted when Macedonians opposed it, fearing that the concentration of Albanians in the west would prevent Macedonian candidates from being elected there. Nonetheless, this variant was preferable to another Albanian-supported option that would have made the entire country a single electoral district with proportional representation based strictly on votes received by any party or coalition. Macedonians realized that this version would encourage cross-Albanian party unity to garner more votes nationwide, whereas the "Macedonian bloc" would remain divided and therefore lose seats in Parliament.

Further delays in the Law on Elections were the result of comments from OSCE analyst Daniel Finn, who suggested that changing the law before the elections could affect the credibility of the results, especially if these changes were seen to favor one party or ethnic community. A compromise was reached only on May 11, 2002, during a conference convened by President Trajkovski and attended by U.S. and EU special envoys James Holmes and Alain le Roy. The Macedonian media chided all political parties for exhibiting an immaturity that once again necessitated outside intervention. Skeptical voices warned that continued outside influence would turn Macedonia into a "soft protectorate" and eventually an internationally administered region like Bosnia or Kosovo.

A nine-member Constitutional Court established under Section V of the Constitution interprets Macedonia's Constitution. Parliament appoints Constitutional Court judges to nonrenewable nine-year terms. Cases may be brought directly to this Court or may be heard upon appeal of lower court rulings. The state provides public defenders in theory but rarely in practice. Over the years, attempts have been launched to make up for this deficiency. In 1995, the OSCE and the American Bar Association's Central and East European Law Initiative (ABA-CEELI) invited lawyers to form a local NGO to perform this function pro bono, but this failed owing to skepticism and the lack of a volunteer tradition in the country.

Enrollment is quite high in the law faculty at Skopje's University of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, even though law is not an elite profession. Approximately 300 lawyers graduate annually, most of whom go into private practice. About 1,000 belong to the Macedonian Bar Association, which grants licenses to practice. Women also study law, but the proportion of women lawyers remains relatively low. Although exact gender statistics for lawyers are unavailable, ABA-CEELI office in Skopje estimates that 70 percent of basic court judges, 25-30 percent of appellate court judges, 6 of 25 Supreme Court judges, and 1 of the 7 Constitutional Court judges are women.

The criminal code was reformed in 1996 when Macedonia replaced the old Yugoslav code, which had remained in force after independence in 1991. Parliament passed the new code of criminal procedure in 1997. Legislation approved in 1995 prohibits police from searching homes without court-ordered warrants. Although the Constitution also guarantees the right to the "inviolability of the home," the police have been severely criticized for violating this principle. Unchecked police power occurs throughout Macedonian society, and inappropriate arrests and prolonged detentions are common. International human rights organizations have cited abuse both on the street and in custody. Albanians have long sought greater representation in the police, particularly in areas having an Albanian majority population. Although progress has been made in diversifying the ethnic makeup of the police, as provided by the OFA, generally the police remain predominately ethnic Macedonian and disproportionately mistreat non-Macedonians, particularly Roma.

Throughout the first half of 2002, the VMRO linked delaying the elections to the slow pace of deploying ethnically mixed police to crisis regions, previously under the control of the NLA and still largely inaccessible to Macedonian security forces. Redeployment, popularly referred to in the Macedonian-language media as "reconquering the occupied territories" and a key feature of the OFA, and other national security matters dominated power struggles within the VMRO. Its radical nationalist wing, personified by Prime Minister Georgievski and Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, favored greater military control over western Macedonia, where Albanians were blockading roads and preventing the police, OSCE observers, and NATO troops from entering some villages. Hard-liners called such blockades the new war, or "Macedonia's Berlin Wall." Moderates such as President Trajkovski and Deputy Prime Minister Dosta Dimovska, who herself was responsible for executing the redeployment, were attacked as disloyal to the party, if not to the nation.

A related issue recurrent in 2002 concerned the responsibility for security shared by the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior. Constitutionally, the army, under the Ministry of Defense and with the president as commander in chief, deals with foreign threats. Domestic security is the domain of the police, who are under the control of the Ministry of the Interior. Undecided whether the 2001 insurgency had been a foreign (Kosovo-based) incursion or a domestic uprising, the Macedonian government mostly deployed police who were untrained and unprepared for combat. Additionally, a new paramilitary "antiterrorism rapid response unit" called the Lavovi (Lions) was created and added to a similar unit, the Tigri (Tigers), already under the Interior Ministry's jurisdiction. The OFA provided for the disbanding of both units and the recruitment, training, and deployment of ethnically mixed regular police. Furthermore, NATO and EU troops on the ground were committed to supporting Macedonia's security into the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, the Lions and Tigers remained and were central to objectifying the VMRO's claim throughout the year that renewed Albanian violence was possible.

