Media reports that Prime Minister Zoran Zaev may run for president of the country in the spring election, no matter that these reports are the result of assumptions and analyzes of winning combinations, they still deserve attention because they too point to the thought of repeating the historical mistake made by Branko Crvenkovski and SDSM in 2004. It was a debacle whose catastrophic consequences, after the installation of the regime of Nikola Gruevski and an entire era of tyranny, still hold parliamentary democracy captured, and hinder the country’s faster development and achievement of the most important strategic goals.
To put it plainly, Gruevism and its leaders and followers even now manage to greatly hinder the future of Macedonia and its citizens. The terrible one-decade-long discontinuity and the destruction of all values continue to degrade the state and slow down all democratic, social, economic and cultural development processes.
Let’s telegraphically recall what happened that decisive year of 2004, and in the period until 2006, which brought Nikola Gruevski to power at the big door. After the great victory of the Social Democrats and coalition partners with an absolute majority in parliament in 2002, when the hopes that Macedonia would rapidly achieve its aspirations to become a member of NATO and the EU were great, completely unexpectedly, Branko Crvenkovski at the height of his greatest popularity after the airplane accident that killed President Boris Trajkovski, decided to step down as prime minister and run for president, although he was elected as the leader in whom the public had the greatest confidence in the accomplishment of strategic goals and national interests. In a given position, when VMRO-DPMNE was in a difficult crisis, he started the adventure of winning the presidential post, which according to the constitutional competences is far from the impact on the realization of the major and difficult reform efforts that were a precondition for Europeanization of Macedonia. While the heavy clashes in VMRO-DPMNE between the new leader Nikola Gruevski and the founder of the party Ljupco Georgievski lasted, which led to the dissolution of the revolutionary party that came to stoning of the houses of the VMRO-DPMNE MPs and their proclamation as traitors, Crvenkovski and SDSM did a somersault for the conquest of the most important retirement function in politics by the young and popular prime minister.
This historic mistake was justified by the necessity that another candidate would not be able to secure the turnout imposed by the Constitution. To go on an early parliamentary and presidential election with another candidate, as there were proposals, it was very likely that success would have been a double victory for coalition partners in power. But such an opportunity was immediately and arrogantly ignored, and the end result was a great Pyrrhic victory.
Crvenkovski became president, and SDSM from 2002 to 2006 replaced three prime ministers and three party presidents with a two-thirds majority in parliament. This has caused great confusion in both the government and the party and the public. Several different concepts collided and time was wasted on great games and a constant public parade of flatterers and party convertibles. Corruption and organized crime have entered through a big door into everyday life, and power ratings have stagnated for a short while. This enabled quick consolidation of VMRO-DPMNE and strengthening of the positions of Nikola Gruevski. The defeat in 2006 was inevitable.
You already recognize the similarities and differences if, even now, in half-term, Zoran Zaev and the ruling coalition repeat the same mistakes. Zaev is the synonym of the overthrow of the Gruevski regime after a peaceful election. The courage to unveil the so-called “bombs” whose explosions of wiretapped conversations have triggered political earthquakes for months, provoked suspicion of crime and misdeeds of the government in power, for severe abuses and crimes at the top of VMRO-DPMNE and led Zaev to the prime ministerial post with a narrow majority, but with a mandate to achieve the same goals that were blocked from 2006 to 2017.
The Agreement with Greece is now only a step away from the adoption of the constitutional amendments due to the heavy burden of the amnesty law, as well as the new era in the history of Macedonia leading to NATO and the beginning of negotiations with the EU, can be easily questioned if Zaev retires as president and moves to the presidential residence in Vodno instead of completing the most significant task he was elected for, which happens once in a hundred years, or never. Macedonia has never been closer to achieving its historical aspirations than it is now. Possible staffing experiments for party races when electing a president of the state, which has no significant role in implementing the reforms, is a repeat of history as the farce from 2004 in 2019.
The successful ratification of the Agreement with Greece in both parliaments with Brussels’s clear emphasis on NATO membership and the certainty of starting negotiations with the EU, concentrating in the coming months on economic reforms and election promises is the strongest trump card for the joint coalition government candidate to elect a president of the state. Otherwise, Zaev is placed at the scale of the public with unfinished business, for which he was given the public’s confidence.
If such a reckless step occurs, those approximately hundred people who gather every night before Hristijan Mickoski and create traffic chaos in Skopje can easily turn into a strong movement for the return of Gruevski and the so-called Gruevism. Political, personnel and election maneuvers in a given position will be severely punished. It is time for SDSM to come out and publicly announce its presidential candidate.