The spectacular disappearance of Nikola Gruevski from Skopje has fueled all possible conspiracy theories of which Macedonia could never get rid. The basic thread of those theories is that his disappearance is a planned agreement at the highest peaks of the current government with Gruevski, for the former prime minister to flee the country, to basically turn their heads so he could escape to a country where he will be protected. The message from Budapest that he somehow got there and applied for asylum hit Macedonia as an anti-catharsis – the discharge of even the smallest atom of trust in the institutions and an absolute skepticism in the honesty of politicians, and even in their basic morality. These conspiracy theories seem to have received the final confirmation with Gruevski’s short message, which could go along with the images from a table in some Budapest restaurant, where they usually eat goulash, drink Tokaj wine and listen to csárdás.
It would be naive to completely reject these stories for a well-meaning conspiracy where each of the actors could benefit from it. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev to push through the capital work of his rule – the agreement with Greece; for Gruevski to disappear out of the horizon in order not to prevent other MPs from joining the two-thirds majority in voting for changes in the Constitution, and for Hristijan Mickoski to get rid of the shadow that governs the VMRO-DPMNE and finally take over the reins in the party. It may seem logical, but the main question is whether there is a winner here.
It is certainly not Nikola Gruevski, regardless of the fact that he has replaced prison with freedom in exile. The stories about his patriotism were thrown into the misty waters of the Lepenec River, all those pathetic statements of his, in which he demanded to be arrested and thrown to jail, as long as the government leaves the party and Macedonia alone, now look like extremely fake goods. It seems quite likely that in the banks controlled by his close friend Viktor Orban, a large part of the money that was stolen all these years has been transferred because even in exile, one must live comfortably and work as little as possible. His fate is now sealed with the identification that he is the Macedonian version of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled his homeland to find shelter in Vladimir Putin’s country.
This comparison with Yanukovych is genuine, not prosaic – both of them led the country with dreadful corruption and with complete subjugation of the judiciary, the media and major businesses. And they both fled to autocratic regimes, where there is a great understanding of their despotism. Like every despot, he puts his desperate move into the wafer of patriotism. Therefore, two out of the four sentences in his Facebook message are part of this fake patriotism: “I will always stay true to the cause of Macedonia. I will never give up.”
With that fake patriotism, he prepared the escape for a long time for which he needed strong logistics, hesitators, guides, friendly authorities, night guards, safe and illegal border crossings – and someone who would welcome him temporarily. All this action puts Gruevski in the network of criminal underworld of the region, which has wide support from the secret services, and places him more in the column of an outcast from the homeland, and not the patriot who stays “true to the cause”.
But obviously he could not face reality. Small people who suffer from this syndrome simply cannot accept the reality that looks like a nightmare to them- where the hell should I spend my money when I don’t have the power, nor the freedom. In this escape from himself, everyone else – both friends and co-workers, and the divided family – is left to suffer.
Zoran Zaev is also a big loser. He may try to find excuses that it is not his job to control the courts, which because of their famed bureaucratization and explanations about delivery over the weekend basically enabled this escape, however, the prime minister is the one responsible for the overall situation in society. Among other things, the work of the police. This is a much bigger blow to Zaev and his government than the bad result of the referendum. The vote on the agreement with Greece was linked to key emotional postulates among citizens over the identity and the name of the country, but this escape of the person who is synonymous with the regime, for which the people have made Prometheus efforts to bring it down – puts Zaev in a bad position. It even carries him to the edge of the abyss.
The key question for Zaev at this time is what’s the erosion of confidence in him. That confidence has several levels – whether he was generally warned and aware that Gruevski could escape; then, how does the police function when doing those spectacles in the building where Gruevski lives and in the underground street maze at the headquarters of VMRO-DPMNE. This is a really big question for Zaev and Oliver Spasovski – if they did not have basic intelligence findings that Gruevski had fled the country while police were knocking on his door and searching cars, their work could be called amateurism by many. The explanations that Gruevski’s bodyguards provided by the Ministry of Interior had been waiting for him all day to appear in the parking lot, and he didn’t, are like excerpts from a comic book. During that time (perhaps even Thursday afternoon) Gruevski was going over some mountain ranges probably towards Serbia. While the public was waiting for the weekend to pass, so the court officials could knock on his door again.
The court is right about bureaucratic procedures, the police are rightfully waiting for the court’s notification and order – of course, nobody is guilty that Nikola Gruevski had already taken a walk on the Danube bay under the famous Margit Hid bridge. This spectacular escape obviously damaged the entire government and this will certainly have a major impact on its functioning. Going to prison with a completely enforceable verdict of a man who was the master of a regime should have been the sign that the system finally began to slowly function on the basis of democracy, but the judicial and executive powers succumbed to that test.
Gruevski’s explanation in the message that he received countless life threats in the past few days, put the VMRO nomenclature on a clean slate. The whole story of Hristijan Mickoski and the camarilla around him that a political persecution has been committed against Gruevski must now be put in a folder and thrown into one of the many rooms in the meaningless palace. From whom did Gruevski receive threats? From people in power? From people from the party? From the criminal structures that blackmailed him? From hardline patriots? Or is it only a recommended statement by the Hungarian authorities to be able to consider his asylum application.
VMRO-DPMNE was abandoned by the honorary president amid the driest desert, while the party swore in him and defended him until the last minute. No matter how much it seems that this escape is some sort of relief for Mickoski, since this releases him from a heavy burden on his back, it basically dramatically undermined the primal VMRO credo – that patriots stay and fight. If the one who escaped abruptly due to the threats of the “past few days” left his courage to others who are part of the SPO processes and the April 27 trial – this shows that the whole system in the party was a scourge of fake values. That’s why this escape is a blow to the very heart of the VMRO, that pathetic tale of patriotism.
There is also a bigger loser than all three. The bigger losers are all Macedonian citizens, the whole system that was crashed in one afternoon. It is the citizens’ belief that a different society is possible. It is the huge disappointment that justice is indeed possible. It’s the life of every ordinary citizen. At this point, it seems impossible to repair these ruins.