Debates on constitutional changes, ethnic problems emerge again

Debates on constitutional changes, ethnic problems emerge again

IBNA Special Report

Skopje, July 16, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Naser Pajaziti

Parliamentary debates have been triggered in FYR Macedonia on the constitutional changes proposed by the government.

Eight are the constitutional changes that have been proposed: marriage as the union between man and woman and the prohibition of other marriages, restriction of budget deficit and public debt, the formation of a financial area which would develop financial aspects, the change of the name of the central bank from the Popular Bank of Macedonia to the Bank of Macedonia, the formation of a judicial institution called Constitutional Complaint, changes in the composition of the Republican Judicial Committee and the functioning of this judiciary institution and at the end, the State Authority for Revision as a constitutional category.

Although there’s an agreement between the two parties of the coalition, VMRO-DPMNE with the Albanian party, BDI  (Democratic Union for Integration), other Albanian parties and experts say that other issues that relate to the demands of the Albanian community for the formalization of the Albanian language, a wider use of national symbol, equality in decision making in central institutions, election of the president through parliament with an absolute majority and other issues must be part of these changes.

The full support of the Albanian party in power, BDI, is lacking for the approval of the proposed constitutional changes. Some MPs from this party have unofficially warned that they will not vote these changes. One of them is Hazbi Lika, former National Liberation Army commander. 82 votes are needed for the approval of these changes and this is the number of seats that the current majority has. But, the lack of a vote from BDI would put these changes in danger.

Reactions from the parties

For PDSH, it’s unacceptable to make changes in the Constitution and not determine once and for all the use of the Albanian language, the use of symbols and proportional allocation of the budget.

“Even this time, Albanian priorities that relate to the official use of the language, flag, fair and proportional allocation of the budget are not part of the changes being proposed by the government, where BDI is part of. What are the changes proposed by BDI? What are the demands of Albanians? Which of these changes  proposed today stem from Albanians? How are Albanian interests defended through these constitutional changes”, told IBNA lawmaker of PDSH, Imer Aliu.

But, sources from BDI say that these changes are part of the agenda for reforms demanded by the European Union.

“The constitutional changes that are proposed and which relate to all the citizens, are not changes that relate to only one ethnic community and for this, we have an agreement with the coalition partners to meet those standards which are required by the EU”, declared BDI lawmaker, Rafiz Haliti, adding that their party will never give up its agenda for the advancement of the issues that relate to Albanians.

The minister of Justice, Adnan Jashari highlights constitutional changes in the domain of the judicial system, by saying that these changes are in the framework of the harmonization with the EU legislation.

VMRO-DPMNE lawmaker, Ilija Dimovski says that these changes will benefit the citizens and the parliament of the country, in order to meet EU standards. According to him, political parties must not take advantage of this moment for political and ethnic campaigns.

Macedonian opposition has released a press statement where it says that doesn’t want to become part of the government scenarios, which according to this party, have started with constitutional changes. “The country has other important priorities and this is not the time for constitutional changes from an illegitimate government which has come out of rigged elections”, said the largest opposition party LSDM (Macedonian Social Democratic League).

Analysts say that there’s a need for comprehensive debate

Political analyst, Arsim Sinani told IBNA that it’s still not certain if the majority will have the necessary votes for the proposed constitutional changes, due to disagreements inside BDI about the failure to include issues that relate to Albanians.

“We have a new situation and I believe that things will not go as planned by the majority or VMRO-DPMNE. I believe that there will be problems, as within BDI there are groups of MPs that demand for Albanian related issues to become a priority in these constitutional changes”, declared Sinani.

Analyst Saso Klekovski says that constitutional changes must involve wider consensus, including in this debate the Macedonian opposition too. “There must be serious attempts for wider consensus and to talk to the opposition. Macedonian opposition must be present in the debate for these constitutional changes. I believe that the current government must do everything in order for these issues to be discussed with the opposition. Nevertheless, the votes of the majority finalize everything”, says Klekovski.

Constitutional changes must be voted with an absolute majority or 2/3 votes in parliament. Parliamentary majority consisting of VMRO-DPMNE, BDI and an MP from GROM party, have the right numbers to effectuate these changes. /ibna/