Already in the fall of 2001, Prime Minister Georgievski had predicted an Albanian "spring offensive" in 2002. When on February 10, 2002, an explosion in Aracinovo (near Skopje) killed a Macedonian related to a Tiger, Interior Minister Boskovski accused Albanian extremists of deliberately preventing internally displaced Macedonians from returning to their homes and thus creating "ethnically cleansed" regions in western Macedonia. By this time, according to government sources, 26 villages had been restored to police control and 60 remained outside it. The Macedonian Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations were reporting that approximately 16,000 people remained internally displaced, down from the nearly 170,000 at the height of the war.

To legitimize the urgency of Macedonia's situation, and to try to exploit the West's sympathy following the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the Ministry of the Interior reported on March 2, 2002, that an armed confrontation had taken place with seven men it described as both al-Qaeda and Albanian guerrillas. All were killed by the police. Forensic evidence, media investigations, and information from several Western embassies led to the conclusion that the Ministry of the Interior had manufactured the conflict. The so-called terrorists were later identified as illegal migrants traveling to Greece. The seven had been executed and planted with evidence to mark them as Albanian and Muslim extremists.

Once the elections had been set for September 15, 2002, and as the VMRO's electoral defeat grew increasingly imminent, violence also spiraled. For example, on August 30, 2002, two ethnic Macedonian police were killed in western Macedonia near Gostivar. The Ministry of the Interior immediately arrested eight Albanians as suspects and detained three for further interrogation. That day, unidentified Albanians kidnapped five Macedonians and demanded the release of the Albanian detainees. This kidnapping launched a massive blockade by Macedonians of the road into Skopje and prevented an Albanian election rally from taking place. When the international community urged restraint, fearing potentially irreparable damage to the elections, the Ministry of the Interior secured the kidnappees' safe release within a day. Although the action was first hailed as a victory against terrorism, public enthusiasm changed when it was revealed that the kidnappers had vanished inexplicably. Indeed, questions arose about whether the Lions, who had earned the nickname "the Interior Minister's Praetorian Guard," had orchestrated the event. Although opposition politicians condemned the killing of the police, they claimed, according to the newspaper Utrinski Vesnik, that the VMRO was exploiting violence as part of a "broader plan for destabilizing the country and making the security situation worse."

Subversion of the judicial process by the police, not a new phenomenon in Macedonia, continued to cause concern throughout 2002. As the Macedonian Helsinki Committee reported, although in many instances of violence "representatives of the Ministry of the Interior [were] the first ones to arrive...[this did not] result in a credible capture and sanctioning of the perpetrators." Attacks by the Lions and Tigers were recorded against striking workers, "opposition" journalists and media outlets, political activists, and random civilians. Officials from opposition parties, ranging from local municipal figures to national leaders such as LDP head Petar Gosev, were threatened. But neither the ministry nor the police were held accountable. In fact, after Interior Minister Boskovski personally injured four spectators at a Lions' military exercise in May, Prime Minister Georgievski pronounced that, irrespective of what the interior minister might do, he would be amnestied "for past merit in service of the state." As summarized by the Macedonian Helsinki Committee, police behavior, especially during the preelection period, undermined "the reputation and role of the Ministry of the Interior and the professional cadre of the police...[making it] difficult to distinguish whether undertaken actions are part of legally defined functions of the police or are party orders."

In Macedonia, numbers have always been central in determining various minority rights. Albanians have claimed that their status as a constituent, state-forming nation in Macedonia was based, at least partly, on the size of the community relative to the majority ethnic Macedonians. This argument also has served to rationalize why Albanians regarded the rights of other ethnolinguistic communities to be less legitimate than theirs. Proponents of the OFA have argued that the agreement is fundamental to moving Macedonia toward the creation of a civil society with a constitutional definition of citizenship that treats all individuals identically. In fact, however, the OFA sanctions collective rights by recognizing benefits linked to population percentages and demographic concentrations. That is, in areas where 20 percent or more of the population does not speak Macedonian as its native language, the state must provide all public services in the language(s) of the minority group(s). For Albanians, who consider language rights one of the crucial gains they made in the OFA, it was critical for a new census (called for under the OFA) to show their numbers at more than 20 percent. Consequently, what would otherwise be a statistical operation became a political exercise in Macedonia.

