This year’s presidential campaign is slowly entering its final phase. Compared to previous such campaigns that were held in dramatic moments and marred by tense situations, this campaign has been relatively quiet and has passed with no noticeable incidents. I believe that this is partly due to the profiles of the candidates themselves, as well as their electoral rhetoric. We have three candidates that are university professors, and their political views aside, we have to admit that they all have a certain dignity and could equally well carry out the Presidential function in a dignified way.
My favorite and the candidate which I believe is most fit to be President is Professor Blerim Reka. Many readers no doubt will think that I say this due to some ethnic solidarity, i.e. one ethnic Albanian supporting another ethnic Albanian, just because he is ethnic Albanian. I heard a similar argument in a TV debate about polls. One of the guests claimed that Albanians always vote for other Albanians, consciously or not alluding that in politics Albanians are always driven by their group instinct. He seemed not to notice that a number of Albanians will however vote for Pendarovski, while on the other hand the support for Reka among ethnic Macedonians is less than 1%. Sadly many politicians and political pundits, including Albanians, think along the same way. Reka’s character and qualifications are all too easy looked over and he is a priori disqualified just because of his ethnic background. The true question in these elections is not why Albanians should vote for Reka, but why there are so few Macedonians willing to even consider voting for him?
Earlier I said that all three candidates, as personalities, are fit to be President. But I think Reka is the favorite because he does not carry the baggage of the other two candidates, partly burdened by their political parties. For example the views of Siljanoska seem anachronistic, and it is crystal clear that her campaign promises are just empty words. The name of the country has been changed and it was and is the only way toward further integrations. On this issue there is no going back. The same can be said for the Law on the use of languages. Not only will it not be repealed, but it should be advanced so that the “language of 20%” is called “Albanian language”. Equally suspicious is her refusal to clearly denounce the events of 27 April, an act of extreme violence against institutions that the President is supposed to guard. One should wonder how many of the persons convicted on that case, or other affairs from the government of VMRO, is she willing to pardon if she becomes President.
Pendarovski on the other hand suffers from his past and the mistakes of his party in Government. He ran once for President and lost. It is true that those elections were marred by irregularities, but on the other hand he is now surrounded by most of the people and parties that “stole his victory” five years ago. It is also true that he has mostly stayed aside during this two-year period of SDSM’s government, but he says he agrees with Zaev’s views and moves 102.5%. Leaving aside the day to day scandals, omissions and weaknesses in Government, it still means that he agrees with the important things such as the amnesty for 27 April, selective rule of law, transformation of SPP into an institution without teeth and so on. For him too it is relevant to ask how many people he may pardon for daily political bargains. Finally it should be said that his claim of having the support of all ethnic groups is quite hypocritical. He is not supported by ethnic groups; he is supported by political parties, most of them former partners of VMRO-DPMNE.
Professor Reka does not have such baggage and that is why he sounds most sincere when he talks about the rule of law, transformation from a state for the few into a republic for all, or for Euro-Atlantic integrations. His professional credentials are well-known, but he also has the necessary political experience as a former ambassador in Brussels. This makes him the most qualified in the areas where the President has the most power – foreign policy and security. Some criticize him for talking only about Albanians, but that is simply not true. He also talks about Albanians, among other things. Like it or not the Albanian people in Macedonia have some specific issues, related to their definition as a statistical nation with percentile rights; issues that the other two candidates do not seem to care about or understand. If Reka gets votes from Macedonians he would truly be a President of all citizens, no less because he speaks Macedonian as well as he does Albanian, and understands both communities equally well, qualities which the other two candidates sorely lack. If we truly want a “society for all”, a concept which dominates throughout SDSM’s rhetoric, Blerim Reka is the most fit President of such a republic and such a society.
However it is almost certain that Blerim Reka will not win in these elections and won’t become President, due to the simple fact that he is Albanian. An identical candidate, with identical qualifications, identical past and identical rhetoric, but an ethnic Macedonian, would now be a true contender, even if not supported by big political parties. But he will not win because we are still light-years away of what is now called “society for all”. This concept gained weight when a significant number of Albanians, without any political deals, broke the ethnic barrier in 2016 and voted directly for SDSM. Time proved that it was a one-way process. SDSM claims that ethnic Macedonians voted for Albanian candidates in local elections, but that was pure political bargaining where SDSM ordered their voters to support Ramiz Merko, Teuta Arifi, Blerim Bexheti, Nevzat Bejta and others. The truth is that Macedonians have not yet passed that ethnic barrier to vote for an ethnic Albanian, even for one as qualified as Reka.
That is why the percent of votes that Blerim Reka gets from Macedonians will be the most exact parameter of how far we have come to achieving a “society for all” and “republic for all”. Sadly this number will be much too small. Blerim Reka has no visible shortcoming or fault, but he is Albanian and that is why he can’t win.
Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik