Skopje, February 11, 2014/Balkan Independent News Agency
By Naser Pajaziti
Will Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia see the same Bosnian scenarios of social unrest and discontent with the leaders of the country?
On a daily basis, citizens are manifesting their discontent about the social situation and social policies, which many say that they’re extremely impoverishing the low and middle classes.
Even political parties have been involved in this debate, where there are growing concerns over this situation.
High unemployment, high corruption in the institutions of the country, politically motivated recruitments in the state administration, conditioned taxes and payments which empty the pockets of citizens who have accumulated a lot of discontent.
The voice of protests has paled
It’s been a while that the feeling of protest has paled in FYR Macedonia. Citizens must be politically or ethnically motivated in order to come out on massive protests.
When there are constant violations of their rights and social status, the urge to hold protests is smaller. According to an opinion poll carried out by Institute for Democracy, 70% of the citizens have never participated in any protests or demonstration.
Analysts: Government fears social unrest
In Skopje, Macedonian and Albanian analysts say that the government considers the social situation as dangerous and fears that it may trigger social unrest.
Analyst Vladimir Misev says that the current government is aware of the situation which may escalate, but is skeptic about the voice of protest. He notes that the government is constantly taking decisions which lures citizens, such as pension increases, social aid or massive employments during the pre electoral period.
“Macedonia as a state and we as citizens, are far from cultivating the feeling of protest, therefore I don’t think that there’s reason for a serious concern. Not only VMRO-DPMNE, but previous governments too have drafted social policies through pensions, subsidies for farmers and social aid to somehow buy social peace in order to avoid protests such as the ones seen in Bosnia”, says analyst Misev.
Suad Misini, political analyst and head of a non government association says that the causes for unrest may relate even here to abuse with office, corruption and impunity through mechanisms of power.
“The limits of tolerance were exceeded in Bosnia. What happened there may also happen in other countries of the region. Social anger broke all ideological, ethnic and nationalist borders. The demonstrators seen in Bosnia are not fighting for power, but demand leading figures with integrity, experts in government and people not involved in corruption affairs”, says Misini. According to him, FYR Macedonia has great potential for social turmoil, but he sees the possibilities for such thing to happen as very slim.He says that there are very few chances, because 600 thousand people live directly on the money of the state budget.
Opposition: A social revolt can take place, but the government has unions under control
Political parties have also commented the latest developments in Bosnia, warning urgent measures in order to calm the situation down through social packages.
Macedonian opposition has expressed its concerns, by promising that it has the necessary program which would address the social crisis that according to them, has engulfed the country.
Nevertheless, opposition leaders claim that the possibilities for Bosnian like scenarios are slim.
“I don’t think this scenario will expand in other countries of the region, although the same economic and social situation along with high level of corruption exist here in Macedonia too. In order for that to happen, the number of protesters must be at critical levels and this is not the case here. Unions are the ones which must organize these protests, but they are satisfied with the cooperation that they have with the government”, says Stevo Pendarovski, representative of the biggest opposition party, LSDM. Mr. Pendarovski is a candidate nominated by Macedonian opposition for the April presidential race.
On the other hand, one of the leaders of the Roma community, Samka Ibraimovski, declared in parliament that the country is on the verge of a social revolt.
“As a party, we launch the alarm of being on the verge of the eruption of a social revolt. The people are suffering this difficult and dark situation. On one hand, the people see the criminal gathering of the rich, corruption and robberies, while on the other, they see those who can barely meet their ends meet”, said Mr. Ibrahimovski, MP and leader of PCER party.
Citizens await the instigator
Several citizens say that they are revolted about the current social situation. They say that they have constantly addressed their concerns about this situation. The latest public opinion poll indicates that there’s a growing discontent of the citizens for the social crisis.
According to a survey carried out by “Rating” Institute, social and economic problems in FYR Macedonia are more serious than ethnic problems.
This is also confirmed by the people. “We, the people, are not to be blamed, because we’re scared. There must be mobilization in order to put an end to this difficult social situation and come out on protests. We cannot afford high prices for basic products with a minimum age or social allowance”, says Dragi N., from Kumanovo, a former worker in plants shut down following the transition.
Citizens complain that their personal bank accounts where they withdraw their pensions and social allowances, are being blocked. They say that money is being withdrawn from their accounts on the pretext that taxes have not been paid.
Liljana Georgievska from the Workers’ Union of Bankrupted Enterprises says that the state robs the citizens’ bank accounts through its mechanisms.
“Thousands of pensioners and people who live on social benefits have had their bank accounts frozen, because they have not paid their taxes and especially their TV tax. With this action, they don’t allow us to live, because the money that we receive is barely enough for us to live on. We need that money to buy medication, due to the stress and difficult conditions that we live in”, says Georgievska for IBNA. She appeals to citizens to be more alert and to demand their basic rights. Georgievska says that she has organized protests for social injustices, but admits that only a small number of people has joined to these protests.
EU, Kacin: Political Elite in the Balkan is losing credibility
EU rapporteur for Southeastern Europe, Jelko Kacin sees the events in Bosnia as a message which must be closely read by state leaders in the region. Mr. Kacin has declared through social networks that the citizens claim that privatization is theft which can only be enabled through the government.
“Political elites in the Balkan have long believed that voters would vote for their nationalist parties, but with the recent unrest, they realized that they’ve now lost their credibility on the electorate”, says Jelko Kacin MEP. /ibna/