Initially scheduled for 2001, the new census was postponed until 2002 because of the insurgency. The census took place during the first half of November 2002 and was supervised by 45 international monitors from 30 countries. Initial results were set to become available only in January 2003, with detailed analyses possibly taking another year and a half. Despite the inclusion of far more Albanian pollsters and increased Albanian representation on regional census commissions, some Albanian politicians claimed they were dissatisfied with the level of Albanian participation. In addition, there were some reports of irregularities in the polling process. Nonetheless, all parties have agreed to abide by the OFA's stipulation not to dispute the final results if international monitors confirm their validity. Adherence to this agreement would represent a significant step in deescalating interethnic polemics and permit the government to take preliminary steps to address the needs of the country's communities based on uncontested demographic data.

Another key element of the OFA was its provision on amnesty for Albanians who had fought with the NLA but were not accused of crimes against humanity. In late 2001, President Trajkovski declared an executive amnesty, which led to the release of about 60 detained Albanians. The legality of his decree was uncertain, however, and Parliament was charged with drafting and passing legislation protecting accused insurgents from possible prosecution. Adopting the amnesty also was a precondition for convening a donors conference at which reconstruction aid for Macedonia was to be pledged. The law and donors meeting, however, were postponed continually in 2001 and into early 2002. Although the VMRO initially opposed amnesty for socalled terrorists, a draft law was eventually proposed on February 24, 2002, and debated by the Parliamentary Committee for Political Questions on March 4. Of the seven committee members, only the member of Parliament representing the DPA voted for the law. One VMRO member voted against, and the remaining five VMRO and SDS members abstained.

Beyond the Macedonians' objection to amnesty in principle, questions regarding jurisdiction over crimes further delayed passage of this law. For once, the state-run daily Nova Makedonija and the New York-based group Human Rights Watch agreed: The Hague tribunal's role was overly broad and imposed too many restrictions on Macedonia's courts to try appropriate war-related cases locally. Under the Law on Amnesty, the tribunal had full discretion to decide which crimes would be tried in The Hague; all others would be dismissed. Reluctantly, Parliament passed the law on March 8, and it went into effect just in time for the donors conference in Brussels on March 12.

On March 21 and 22, a conference entitled Citizenship, Refugees, and Internally Displaced People in the Republic of Macedonia took place on the occasion of Skopje's ratification of the European Convention on Nationality. Starting in June, however, allegations began to spread about the VMRO's plans to subvert the September parliamentary elections by arbitrarily withdrawing or conferring Macedonian citizenship on individuals in the country and in the diaspora. The press expressed their concern about the impact this would have on the national voting list. Macedonian embassies and consular offices were contacting the estimated three to four million ethnic Macedonians abroad who theoretically are eligible for citizenship and urging them to register. To counterbalance this possibility, the influential Albanian press in Macedonia, Lobi and Fakti, urged all diaspora Albanians holding Macedonian citizenship to return to Macedonia to vote.

Just prior to officially submitting the final voting list to the State Election Commission in August, the Ministry of the Interior conferred citizenship on 3,500 ethnic Macedonians living in Albania. In addition, the newspaper Fakti reported that the citizenship of nearly 150,000 Macedonian Albanians with questionable residence status was being "revised." Justice Minister Hixhet Mehmeti of the DPA objected, calling this an attempt by the VMRO to pad the electoral roster. All 3,500 new citizens were registered as residing at the Interior Ministry's address. At a press conference two weeks before the election, the SDSM characterized the citizenship dispute as another VMRO attempt to postpone or cancel balloting for fear of losing power. Although citizenship for the 3,500 was rescinded, Macedonia has not yet adopted the legislation mandated by the European convention it ratified in March.


Although Macedonia long prided itself as being relatively free of corruption, especially when compared with its neighbors, so-called ambient corruption has become commonplace. Citizens encounter corruption at every turn of private and public life. According to a survey conducted during the 2001 insurgency by the Southeast European Legal Development Initiative (SELDI), Macedonians ranked corruption as the third most critical issue facing the country, just below unemployment and low income and just above political instability and crime. According to the survey, 69 percent of Macedonians attributed corruption to "fast personal enrichment sought by those in power." Sixty-one percent considered "all or most ministers" corrupt, whereas 60.8 percent held similar views of parliamentarians; 44.6 percent considered "all or most" political and coalition leaders corrupt.

Throughout 2002, the economy and corruption dogged the election campaign. The governing coalition was accused of complicity in damaging the former while engaging in the latter. The VMRO had defeated the incumbent SDSM coalition in 1998 largely with promises to create prosperity and to decapitate the infamous SDSM "octopus" of corruption, but both promises went unfulfilled. Rather, under the VMRO/DPA government corruption was considered far worse than it had been previously. At the same time, living standards plummeted and unemployment soared.

Typically, corruption is something that everyone knows but few are willing to discuss openly. This changed when in March 2002, just before the donors conference in Brussels, the International Crisis Group (ICG) published Finance Peace in Macedonia, Not Corruption, the first of its two reports on corruption that came out during the year. Two other public opinion surveys conducted in early 2002 also determined that corruption was among the three most pressing concerns for most Macedonians. In a survey conducted by a regional network of think tanks called South East Democracy Support, only unemployment and poverty topped corruption. The majority of respondents also rated corruption as more destructive to Macedonia than the interethnic conflict that had ignited the insurgency of 2001. Most worryingly for the VMRO/DPA coalition were the results of a survey conducted by Transparency International in which 88.6 percent of respondents established the government as the center of corruption.

Corruption can be identified at three levels in Macedonia: obtaining civil services, dealing with service providers, and dealing with the government. Bribes are commonplace for civil services such as phone lines, business licenses, or travel and residency documents. Such payoffs, given to accelerate rather than accomplish the service requested, may be as small as cigarettes or alcohol offered as a "token of appreciation." More serious examples of corruption occur at higher levels of civil service, especially the police and courts. Few other services are immune from some form of payment. Health care is a prime example. Patients pay to get better rooms, to receive personal belongings or food brought by their families, or to receive medications that are covered by insurance but have suddenly become "scarce."

Finally, recurrent scandals illustrate the involvement of top government officials in corrupt enterprises. When dealing with lower-level government representatives, some expression of gratitude is expected once a "favor" has been extended. On a higher level, privatization largely has consisted either of insider management buyouts or sales to outsiders at inordinately low prices. In both instances, government officials have benefited substantially. The gray economy also could not exist without official participation. In SELDI's 2001 report, Macedonians ranked payoffs to customs officials second, after bribes to doctors. The smuggling and contraband that were prominent during the UN sanctions against Yugoslavia and the Greek embargo against Macedonia became major issues of crossborder organized crime in the wake of the Kosovo and Macedonian wars of 1999 and 2001.

Anticorruption legislation, first proposed in 1998, still had not been passed by mid-2002. Another law not yet passed concerns money laundering. Although the basic legislation was signed in August 2001 and was supposed to take effect on March 1, 2002, its bylaws and methods of governmental internal control have not yet been adopted. Already on the defensive owing to slipping voter ratings, the VMRO accused the international community of unwarranted interference in Macedonia's internal affairs. The International Crisis Group came under particular fire when it released its full report on August 14, 2002, just a month before the parliamentary elections. The Macedonian press had begun pressing numerous claims of fraud against Prime Minister Georgievski and his family and associates, as well as against Interior Minister Boskovski. Albanian officials were not spared similar accusations, especially in the ICG's report, leading a Macedonian journalist to remark, "Fraud appears to be one of the few areas in Macedonian life that is truly multicultural."

The passage of anticorruption legislation and the pursuit of criminal charges on corruption against government and party officials were postponed until after the elections. The SDSM was cognizant that its election victory was due in large measure to profound public mistrust of the VMRO and its reputation for corruption. SDSM was also aware, however, that its own link to corruption during its previous eight years in power required swift and decisive steps to dispel any doubts about its commitment to fighting fraud in government. The new coalition announced, therefore, that combating corruption and organized crime would be its first priority and introduced an Anticorruption Commission in October 2002.

For the first time, politicians in government are now required to declare their personal assets. Officials suspected of corruption have begun to be investigated. Among the early high-profile cases were the arrests of Dusko Avramovski, former deputy director of the Privatization Agency, and six officials linked to the falsification of the deed to a multimillion-dollar property belonging to the former prime minister's family. When an arrest warrant was issued for current VMRO secretary-general Vojo Mihajlovski for misappropriation of funds during his tenure as director of Macedonia's National Health Fund, the VMRO called these steps "totalitarian policies" and threatened to organize street protests against such "Stalinist methods." Although the SDSM attributed the VMRO's reactions mostly to its need to create postelection party cohesion, it also raised the specter that former officials now facing criminal charges might resort to violence. Whether or not this occurs remains to be seen.


Since independence, Macedonia has experienced increasing centralization. This has occurred despite the existence of legislation devolving power to the country's 123 opstini (municipalities), each with its own mayor. Constitutionally, municipalities are units of self-administration authorized to act on issues such as community services, urban planning, and "other fields determined by law." However, local authorities are in a fiscal catch-22. They levy and collect taxes locally but are required to remit all tax revenues to the state and then request financing for local initiatives. Municipal governments have complained perennially that Skopje exercises too much control over them.


Parliament adopted the OFA-mandated Law on Local Self-Government on January 24, 2002, though not without controversy. The first draft had allowed neighboring municipalities to form a common administration. Macedonians, however, worried that this provision would jeopardize their rights as a minority in Albanian-majority areas. They also feared that shared administration among municipalities in western Macedonia would lead gradually to the federalization and ultimately the partition of the country. These concerns were later reinforced by actions such as those taken by the Debar Municipal Council. As reported on the Web site, the Albanian majority on the council decided to change 51 street names in six communities from Macedonian to Albanian to correct "errors from the past when people with great achievements for Albanian history, culture, literature, and art were unjustly forgotten." For the non-Albanians, however, the changes were received as "federalization, cantonization, and ethnic cleansing" and thus damaging to interethnic coexistence.

As a compromise, the final draft of the Law on Local Self-Government permitted common administration only in limited areas such as education and health. Although the Association of Local Self-Governing Units, a national body, welcomed the new law, Macedonians still regarded it as too broad; Albanians considered it too restrictive of local authority. Still awaiting action are the other approximately 250 pieces of legislation required to decentralize government and reinforce the competencies and powers of local officials in areas such as public services, rural and urban planning, social welfare, and local finances. According to Minister Vlado Popovski, it will take at least a year just to draft the legislation.

Municipal governments still face various operational obstacles, and city councillors from opposing parties often fail to reach consensus. Furthermore, ineffective municipal government is frequently cited as hindering rural development. The Resen municipal government, for example, does not collect garbage from villages in its district, and this has led to water pollution problems and thus to stunted tourism. Civil service reform remains woefully inadequate despite efforts by international organizations to promote administrative reforms. Local civil servants often are accused of demanding compensation to provide services. Although Dutch, Swiss, and American organizations have sponsored workshops over the years on ways to improve the quality of local government, observers of the Macedonian government note the continued absence of a professional civil service. This is one reform that would contribute substantially to citizens' overall confidence in government.

Transparency has not been a hot topic in Macedonia. Citizens typically do not voice opinions on government processes, only on results. Parliamentary processes are transparent, albeit not particularly accessible. The public may attend sessions, for example, but this is not encouraged. Once draft legislation has been announced in the Sluzben Vesnik (Parliamentary Gazetteer), public comment is permitted on first drafts only. Since citizens seldom read the Sluzben Vesnik, public input on legislation is rare. One step toward increased transparency, however, has been the immediate implementation of the July 2002 regulation that the Sluzben Vesnik appear bilingually, in Macedonian and Albanian.

To date, the SDSM has arbitrarily dismissed or demoted hundreds of previous government appointees belonging to the parties that lost the elections. In turn, it has appointed its own party members and followers to high-level governmental positions and to directorships of state-owned companies. Since the SDSM holds the majority of seats on the Parliamentary Commission on Election and Nomination Questions, the opposition can neither challenge nor appeal these decisions. As expected, the SDSM quickly replaced the directors of the state-run MRTV and the Macedonian Information Agency, thereby securing its control over the public media. In the Interior Ministry alone, more than 200 VMRO appointees were removed or demoted, leading the VMRO to call the action "brutal revenge against professionals." Further plans, such as dismissing the current prosecutor-general, have prompted the Liberal Party to characterize the SDSM's tactics as a threat to national security. Appointments to the diplomatic corps have raised other questions. On November 13, Fakti challenged the corps' ethnic makeup by asking how Macedonia can "conduct regional foreign policy if Albanians are not represented in the Foreign Ministry." The SDSM eventually will be compelled to confront the legacy of nontransparency it inherited from the previous regime, but to date the new government has yet to show its willingness to pursue qualitative changes.